22 August 2006

You know you're a local when...

This was my first week of highly anticipated 6 day week. Did I mention that we get the privilege of not getting paid for the extra day? Huzzah. You kind of have to forget your regular working schedule; the local weekend is Friday and Saturday. I'll be taking my day on Fridays, so my working week actually starts on a Saturday, which is a bit of a headfuck.

Anyway when I went down for a swim on Friday morning, i knew I was on my was to being a local when I heard myself saying 'It's not that hot, only about 40 degrees.' It was overcast with gusty winds, not at all like the blinding 50 degree sunlight is usually is, when being outside at daytime is like standing on a BBQ grille inside a dryer.

Lots of people had gone to a 'rave' at the Diplomatic Club the night before and were sharing war stories and fresh Iranian bread and Marmite around the pool. Eloise's description of the last one she went to didn't sound too attractive - lots of local guys dancing with themselves and each other and morality police keeping an eye one things from the edges of the dancefloor. I stayed in with a couple of scotches.

In the afternoon I borrowed Travis' bike and rode into the souks. On a normal day I would never attempt this, but as it was 'only 40' it was ok. It's only a few kms, but it was a good opportunity to stop and take photos instead of speeding past in an air-con-ed car.

Friday is the holiest day, so while local families go to mosque or spend time with family, the hired help has the day off (or just the afternoon more often). So the downtown of Doha is suddenly full with thousands of Asian men, all just hanging out. They have no particular place to go, so they stick to wherever they haven't yet been moved on from. The most popular spot is a large roundabout near the souks. On the way in I had to stop and take some photos - there were about 300 men standing, sitting, holding hands, hanging out in the middle of the roundabout and surrounding pavements. On my way back in the evening there were about double that, a really crazy sight.

Being the afternoon, there were alot more people at the markets. I bought a hilarious set 'Russian dolls' done in the style of an Arabic family. And a tiny 'Alladin's lamp', made in India of course.

Friday afternoon is obviously family time and there were loads of local mums, dads and kids walking around. I'm still not used to not being able to see any of the women's faces, its really hard not to be able to connect to anyone. And of course you don't even want to smile or say hi in case hubby or brother takes it the wrong way. This is the total opposite of Vietnam, where everyone is trying to engage you all the time - it can get exhausting, but you're in conversation with locals all the time. You're often literally fighting the kids off your heels and the ladies from trying to sell you stuff. Here you can't even see the women, and if a kid looks at you and you smile back, they get a firm pull on the elbow by their mother. You'd have to say it's not a very socially connected community, at least for foreigners.

I sat down at a bench to change a roll of film in front of a falconry shop (very popular here), next to a neat young Asian man. He was waiting for 'Madam' and her family to return from shopping, he's their driver. I asked him if the family were good to work for and he replied something like 'the Madam is hard'. Poor kid, he's from Nepal, looked only about 18, and is basically a man servant to a family who treat him harshly.

In the evening I went with a guy from work to a big Arabic / English bookshop. I was looking for a 'learn to write Arabic' book, which I found (a school book for 5 year olds!) but I also got a beautiful book on arabic calligraphy styles through the ages. In some parts the script is really fluid an cursive, at others it's really geometric like the patterns. It was a good find, and pretty cheap.

Saturday to be back at work already really sucked and it's hard to imagine keeping it up like this right through for the next 15 weeks...

Now playing: Superpitcher - Here Comes Love

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