Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

 

Lots of lovely gifts and cards from my students.
Lots of lovely gifts and cards from my students.

I might have been lucky to live in different cities,  but saying goodbye is never easy. In fact I think it’s getting harder and harder. In trying to prepare for the inevitable sadness that will creep up on me on my last day here in the dusty city of Doha I have compiled a list.

 

Things I won’t miss so much:

  • The cacophony of car horns all competing to heard in the desert orchestra ( which I can hear as I sit and type this)
  • The varying shades of beige that blankets the city
  • Living in what often feels like an oversized industrial heater- fan on high

Things I may miss a lot:

  • Having the call to prayer punctuate the day
  • Hot fresh nutella pancakes from the local women in the souk, who sit there even on the hottest days
  • The pockets of shisha hanging in the air
  • Mr. Chandran’s shop and the gentle whirring of the old-fashioned sewing machines
  • Walks along the corniche on one of the cool, clear days
  • Having a Saturday morning coffee in the MIA park and watching the boats of all shapes and sizes come and go
  • Chatting with friends in the shisha café after a very busy week
  • A cool refreshing lemon mint drink when it’s unbearably hot
  • A refreshing lemon mint and a shish, always a good way to the end week.
    A refreshing lemon mint and a shish, always a good way to the end week.
  • Shawarma, humble yet mighty
  • Ugly, the security cat of my building, knowing that she’s on patrol lets me sleep a little easier at night

    'Ugly'
    ‘Ugly’
  • Dhows bobbing on the water, decked out in the most radical fairy lights

    The old and the new
    The old and the new
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Shouldn’t we celebrate the friendships we have?

Photo credit: hitfull.com
Photo credit: hitfull.com

As a wanderer, nomad, TCK, relationships are so important to me. We attach meaning to place but it’s the people, experiences and then the memories that help to create that place.  People move on and life changes. Life is in constant flux, so keeping those relationships can become hard, but I always wonder why.

Maybe, it’s because I love to write that I find it easy. Who knows? People are weird, we all know that whether we want to admit it or not. I think about the friends I’ve made along the way, those that I’m still in touch with and those who have dropped off the radar. I wonder if those who are no longer in touch wonder what I’m up to, or if they even think of me at all?

Where has this come from? I received an email the other day from my high school English teacher. Its been thirteen years since I graduated, but we have (sporadically) kept in touch, and I like that we have. He is someone who inspired me and, as an English teacher myself I hope that I’m having the same impact on some of my students.

I have friends scattered all around the globe, I don’t see them too often and I sometimes go months without hearing from them.  It doesn’t matter, because when we do finally get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. That is the sign of a true friendship.

My friend who lives in London rarely keeps in touch. That’s ok, that’s the way it’s always been. Males are sparse with their communication at the best of times. That said, we both know that there’s a spare room available for the other and when we do hangout it’s like we just hung out yesterday.

I have a friend here, she lives down the road from me. We rarely see each other. Sounds ridiculous, but we’re both busy and also have different circles of friends. Sometimes when we try to arrange a dinner to catchup, it takes a month because of our busy schedules, but we manage.

Then there are the friends that I thought I was close to. The ones who didn’t manage to keep in touch.  Most of these are friends I had at Uni, our lives went down different paths. It’s these friends that make me realise, I was always different.  I’m used to moving away and keeping in touch, that was an unfamiliar concept to them. Or maybe we were friends of convenience?

People we meet, whether it’s a brief encounter or a long affair have an impact on who we are, shouldn’t we celebrate this?

Photo credit: thorrington.ac.nz
Photo credit: thorrington.ac.nz

Finding a Place to Belong

The changing face of Doha
The changing face of Doha

A friend of mine, obsessed with the Third Culture Kid, movement got me thinking the other day about identity and belonging. Although I am a TCK, I had never heard of this until a year ago. It was this friend that introduced me to the phenomenon, and when she did I finally realised that I had found my people!

Being a teacher, there are moments when I wonder how my students are getting on, and I don’t mean with their school work, I mean with life- living in a place that’s not their ‘home’.  I know that I coped, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, but I do look at some of them and wonder what impact being here, or being anywhere other than “home” is having on them.

When I was a little girl, I was very quiet, shy and had barely any friends. I remember hating school; doing PE would make me nervous, being asked to speak out in class would make me nervous; lunch time would make me nervous.  Everything made me nervous. Everything. I didn’t feel like I was good at anything, I felt like I never really belonged. I was on the outside looking in and I had no idea how to change that.

One day, my parents told me that we were going to move. Nothing too strange about that. But, we weren’t moving to a different town, we were moving to another country, a country that I’d never heard of. A country that my parents had never really heard of. We were moving to Qatar. Where?

Qatar. A place that is now on the global radar for many reasons…art, culture, sport, oil and gas, Al Jazeera… but when my parents told me and my brothers we had to get a map. I’ll never forget that. This is mostly because I didn’t know how to feel, it wasn’t like I was really leaving any close friends, but I was beginning to settle into the school I was in. At that time, in my opinion, it was simply bad timing on my parents part. How could they take me away from my school and my comfort zone to a country that no one had ever heard of? Ever.

In short, it was the best thing my parents could have ever done for me. For that, I’m eternally grateful.

Taking a quiet, shy girl out of the Scottish countryside and placing her in the middle of the arabian desert was the beginning of what I will call my awakening. Putting me in a transient community was what made me come out of my shell.  A group of kids who were used to friends coming and going were immediately accepting of me and wanted to be friends. This was a foreign concept for me. Immediately I belonged.

TCK’s will understand this, it’s hard to put into words how this sense of belonging came about. But, it did, and it was the start of me becoming me. So, when I look at my students as they sit in class doing their work I wonder how many of them are like me? How many of them will return in years to come because of a strange pull to the place, to find that sense of belonging.

The Curious Thing About Street Lights.

I am developing a new obsession, another one to add to my list.  My new fascination is lamps or more appropriately street lighting, I’ve written about lamps in an earlier post, here. This new fascination has stemmed from living in a city shrouded in semi darkness, this has made me more aware of light and the way other cities light up their streets. So, on my recent trip to Europe I discovered an array of interesting street lighting and it got me thinking…

I saw this, and wondered if it was the term lamp-post originated from. It is a lamp on a post, and I wonder if it actually worked. The image below, is one of slight disappointment when you notice the bulb! The village where I found this was a well-preserved medieval village, so this must be a medieval light, albeit with a modern twist. I love the thought of this light being used hundreds of years ago and wonder what the village would have been like and who lived there. Or is it simply a replica so that people like me will ponder, wonder and marvel at the village? Either way, I like it.

This gothic one is my favourite so far. Just look at the detail, it’s more than just street lighting, it’s a decoration. I love the little bat that sits on top of the crown, it’s so decadent. It’s just more interesting than the plain modern light, so much more work has gone in to creating this masterpiece and there is definitely a sense of pride and a presence that simply cannot be ignored.

Street lights are a curious thing, I think my curiosity stems from the notion, what if they could talk? The stories these lights could tell, standing there day by day and watching the street. It’s a funny little fascination that I have, I had a look to see if I could find any books that feature lights as a key character and I couldn’t. The only thing that comes to mind is the little Pixar desk lamp, which is rather cute and very expressive!

I’m not sure what will come of this curiosity, but surely there’s a story in there somewhere and I think I may have already started it…

Home Sweet Home

One of the greatest things about traveling and being an expat is coming home. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and know I’m fortunate to be able to travel as much as I do. Despite, this though nothing beats coming home.



“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!” (
an extract from the classic Australian poem, My Country by Dorothea MacKellar) 

Sitting outside on the deck in the winter sun is totally refreshing after the sand filled air of the desert.  As well as sitting on the deck, I love to go to as many bookshops as possible. Having been back home for just over two weeks I have already managed to buy five books!  I’ve already talked about one of them here on Show & Tell and will be sharing more on Shaun Tan’s book later.

I recently bought a copy of ” The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by William Joyce.  My friend Mel, sent me a link to an animated short film a few months ago, and I had no idea that the film in question had originally been inspired by a book.  I absolutely loved the short film, if you haven’t seen it, please watch it. It’s simply beautiful.

I was really pleased when I found the book hidden in one the wooden boxes they have in the children’s section. My favorite thing about this book is of course the theme,  the importance of books, and a gentle reminder that we need to care for our books.  Joyce also brings the books to life, the use of personification is something I am currently using in some of my own picture books. I also love the illustrations and the use of black and white and then the way color has been used later in the story. The more time I spend working on my own projects, the more I realize that I have to really think about the image. I may spend my time playing with words, but I’m increasingly aware of the 32 pages and the need for an interesting and appropriate layout.

My research into agents continues and I have recently learnt that I need to finish a few more of my ideas before contacting agents. So, with inspiration from Shaun Tan and William Joyce I will attempt to complete my stories and continue on my little creative journey, whilst sitting on the deck in the winter sun.

The Travel Bug: An Exotic Bird.

In my earlier Travel Bug entry I spoke of the native , someone who was clearly trying to blend into his surroundings. Not long after that post, I found an ‘exotic bird’, one that always standouts in the crowd, whether intentionally or otherwise.

Peacock in Portugal

This particular ‘bird’ was one definitely out of its natural environment, although, I’m not entirely sure what its natural environment would be. He was dressed all in black, his feet had clearly adapted to his pointy shoes. His hair was casually coiffed and he walked with a swagger that he had yet to earn. He was without a doubt too young, trying to be charming, he seemed to crave  reassurance from onlookers.  Whilst the first sighting was comical, it was clear that this ‘bird’ was trying to find his style, someone not as secure in his surroundings as the native.

The Travel Bug: Spying on the natives.

One of the great things about traveling, as I’ve said before, is the people watching that I can do.  I’ve had a very productive holiday so far, I have climbed a gorge, hiked up to a château, visited many little villages and done a lot of walking.

I am currently staying in Renne Le Chateau,  a part of France that is renowned for its spiritual haven and theories about the holy trinity and a bloodline.  Henry Lincoln wrote about Renne Le Chateau in Holy Blood Holy Grail which lead to the best-seller by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code and all the popularity and hype that has followed.  It is really interesting being here, however I am here simply because it’s pretty.

The other day we went on a road trip to Peyrepertuse, which was spectacular. Whilst having a little rest and soaking up the breathtaking view, I was lucky enough to spot a man. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but this man ( featured in the photo below) can only be described as a native.

The above photo has captured a native in his natural habitat on the mountainside of Peyrepertuse, the following  is a David Attenborough-like voice-over that ran through my head as I watched the native.

Shhhhh, there is a rustling in the grass to the left of us. If we are lucky, we may be able to see a native in his natural habitat. We must be quiet, we do not want to startle him as he ambles along the mountainside.

Watch, as he comes in to view, we can see he is carrying a traditional leather satchel, we can only speculate what he has in there, however, this breed of native has been known to carry a hunk of bread and some cheese.

Note the way he moves. He is clearly comfortable with the leather satchel, however the more modern option of a backpack seems to cause  him some distress as he tries to balance the strap on his shoulder without success.

What is quite clear is that he has chosen this way of life, as many of these natives do. His choice of medieval attire is fitting and allows for him to blend into his surroundings. Note, his current abode, a simple hut with the traditional leather satchels left outside.

 

Although this is a rare opportunity, we do know that they like to live in the past. This one clearly enjoys the remains of the château and will possibly dream of a time when he can reclaim it and live, we can only assume, happily ever after.