Saturday, July 3, 2010

Qatar Part 1

So I have decided to write about my trip to Qatar. I should written more things down while I was actually there so I wouldn't forget what days I did what, but I didn't so I'm trying to figure out how all my posts will go, and there will be a few different posts. This first one is easy for me because it's about the beginning of my journey.

When deciding if I could actually pull this little trip off, I had 3 major areas to think about.
1. Money. Lyssa did pay for a significant amount of my ticket, but I had to pay around $500 more and then spending money, and it's not that easy for our family to do that. But my 401k from Bank of America had just been distributed to me without penalty (since it was just a "trivial" amount) and we decided that since we didn't know that money was coming to us, we could use it for this once in a life time opportunity!
2. Babysitter/nanny/temporary Mommy! How was I going to be able to find someone to watch Griffin for two whole weeks? I was able to work with my sister, my mom, my wonderful neighbors, my sister's ex-mother-in-law, and of course my husband, Jason. I had it all figured out. Then along came a different idea, and it worked out better. Since I had to fly out of Salt Lake City to Qatar, we decided I should go a couple days earlier so I could attend my sister-in-law's baby shower. Then we also decided that I would take Griffin, and he could stay with my in-laws for a week or so. Then they drove down to California to attend Jason's older brother's college graduation. Jason took 3 days off of work and flew to Long Beach to meet up with the rest of his family and go to the ceremony. Then, Jason's parent's drove Jason and Griffin back to Arizona and stayed at our house for a few days. Then after they left, the last 4 days of my trip, my mom took time off work and had Griffin at her house. The Saturday night before I got home, Jason was able to take Griffin home and have him to himself.
3. Leaving home for TWO WEEKS. I am really appreciative that Jason let me do this. Overall, it wasn't as pricey as it could have been, and usually money is what dictates what we get to do. But I was also worried about how Griffin was going to react without me around, since I am with him 24/7 and I felt bad for Jason being at home all week alone. Jason doesn't like being alone, he doesn't like being without me and Griffin, and he has a tendency to get jealous. He said he was going to clean and work the whole time, but he ended up getting injured at work (a steel beam fell on his leg! But it just bruised) so he did not get anything done. Poor guy. Anyway, I heard Griffin did awesome staying with my in-laws in Utah and he was very adaptable to every situation that they put him in. (They don't really ever stay put, they are always traveling, going to baseball games, etc and are spontaneous, which is actually quite cool).
So, all in all, I was very surprised and happy that this was going to work out so well. I didn't feel that guilty. And it was a great trip. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Here's how the first couple of days went down:

Griffin and I flew to Salt Lake on May 19th and we didn't get in till 11pm. The next day we threw Jason's little sister a baby shower. A lot of family came and it was great. Griffin was SO excited to fly on an airplane. The only thing I thought sucked was since we went at night, he wasn't able to see anything out the window. The next day Jason's parents and sister, and Griffin, drove me to the airport. I was late. Not for my flight exactly, but Lyssa had warned me to get to the airport 2 hours in advance since it was technically an International flight and I barely made it 1 and a half hours early. It was fine, except since I was in a rush, I didn't have time for a shower, so I felt yucky ya know. It even turned out that my flight was delayed and it freaked me out that I might not make my connecting flight. But it turned out just fine. I hopped on a plane and flew 3 and half hours to Chicago.
This toilet is from the bathroom at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. I was able to freshen up a bit during my time there. I thought this toilet was awesome! At the push of a button, the plastic on top moved into the inside of the machine and fresh layer of plastic revealed. No finicky paper liners = awesome to me.

While in Chicago I had to wait about an hour for my next flight to PARIS. I ate a bagel and read and talked to the older couple sitting next to me about our travel plans. I was getting really excited. I loved telling people that I was going all the way to Doha. It was a great conversation starter, (I love talking to new people) and I also got to hear about the adventures they were going to have in France.

The flight to Paris was 7 hours. The plane was huge. It had 2 seats on either end and 4 seats in the middle. I was able to sit on the side in one of the two seats, on the aisle. I was slightly worried about whom I was going to sit next to. But I ended up sitting with a delightful lady named Betsy. She and I talked a lot. She was traveling with a couple to spend 2 weeks in Paris. She was from Nashville and was telling me some really astonishing stories about the awful flooding that was happening there. Luckily, she was not affected by it. She had flown overseas before and was able to comfort me during the turbulence and tell me about what the plane was doing, and guide me about certain things like when to hit up the bathroom, etc. and when she slept, she barely moved or made a sound. I loved sitting next to her. I never got to give her a proper goodbye though.
When I got to the Paris airport, I only had time to walk to my connecting flight to Doha. I followed some signs that I thought might take me to my gate, but I ended up having to ask someone for help. It was a really, really far walk to my gate and I didn't have any time to even use the restroom.
Here's what my meal looked like on my flight to Doha. Some sort of rice and veggies, a weird salad and some weird fruit! It was good, but different. Lyssa had called in advance to order me a vegetarian meal, so I was grateful for that. The flight to Doha was probably my ickiest flight. I mean, it was fine, of course, but I started getting really anxious, tired of sitting, and achy during it. And I felt like a foreigner. That sounds stupid, but I was really out of my element ya know. Everyone including the flight attendants had really thick accents. I sat next to the window seat and an Indian man. I sat down most of the time, since I was in the window seat. The man fell asleep once, and I mean into a deeeep sleep, and it just so happened I was gonna pee my pants. I had to nearly shake him to wake him up. I felt bad. Also, I was really tired due to my lack of sleep on the flight to Paris. I had a bruised tailbone that was preventing me from getting comfortable whatsoever (luckily it healed in Qatar and I didn't have the same problem coming home). I took an Ambien and had 2 glasses of wine on that flight to Paris and still could not sleep. But I didn't wanna sleep on my way to Doha, since it would be about 7pm when I arrived and wanted to go to bed at a normal time. I slept anyway, in and out of course. Sleeping on a plane is apparently not one of my talents. I can't hold still for one, I'm nervous that I am going to touch the person next to me, so that makes me tense up, and I'm also worried about what I look like, like is my mouth wide open? I don't sleep well at home anyway, so I knew this would be tricky. And for some reason a lot of stuff wasn't working on my screen in front of me and my phone aka music player was dead. I was BORED. I ended up only talking to the man next to me just as we were landing of course. I wish I would have struck up a conversation with him earlier in the flight, but I was too timid.
Before we landed, I was able to change my clothes and freshen up. Lyssa had warned me what the airport was gonna be like when I landed. She did well. It was strange, compared to other airports, but I did not feel uncomfortable. You had to walk down a really tall flight of stairs from the airplane on the cement then they bused all of us to the actual airport. I had to go through immigration and that took a while. Then it was off to fetch my bags. I did know that Qatari people covered up, but I didn't know exactly what they looked like and I got an eyeful at the airport. Strange as it was, I still felt fine. Something did startle me though as I was walking away from the baggage claim. Something touched my leg and it tickled. I jumped around and looked down. I had a dryer sheet fall from my sweat capris. haha! I went through these opaque sliding glass doors that opened up to be somewhat of a red carpet. There were lots of people standing behind a rope watching everyone come out of the doors. They were there to pick up their arrivals, of course. I spotted Lyssa right away and squealed with excitement. There she was standing in the middle, shoulder to shoulder among all the Qataris. Little white girl in short sleeves and glasses. She drove me to their apartment and told me they had gotten me a cheese pizza from Papa John's in case I was hungry. It looked and tasted exactly the same as Papa John's pizza. Even the logo was the same, but in Arabic. I stayed awake with them for a bit, then took a shower then passed out.
This is an Arabic version of Scrabble that was set up in my room for me. Dave said it says "Ahlan w Sahlan li-Qatar" or "Welcome to Qatar" in Arabic.
Here is my room. Note the stuffed camel. Lyssa had received it as a gift when she had her son Christian and she put it on my bed for funsies. I ended up loving it and wanted to get one for Griffin. That's another story. But wasn't my room nice? The best part was that it had it's own air conditioner, so I could choose my temp. She said they mostly did not go under 22 degrees Celsius, which is 71 degrees Fahrenheit. If you know me, then you know how happy this makes me. I would LOVE to be able to keep my room at 71 especially at night!
The next day, in an effort to get on a more regular schedule and trick my body into not having jet lag, Lyssa and Christian woke me up around 8:30am (which wasn't really a problem since I had slept all night). We watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune before taking Dave to work. Then we decided to hit up City Center, a mall in downtown Doha. We looked around a bit then went to the food court. Here is a pic of Christian and Lyssa eating in the food court. Below is Magic Corn. What is Magic Corn you ask? It's just steamed corn with your choice of flavorings. I love corn, so this was neat for me. And it was just a little kiosk in the food court. Lyssa had Burger King.

My Pepsi from Burger King
After we left the mall, Christian fell asleep in the car and since it was his nap time, and we still had 2 hours before we had to pick up Dave, we just decided to drive around and see some sights from the car. In Qatar, they use great big scary looking roundabouts in lieu of traditional stop lights. The roundabouts have 3 lanes, one for straight, one for right hand turns and one for left. Some of the roundabouts had lights in the middle of them, I don't really know how to explain it. Lyssa had mastered them pretty well. I felt completely safe driving with them, but it was the other crazy drivers that were scaring me. They drive fast there and cocky, if you ask me.
View of downtown Doha
They have amazing architecture there. New buildings are going up everywhere and they are all very creative. Here is a picture of the zig zag buildings.

Carrefour is a store that is the French equivalent of Wal*Mart. We went there a lot. They have groceries and other household items. It was neat for me.
More neat buildings...

See what I mean by the architecture?
After we picked up Dave, we went to Souq Waqif to grab a bite to eat for dinner and also do some sight seeing. Souq Waqif is:
Souq Waqif (Arabic: سوق واقف)is an important souq in Doha, in the state of Qatar. Literally translated to "the standing market," this shopping destination is renowned for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. It is also home to tens of restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world, as well as Shisha lounges. Although this market dates back at least a hundred years, it has been recently restored back to its original glory. It is now considered one of the top tourist destinations within Doha. Thousands of people from across the region frequent this market to purchase traditional goods such as wool, traditional thobes, jewelry, and perfumes.

At the Souq, the security ride around on camels.
It was really cool to see them all lined up.
We walked all around and checked out neat shops. Dave and Lyssa bought some dried figs, dried kiwi and lemon flavored almonds there. Then we bought some yummy food froma couple of ladies selling food and drinks from a small stand. I had a dish called Kushari. It was made up of pasta, lentils, and rice with a tomato sauce and fried onions on top. It was sooo good. I wish I could re-create it. We took the food to the boardwalk and ate it there. It was really nice.
At home we played around a bit and watched some TV before going to bed. I really liked playing with Christian. He is 19 months and really cute and active. It made me miss Griffin, but I was also really glad to spend time with Christian, he entertained me and kept us busy. I still got to snuggle with a little boy, even though he wasn't mine. I called Griffin nearly twice a day when I was staying in Qatar. It sounded like he was having an awesome time and Grandpa and Grandma Golding were absolutely loving it.
Well, that's it for now. I still have lots more to write about. I hope I covered everything, but if you have any questions, let me know!


Dave said...

But anyone can make Kushary at home!

Mamacita said...

Wow! What an amazing experience for you! The architecture really is beautiful and your stories are amazing. Can't wait for the next post :)