Dual Identity

I am Filipina-American. Dual identity has it’s pluses and minuses. In Doha, it tends to be more minus than plus.

Whenever I get into a taxi, drivers immediately speak to me in Malay and Talalog. I shake my head and politely assert:  “I do not understand. I cannot speak.”

Or, when queuing to pay at Carrefour, cash attendees call me “atay” and launch into a one-sided dialogue I wish I could translate and understand.

When going out to a bar or a nice dinner both western/eastern expat and Arabic men falsely presume I’m of some “other profession.” It’s sick. And the stares are invasive and impolite.

Or, when shopping, Qatari or Arabic women presume I am a customer service attendant and start ordering me to find them whatever item they cannot find. I have to carefully reply to their puzzled amazement/confusion so I don’t offend them: “Sorry, I may look like someone you presume should…But I do not work here.” Awkward silence. More often than not, they stare. Or, they walk away in a frustrated huff.

Yep. I’m frustrated, too.

Why is it shocking that I have a North American accent and a master’s degree?

To Filipinos:  I’m not Filipina enough.

To old-fashioned, conservative Americans:  I’m not white.

To non-U.S. citizens:  I’m not typically “American.”

Believe it or not, I was born and raised in the U.S. English is my native language. I have no recollection of my parents ever speaking to me in their dialect. Ever.

Is “Walk All Over Me” tattooed across my forehead?

Semi-FOB

IMG_0212It’s June. I’m not fresh-off-the-boat, but still kinda green. Seems like last week I just arrived in Qatar suffocating in the dense August humidity. Nine months away from the States felt like an eternity. Then suddenly my ten month anniversary in Doha is right around the corner.

So what have I been up to lately? Well, I haven’t been good at posting things because “life happened.” Nope. I haven’t been on Tinder for two months—thank you very much. Thus, no exciting dating deets to share. Actually, after the end with the “Scottish guy” (think Dubai debacle) I met ANOTHER Scottish guy. And no. It’s not a fettish. Just a coincidence. This particular Scot happens to be the exact opposite of the previous one. And frankly, a welcome change of pace. All that’s left to say is that I’m truly very happy. I can hear some of you hurling chunks in the background.

Now, now, now… I feel obligated to update my peeps. So, please hear me out. Thanks to this new level of calm, consistency, stability–in other words, happiness–I’ve been busy…enjoying life. Sounds terribly cliche. But here’s my moment to declare online that in this moment, I don’t have anything to complain about. I simply want to tell all that I am indeed a happy lady.

Postulate all you want. Fun dates. Purple pants. A Porsche. Hot intellectual conversation. Ice cream. Sex. Whatever. This guy has greatly improved my quality of life in the sandpit.

Speaking of obligations, I am also pleased to report I have done several expat-ty slash touristy type things too. Raggae Night. Quiz Night. A couple comedy nights. Strolled nearly all the Corniche. A champagne brunch.

I even had my first visit to the hospital to see an orthopedic specialist for my back.

I’m sounding less like a wide-eyed new expat. More like a boring, settled-in resident. That’s a good problem, right?

Less than three weeks until summer break.

IMG_0707

Cheers to a year of new beginnings and great experiences.

Oh, joy! Document Attestation for U.S. Expats

Document Attestation. Let’s just say it’s a process. A pain in the ass. An experience few want to repeat. There are many ways to describe it. Whichever adjectives chosen, I feel any advice I can impart to help new arrivals so they may enjoy an increased level of confidence in their choice to come to Doha— well… Hopefully it helps.

Why bother reviewing such a non-sexy topic? You may ask. Well, a couple weeks ago I received an email inquiry from a fellow American who will be relocating to Doha in August. Naturally, he had a wealth of questions about Qatar, was curious about my perspective on work conditions, and wanted a real opinion about the cost of living. Our communications reminded me about the trials and tribulations of document attestation and how it varied greatly between colleagues from other countries.

There are several established sources of FAQs for document attestation. Still, even being stocked up with official answers hardly assures new arrivals. In my personal case, the process involved several tedious steps.

In general for U.S. expats, you need to gather university transcripts, diplomas, and a FBI clearance or criminal background check. Get those notarized by the county, next with the state, and then with the Secretary of State in DC. All of that requires lots of travel, if those offices are local. OR it means paying a courier service to do the work for you. It is pricey, but heck… Who has time to fly coast to coast to get John Kerry’s stamp, seal, or signature on an official cover letter? Let alone drive 6-8 hours  to the state capital for state-level attestation? Once the U.S. Secretary of State returns your documents, the next step is to send your documents to the correct Qatar consulate.

During the time I was going through this process, Ramadan 2014 was in full swing. Thus, I was warned the Qatar Embassy had limited hours and would be closed for an entire week to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Per website, the embassy already had limited business hours of 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. AND they do not offer expedited service for document legalization. According to the courier service I hired, the Qatari embassy processed and legalized documents between 9:30 – 10:30 am which meant even less time available for document legalization and a long, LONG wait. I was quoted this would take at least a week. Maybe two. My caffeinated, time-conscious, convenience-loving Seattle-American self felt this was totally unacceptable. Little did I know that waiting for the Qatar Embassy to legalize my documents was training for a life in Doha:  waiting.

In addition to all of that, I was advised to gather medical prescriptions for any and all type of drugs you may possibly need living abroad, certification letters for employment, no STDs, blood type, and good health. If you are married, you need your marriage certificate and make sure that’s notarized and attested in the proper locale of origination. Lots of cover letter writing, phone calls and emails to confirm receipt. Headaches. Plenty of reasons to treat myself to happy hour drinks. By the way, save all your receipts.

In the end, when the process was done, I totaled my receipts for shipping, fees for additional transcript/diploma copies, courier service, and the attestation fee itself and came to a whopping ~$500 USD. Of course it was all fully refunded by my employer, but still. No. Joy.

Other random miscellany:

My first speeding ticket. 500 QAR, approximately $138 USD.

Nine months have passed. I had a Doha baby! Yee.

Booked my flight home for July. I already wrote the shopping list. Some eights weeks to go.

Only three more weeks of school.

(gasp!)

That means I’ve been in Doha for almost one year. (@_@)

On the Cheap in the Sandpit

Before my trip to Cyprus, the Gulf states experienced one of the worst sandstorms in years.

IMG_0544

View from the top floor of my building a lil’ before 6:00 am.

IMG_0545

On a normal day you can see the towers under construction at Lusail City.

IMG_0547

Windows and curtains were shut. Dust still managed to seep into our flats.

IMG_0550

Hey, Sun! Great to see ya tryin’ to peek through the hazy sky.

IMG_0554

Even cars parked in the basement earned a light sprinkle of dust.

Most of March and April was dusty, cool, or partly cloudy in Doha. This weekend was different—FINALLY! To heck with pool time at a West Bay tower or a beach at a local five-star hotel. Me and the bf were in the mood for a road trip.

We decided to head west to Dukhan Beach. A short forty-five minute drive to the opposite side of the peninsula.

It was sparse. Hardly anyone there. A peaceful day of sunbathing.

By afternoon Dukhan was a roasty toasty 42 degrees Celsius (~107 degrees Fahrenheit) but it was clear and breezy. In addition to a day away from town, the bf and I were also in the mood for cheap eats.

Word-of-mouth highly recommends a Thai restaurant next to a message parlor.

Eating at this joint was a marvelous change. It was busy. There were Asians—thus, a sign it’s good authentic food. Me and D were totally diggin’ the plastic tables and chairs. So, it wasn’t pretentious the way the five-star hotels often feel. The dumplings hit the spot. My chicken pad thai was great. D enjoyed his pad ee sew. With a couple drinks we barely spent 90 Qatari riyal (~$25 USD). For Doha—that’s cheap!

Since cheap and good was the theme-of-the-weekend, I was craving an American greasy spoon the next day. Thankfully there’s one in Doha called Ric’s Kountry Kitchen. Inside are flags and banners reminiscent of diners back home.

Of course this one brings out some home state pride. Go Cougs!

Look out! There’s an Apple Cup rivalry in Doha 🙂

After shoveling an inevitable gut ache we headed to the park outside the Museum of Islamic Art.

A couple dhows anchored by the MIA Park.

It was rather windy, but that meant hardly anyone there.

Perfect for a true leisurely stroll.

One thing I love about Doha is the color of the water surrounding the city.

And random art… like this.

A short road trip. Sunbathing on a quiet beach. Enjoying cheap eats. Admiring the pretty skyline in ghost-town like conditions. Perused the Marvelous Creatures exhibit at the MIA. Overall I had a very enjoyable weekend. Weather permitting, we plan to hit the road again next weekend.

Sunburnt In Larnaca

IMG_0606

Morning in Larnaca, Cyprus. A lovely view of Finikoudes Beach and promenade from hotel.

Enjoying my Easter holiday. Full English brekkies. Hazelnut lattes. Morning strolls along the the waterfront. Larnaca Fort. Church of Lazaros. Dee-lish local goodies. Plenty of male Cypriot eye-candy to enjoy. Pretty beach and seaside to stare at all day long. Was over-zealous while sunbathing and burned my backside taking a wee nap. I love observing the locals so al fresco dining in Larnaca is perfect. Not a bad way to enjoy my eighth month living outside of the U.S.

Since I’m traveling alone, I’ve had plenty of time for introspection. What’s dominated my thoughts are a collection of conversations with a several expats exhibiting a blatant dislike towards Americans. It’s a shame they feel that way. I totally understand if they have spent a considerable amount of time in the U.S., such as studying, working or residing there. Spending month-long holidays in the States does not necessarily make you an expert on U.S. culture–by the way. I’m referring to non-U.S. expats who had little to no time spent in the U.S. and love to kick dirt at any American citizen they come across because it’s the “cool thing to do.” I’m not responsible for near global destruction, hypertension, obesity, or the economic decline and imprisonment on seemingly rogue unfriendly nations. I just happen to be born in the US. I love my country and acknowledge all the negative socio-political-economic ish my home represents. It’s no joy being dismissed or victimized for indirect/inadvertent association to major decisions that are no where near mine to make. So please stop implying I am the cause of all that is wrong in the world because I’m “American.”

The U.S. is a declining empire. No, I don’t need credit for making such an assertion. Fareed Zakaria said it best in his Post-American World. Negative Nancy’s and voyeurs alike, the rest of the world is thrilled and eager to point out their country, football team, mum, breakfast, transportation, politics, music, books, taxes, infrastructure, economy, traditions—whatever it is—is much better than the American version.

U.S. citizens definitely have a reputation that precedes them. The more non-U.S. people I meet I often hear the same pro-declinist attitude reflected in their comments. “We invented that…” “…OUR (fill in the blank) is better than the Americans….” It seems they emphatically desire to draw your attention that fact their country did something better. Why? It could be they need to one-up and see me (a single, female U.S. citizen) as an easy target to fulfill that need. Who the fuck knows?… I often feel that I wear a target on my forehead and a sign on my back that says “Insult and degrade me.”

Other than staying silent and offering a friendly conciliatory nod, I’m not sure if there is a blanket politically correct way of saying “Does it really fucking matter?!” (Very American valley-girl, I know). Or “In a normal conversation is it really necessary to put me down by virtue of my citizenship?!” Is my silent response to condescending attitudes towards American culture enough solace? I’m just trying to be polite.

Snagged this from a facebook post. This is one of the many things I love about the U.S.--especially Seattle.

Snagged this from a facebook post. This is one of the many things I love about the U.S.–especially Seattle.

I readily admit my country is not perfect. Far from it. However, I love what defines me and contributed to my independent, can-do it myself, problem solving, inquiring, resilient attitude.

Am I in denial? The global pro-declinist/anti-American imposed guilt trip conspiracy is working.

By the way, enjoy some pics.

IMG_0574

Tried out AirBnb and found a studio at an ideal location. I’m not referring to Colonel Sanders’ joint.

IMG_0576

The beach, restaurants, bus stop, taxi, shops all within walking distance from my studio.

IMG_0578

An ideal waterfront for strolling or morning jogs.

IMG_0579

Calm waters. Smiling locals. I can def see myself returning for another sunbathing getaway.

IMG_0580

Gallows inside Larnaca Fort.

IMG_0586

Along the wall of Larnaca Fort.

IMG_0588

Southern view with canon from Larnaca Fort.

IMG_0591

View of central courtyard inside Larnaca Fort.

IMG_0595

Cannons inside central courtyard of Larnaca Fort.

IMG_0598

A wee bit east of Larnaca Fort is the Church of Saint Lazaros.

IMG_0610

Due to an unfortunate water issue I decided to relocate to a hotel a couple blocks north. A blessing in disguise.

IMG_0611

Living in Doha makes one appreciate beachside bars and unabashedly wearing a bikini.

I’m pleased I chose Larnaca as the place to relax away from Doha.

Road to Final Four… leads to Cyprus

ouch…

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 7.34.02 AM

It was only past midnight Doha time. I was so sleepy it was a struggle logging onto CBS to watch Gonzaga take on Duke in the South Regional Elite Eight matchup to see which team would head to the Final Four in Indianapolis, Indiana. When the game ended I was stunned and didn’t fall asleep until 3:30 am.

The last portion of an article published in the Seattle Times by Jerry Brewer says it all:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 7.11.41 AM

Looks like I’m going to Cyprus instead of Indianapolis for my Easter holiday.

On a happier note, last week I calculated my 2014 taxes and learned that giving away your entire household goods (worth approximately $15,000 USD) to a local charity provides a nice tax deduction. After checking my bank account this morning and seeing a nice lump of a tax refund I booked flight and hotel to Larnaca, Cyprus. That’s a decent impulse purchase after a loss, right?

#ZagUp – Gonzaga Alumni Chapter Doha

March has been a challenging month. Here I sit, halfway across the globe, almost wishing that I was still in Spokane and coaching Gonzaga Cheerleading.

Almost.

In Doha, Qatar very few people understand March Madness nor can they appreciate college cheerleading, collegiate athletic marketing, game scripts, arena management, the sound of an awesome college pep band, the thrill of sport un-jaded by million-dollar-salary professional athlete contracts, or the welling up of emotions I feel whenever I hear Gonzaga University’s fight song… Due to composition of local population, sport interest out here is primarily football (ahem…soccer for we Americans) and rugby.

For several weeks I have labored waking up super early or depriving myself of sleep–

IMG_0413

–just so I can catch a Zags Men’s Basketball game in Doha time. Sadly, in one week, when college basketball season culminates with the Final Four, that show of love and loyalty to my alma mater will end.

IMG_0466

This morning at the wee hour of 2:00 am I crawled out of bed just in time to watch the tip off between Gonzaga and UCLA in a South Regional Sweet Sixteen match-up.

IMG_0475

Man, I love technology. Gonzaga convincingly beat UCLA 74 to 62. Very sleepy but happy me went back to bed ~4:30 am.

At present as I type this post it’s almost bedtime for me (~10:00 pm-ish Doha Standard Time). Work tomorrow morning. BUT Gonzaga’s victory is still fresh in my mind. I am very proud of the work and product I accomplished in my eight-year tenure as a cheerleading coach. Thus, as the sole member of the Gonzaga Alumni Doha Chapter I decided to compile some of my favorite personal Gonzaga experiences in honor of this occasion:

Waaaaaayyyyy back in 1999 I was a first-year Gonzaga Cheerleader. Lil’ Gonzaga University with an undergrad enrollment of less than 5,000 gained the national spotlight for doing what no one expected this tiny school to do. I get goosebumps every time I see this video.

The 2009 NCAA Basketball Tournament was quite memorable due to its location in Portland, Oregon. It was my third season as coach. I remember after Demetri Goodson hit the winning runner shot the GU athletic director was ecstatic, slapping my back and yelling at me: “Get excited! Get excited!” And I thought to myself: “I am excited. I am! Why are you hitting me?! Ouch! That hurts!” The noise level was deafening. I could see that it’s very VERY loud but it’s so loud you can’t hear it because your ears are plugged with sound. And then nearly getting run over by press and security guards making way towards the court

I will not deny I am a member of the Elias Harris love club. This is another ear-defeaning moment but I wasn’t even in the arena. I was next door in the Martin Center and felt the building shake as the crowd went nuts. Thursday. January 24. 2012.

A couple weeks after that was another amazing game. What I love about Gonzaga University Athletics is the expectation that ANYONE who sings the National Anthem will do so in a classic rendition. No embellishments. No woah-oh-woah, yeah-ah-hey-yeah extra note crap. Classic rendition. This was a slight detour of that tradition. And frankly, rather memorable because I recall trying not to laugh out loud. This performance made an appearance on ESPN’s Top Ten montage.

Nearly two minutes after that performance pre-game seven-minute countdown Zombie Nation tradition began. This video means a whole lot because of the collaboration with the Cheerleaders, Kennel Club, Athletic Marketing, and Pep Band to incorporate “We Are G-U!” came to fruition.

Is it okay to admit that I’ve watched this video more than 30 times?

February 2013. Gonzaga enjoyed it’s first ever Number 1 ranking in the AP college basketball polls. This video sums up the wild ride, perks, and emotions of that season.

sniffle. Good stuff. Of course there are plenty of other priceless moments. Go Zags!

I do miss the comforts of home, friends, and family. However, I am happy I chose to make such a drastic change in my life. I’ve said it many times… I love living abroad. It just happens to be that I live in Doha. Always a Zags fan.

The next game: Gonzaga versus Duke. Since it’s a school night, need to go to bed early and then wake up at 12:00 am midnight. For the love of the game.