Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cleaning up your internet act....a modern morality tale

I've been thinking a lot lately about image and how people perceive me. As a western woman in a fairly high profile role, I'm happy for my employers to think I am a tee totalling virgin. Although I do enjoy a night out, most of my socialising occurs at work-related functions or at dinner parties. Controlled environments.

Especially in a country like Qatar where there is a very strict moral code. What makes me even more cautious is the fact that qatar, indeed Doha is essentially one big rural town. News and gossip spread fast.

So, I can control my public image here. But the internet is a different beast entirely. I have often wondered, in darker moments, if something bad happened to me (killer croc, plane crash, kidnapped, arrested in the UAE) what awful stories from my past could be dredged up. Or more importantly, what photographs could be found.

In recent weeks, the world has been treated to the unseemly story of a Dubai based Bristish woman and her ill thought out romp on a beach there. If you have been hiding under a rock, you can read the story here
Within 24 hours of the story hitting the web, there were photos of the woman in various states of inebriation accompanying accounts of the sordid affair. Michelle with a cocktail. Michelle mugging for the camera. Michelle and a couple of pixelated comely young lasses enjoying Dubai's infamous nightlife.

Most disturbingly, "friends" of Michelle had already been trawling their digital photo albums and facebook, selling the pics to rampant UK tabloids and pocketing the cash (perhaps for their own booze-filled romps in Benidorm or the Costa del Sol).

Facebook has become the noughties version of the slide nights your parents used to host in the 1970s. Or carrying around the 20 dog eared packets of photos from your trip to Fiji in your handbag to bore your friends, colleagues, coffee guy senseless.

Except less private. Facebook encourages us to connect with the world, but in the process tells us to forget about our internal "edit" button. i admit i do post photoson my profile. Mostly of sites, rarely of myself. But I have one friend who has more than 700 photos of herself and her friends posted on her profile. that's a whole lotta information to be putting out there into cyberspace.

According to Newsweek there is a mini growth industry in new tech companies who can "clean up' your online repuatation. From expunging refernces to excessive patrying at unibersity through to more sinster initiatives. You can read their account here

I say there is an easier and cheaper alternative. don't put anything out there in cyberspace you wouldn't want to see on the front page of The Sun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Miss Understood

I feel the tingling sensation of a budding "personality complex". FOr once it has nothing to do with my weight, my skin or the fact that my towels in my linen cupboard (yes I have a linen cupboard..don't you?) are not uniformly folded.

It has to do with my marital status.

When I first arrived in Doha there were some problems processesing my visa. HR would send my papers (including a photo where I am clearly wearing lipstick) but looking at my managerial designation, the Ministry officials clearly remained unconvinced I was a woman. And so, it was sent back pointing our the "gender error".

Being more family-oriented than the chavtastic party capital of Dubai, many people assume a woman of a certain age (ahem...) must clearly be with her husband. I encounter this on a small scale when attempting to squeeze appointments into my lunch break. I am forever haggling with receptionists.

"9am madam," they say firmly.

"No sorry can't do mornings, " I reply.


"I can't do mornings. 1pm til 3pm maximum."

"Hmmmm...oh do you have to pick up your children from school?"


"So 2.30pm?"

"Yessssssss. Thankyou"

However, this being Doha setting the appointment does not necessarily ensure all will go according to plan.

Once, at a salon, I waited more than an hour to be seen. Then something bright and shiny distracted the stylist and I was left to wait another 30 minutes. At the end of my tether, I left, informing the owner of my decision. She replied that most of her clients had a "flexible schedule".

I politely informed said owner that while it would be lovely to be a "Lady of Leisure" dividing my time between coffee at Starbucks, lunch at Le Notre and scrapbooking classes on the compound, I indeed had to work for a living.

Don't get me wrong. I have a great life. having to defend and explain my personal choices is a small irritant and sometimes plain amusing.

A few weeks ago while in the changing rooms of my gym, a Qatari lady approached me and asked where I was from. I told her.

"You live in Doha or just visiting?"

"I live here...almost a year now!"

"With your husband?"


(sharp intake of breath) "You leave him at home!!!!?????"


"He's dead? Sorry sorry."

"No I am unmarried."

"Not married?"


With that...she patted my shoulder, smiled and said "Inshallah, enjoy!"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Credit cards DO NOT cause cancer...but they can cause financial discomfort

I was beginning to worry about the "illness" I encountered regularly, usually around the middle of the month.

Sweaty palms, palpitations, dry mouth, visions.

Here I was thinking it was something really bad...like Hansen's Disease (politically correct way of saying LEPROSY) or maybe even the bird flu...when it was actually just the arrival of my monthly credit card statement.

But today, all my fears about sitting on one of those grimy and uncomfortable (possibly germ harbouring) chairs while waiting to see an undertrained and uninterested doctor at Hamad Medical Centre suddenly dissolved!

All thanks to the detective work of one of the local Doha newspapers. Phew! i'm so glad someone had the courage to FINALLY break this story...

NHA says credit cards pose no health hazard
Published: Monday, 14 July, 2008, 12:58 AM Doha Time
AN advisory issued by the National Health Authority yesterday says there is no scientific evidence that bank credit cards cause cancer or harm health. “According to information from the environment health sources, credit cards or electronic card-readers have no side effects on public health,” it stated. Citing an official source of NHA, it further stated that due to health concerns among the public about the usage of electronic cards and any possible side effects on health, the authority is keen to clarify this issue and reaffirms its commitment to secure the health and safety of the Qatari society by following up on most recent medical researches and studies on the international level.