Thursday, June 9, 2011

Clique-ety Clack

So I arrived in Doha in 2007 with nothing but the phone number o the GM who employed me. I had a couple of emails of "friends of friends of friends" and nothing else.

I sat in my hotel room that first night and thought, OK, so this is it. I can be pathetic and sit here night after night and eat my way through the really bad room service menu. Or I can get out and find friends.

With that I, alone and wearing a red dress, went to a meeting of the local Australian business group. I knew not a soul in the room and recognized only the Australian accent. At that event, held at the dearly departed Rydges Doha, I met someone who will be a part of my life always. In the ensuing weeks, through other means, I also met two other people who I now also count as among my closest friends. All three people I can (and have) depend upon in tough times and rely on to slap me around when I get Hollywood Style hysterical or when i refuse to leave my flat.

So it was hard work. It went against every only child tendency in my system. And it also amazingly rewarding and sometimes downright scary. Other people I came to meet in my journey, it seems had an easier road. Many people come here, recruited by large companies and organizations with in built social networks of drinks nights, events, parties. I felt slightly envious of them to be honest. No hard work was needed.

One such network I ended up on the periphery of in the first year I was in Doha and frankly found it so cultish in their desire to live, work and so it seems sleep with each other, I thankfully retreated to safer and less incestuous pastures.

I am a trained observer and I have seen and met many types of people at work in Doha. It's a small place. The expat population is even smaller. It's like a microcosm of any large city, just richer and dustier.

Four years here has led me to identify several species in their unnatural habitat:

CHRONIC NETWORKER: This person networks for the sake of networking. Attending event after event and "working the room" for no apparent tangible benefit other than perhaps a free drink and a handful of business cards of people who may or may not remember them.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTER/SOCIAL CLIMBER: We all know them. We may even be one. Those folks in everything (magazines, bars, your personal space) but a bath all seeking to further their careers or maybe not even their careers. Big fish in a small pond.

WAITY KATIE: This is the "friend" who can't commit and says they "will play it by ear" meaning "I'll hedge until something better comes along". Terrible disease very prevalent in Doha.

PARTY HEARTY: Every hour past 6pm is "happy hour". These folks are fun fun fun. Often seen holding up the bar at Admirals. Please don't call before 12pm on a Saturday though.

THE GROUPER: Seen only in a large group of people at any given time. This group must only be made up of people from their workplace because they are the coolest, hippest most connected and with it folks ever. Also, how else can you get the discount?

THE DORY: Catch this person for five seconds, because that's all you have before they move onto someone else. Always scanning the room for fresh prey.

EMBASSY SWEETS: These are those in the large diplomatic corps in this country as well as the ecosystem that has developed around them. Lovely people. Well traveled. Amazing parties. Can get pork.

THE EXPAT EXPAT: Anyone you know, they've known longer. Speak Arabic? They speak it fluently with a Qatari accent. Oh, and they also tend to get shouty with the "help" and remember when you could get a villa for QR2000 a month.

Where do I fit into this analysis? Let's be honest, any expat can see a little of themselves in every one of these groups. However, I maintain the right to judge.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Worrier Princess

Here's the opening of a blog post you probably wouldn't expect.

So I am reading Rob Lowe's autobiography...Stories I Only Tell My Friends...(OK i was a huge fan of St Elmo's Fire and West shoot me) and in it he talks about how all his life he has had a vague sense that something could go wrong any minute.

He describes it as a feeling he has, most of the time and can sometimes be all consuming.

It's not often I identify with a celebrity (except for Lady Gaga, the similarities clearly obvious), but here is where rob and I were clearly destined to be as one.

Since childhood, I have lived with this gray shadow, that something, inexplicably will go wrong at any moment. Not big things like nuclear war (I am a child of the 1980s, thanks Mr. Regan) or natural disaster. But small things...everyday things.

When I was a teenager we had a beautiful Tricolour Collie dog called Sam. He was Lassie reborn, all sleek long hair and aquiline nose. But he'd also had a tough life and he was a rescue dog. As a result poor Sam was a worrier. He would pace up and down our back yard. My father always said that poor Sam would wring his little paws if he could.

I am the same. I always thought it was an only child trait. Rob Lowe assures me that it isn't.

I had a blissful childhood with stable and loving parents and extended family. I was good in school and had an active social life. Yet, I worried that things would go wrong.

On most days I get a small, slightly odd feeling deep in my belly (it's not the dodgy shwarma) that something is amiss.

As a writer and communications professional, every time I hit send on an email with an attachment I worry they will hate it.

Today I worry even more.

What if I lost my job (err actually i did...twice...but still)? What if a client hated my work? What if my exit permit doesn't work (actually, this is a fair point of concern for anyone living in Qatar).What if I lost everything and died poor and in bad shoes?

Yes, as one of the dearest people in my life tells me daily, I know this is irrational. I know this is wasted energy. I know this is almost certainly the reason why I only sleep five hours a night.

This is what I do, it's ingrained in my DNA.

But the question I have, if I worry so much and it takes up so much energy, why am I not a size 8?

Something new to worry about!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fantastic Plastic

When I was around four years old, Mum took me to see Dr Champion in Merrylands for some random vaccination.

I was so terrified of the kindly doctor and his looming syringe that he actually had to chase me around the surgery and had the nurse pin me down.

At that moment, my parents knew two things - their only child would never be an IV drug user and more importantly for their retirement plans, she would never be a doctor.

Since then, I have had a morbid fear of needles. I can't even watch them on TV. Writing about them is making me feel a bit weird. I hate Greys Anatomy and you know ER was ruined after George Clooney left.

I was ill last year with suspected appendicitis. I was admitted to a certain private hospital where I was required to give several blood samples. At one point, after tears, thrashing and several attempts by scared Filipino nurses to find a vein, the nurses gave up and called in a "special nurse".

This man, they told me, was called THE CANULATOR. And his specialty, I kid you not, was extracting blood from the recalcitrant.

The CANULATOR turns out to be a Lebanese man called Rabih. He walked into the room, unannounced and essentially jabbed a needle into my arm.

He left and they had blood. I was violated.It was brutal. He was a Canulation Mercenary.

When a woman turns 40, her thoughts turn to her looks. Whether it be people telling her how young she looks (yeah OK not so much) or bits that don't sit right anymore.

I have recently lost some weight naturally. I have a little bias against weightloss surgery, mostly because you can achieve the same results, without you know, having something that looks lie you can buy from the grabage bag aisle of the supermarket wrapped around your stomach.

But as a result of this steady weight loss, a couple of parts of my body aren't as tight as they should be - namely my arms.

No matter how many push ups or weights I do, they still flap in the breeze. I don't wear short sleeves. I am extremely self conscious of them.

I am a nearly 40 year old woman with an insecurity.

And then I saw a solution. On a show called Bridalplasty

And it made it all sound so simple. Check into a spa, get a little nip and tuck, have the fat sucked from my bingo wings. SUCKED. Like you know, a straw sucking a thickshake.

Then I just have to wear bandages and look like The Mummy for a couple weeks and I will be OK.

Now this is very appealing. VERY appealing. To the point where I have done some research and found several places in Thailand (and one place in Qatar where the doctor LOOKS like he has been watching too much Nip Tuck) that will do it and throw in a spa week.

And then...I realised...there were going to be needles involved. Maybe the CANULATOR does house calls?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shades of grey

I first dyed my hair at age 18. We'd just finished the HSC, we were feeling a little wild and myself and two girlfriends bought home dye kits at Merrylands K Mart and did the deed in the bathroom at Paula's house.

Over the years I have dyed, re-dyed, cut and blowdried at regular intervals.

I look at faded childhood photos and my hair looks a reddish brown. Other times it's darker. A couple of haircuts ago, I asked my stylist, RJ what he thought my original colour was.

He sighed. delved into my hair, pulled it apart at the hairline and made a revelation that would shake my world.

"Ma'am, I don't know how to say this. But you are more than 70 per cent grey."

At that point, the salon, which usually sounds like a Blue Light Disco circa 1979, went quiet.

It was as if the camera operator had zoomed in on my reaction, like on "Bold and the Beautiful", waiting for every twitch, quivering lips and doe eyes.

"RJ, seriously, you can't be right."

"Ma'am. It's true. Look," he said opening my side part like the San Andreas Fault...a gaping streak of silver a centimeter each side.

"It's like this all over, LOOK. NO LOOK."

He was right. It wasn't just silver. It was actually white. From the roots.

The following discussion was even more disturbing. I asked him what would happen if I stopped dying. See I had a vision of Meryl Streep in "Devil Wears Prada", or those cool ladies with silver grey hair.

"Ma'am. It would be more salt and pepper and would take at least six months. You would hate it. I would hate it. And people would stare."

This this was what it had come to. My hair had become a condiment.

I ordered him to mix that dye. The darker the better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Won't somebody think of the children...

Kids love me. Fact.

Like cats, they sense the indifference.

Babies stare at me in fascination. Older children show me their Play Stations and beg me to watch them play the latest Angry Birds games.

But kids also terrify me. So do cats actually.

A couple of years ago one of my more transient neighbors had a cat. I remember one afternoon waking up from an afternoon nap on the couch to find the world's ugliest cat screeching at me from behind my glass balcony doors. this cat would terrorize me for months until one day it and its family disappeared.

Life has been so much better and less scary since.

As for kids, they terrify mainly because I think they have inbuilt bullshit meters. they can see through all your adult pretense, deep into your soul. They read your thoughts and KNOW that you are secretly scared to death of them. They are small adults with nothing to fear and they can drop their spaghetti bolognaise down their clothes and no one stares at them.

I want to be clear. I have dear friends whose children I adore and love spending time with voluntarily. This primarily because they get my fear and use it to their advantage. I talk to them like mini adults and that works for the short time I am with them.

I've only gone to a couple of psychics in my life. On all occasions i have been told that I would have "extreme difficulty" falling pregnant. One also said I would have a career change and become a fashion designer. Fat chance.

My eggs are drying up as I type. I know this because everyone tells me. And you know with all this talk about the "End of Days" and The Rapture (quite frankly any end of the world business involving a Blondie song can't be half bad)I've been having second thoughts. then again, that could be the gin talking.

It's no secret that I am 40 later this year. I am unmarried and childless. Every so often I go through period where I wonder what if...I had gotten pregnant younger. What if I adopted a Romanian orphan...what if...

When people ask why i have no children, I always say "Oh my god!I forgot to have children!". It's ironic my name is Rachel. in the Bible, Rachel (it's in Genesis people!) was called the "eternal mother".

I mean kids can be great. You don't need to make up excuses such as "doing research" when you want to go to WWE Wrestlemania Revenge Tour 2011. They will watch American Idol with you. And when they get past five years old they can make your Nespresso for you (because, unlike as was suggested in the ads, George Clooney DOES NOT come with every machine).

I guess in the age of IVF and modern scientific miracles, everything is possible. Many people seem to be talking to me about having children recently too. Like some kind of universal conspiracy. Then I started to freak out.

I looked up the cost of freezing my eggs the other day. It's actually cheaper than a Hermes Birkin handbag and there isn't a waiting list. I mean a girl needs options.

Then I saw the words INJECT...HORMONES....EXTRACTION and suddenly my second option of getting my arms lipo suctioned seems far less dramatic.

And you know, good arms are hard to come by....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

And so it begins...again

I'm back, this time for a while.

A lot has happened since I last seriously posted. I lost two jobs and a stack of weight.

Actually, in order, I was spectacularly fired from a job I loved. Found a great new job then became a victim of the recession Qatar didn't really have. In the interim I gained weight, then lost it again.

I've travelled more. I have heard mass given in Aramaic in Syria. I stood staring at Lenin's embalmed corpse in Moscow. I had champagne in a fishing cottage in Oman. Stood in a secret Masonic Temple in London. Watched the sun set over the Nile.

I've learned it's not what you know but who you can count on in your network. That people value quality and vision over anything else. That Qatar is a pretty cool place.

It's not been the easiest two years, let alone seven months but not to get all sentimental, I believe that everything I have done in my life led me to this point.

I have the people who surround me to thank for that.

In recent times I've met interesting and influential people; rich people; shallow people; wildly and compellingly intelligent people who changed the way I think about things.

I've met people who used me for my connections and knowledge.

And people who, I can't imagine not ever being in my life.

I almost gave up and headed home to safety and a constant bacon supply many times. But the people in my life dragged me off the couch, made me put on clean clothes and head out to face the world.

Now I have my own business, doing pretty much what I had been doing for the past 19 years of my life. Just not answering to an Editor, a boss or anyone but myself and my amazing, eclectic and sometimes demanding clients.

So anyway, that's what I have been up to since the last time I blogged.

How about you?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm back and only slightly mad and a little dusty

...standby folks.

It's been two long years. But I am re-starting this blog.

Stranger things have me mostly.

Back in a bit