Saturday, December 22, 2007

Peace on Earth, good will?

I am so naive I apparently border being criminal. And in the eyes of the plaintiffs' attorney, I've crossed that border. Merry Christmas to me.

Here's my holiday advice to anyone who cares to listen:

Don't talk to anyone, especially if they might feel guilty because of that conversation. Apparently guilt leads to frustration which leads to anger which leads to a harassment suit being filed against you. And even if they seem perfectly receptive to your conversing with them at the time, they're just kidding, and the real punchline comes when their attorney calls you, screaming and claiming he's going to force you to fly your family back from Doha twice over the next few months for separate depositions--one for you and one for your husband. Why? Because, silly you, you thought people could still have civilized conversations with each other. You thought that somewhere deep inside the heart of everyone lay the ability to just be reasonable.

No such chance.

Naive? Absolutely. And so ready to be heading to a place where I can gain perspective.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Love thy neighbor??

A year and a half ago, my family and I adopted a shelter dog--an Australian Cattle Dog we named Wally. He was sweet and gentle and so, so patient with our youngest, who was only 1 at the time. Not too soon after we got him, we had to go out of town and our neighbor agreed to dog sit for us. While we were gone, she took him for a walk, during which time he bit a jogger who passed by too close for Wally's comfort. Wally lunged and bit the guy in the right thigh, giving the jogger a puncture wound. It seemed for a while there that the guy would let the incident drop. We put Wally down shortly thereafter, which was hard on all of us. We thought we had done the right thing in getting a shelter dog, but apparently no good deed goes unpunished.

We received notice today that we, as well as our wonderful neighbor, are being officially sued. Our court date is set for March, while we're away. I don't want to hand this over to insurance--I'm just too mad at this guy who, like what is fast becoming the vast majority of the population, is looking for a fast buck. I don't want our rates to go up; I'd rather pay a lawyer. Oh... and his wife is suing as well--for loss of companionship while he was recovering (at home!!). He's back to jogging, by the way--no permanent harm done.

What upsets me almost as much as the suing itself is the fact that, although he filed in mid-September, we didn't receive notice until today--a week and a half before Christmas, a season during which we generally hope for the best from our friends, family, and, yes, even neighbors. I can handle the loss of money because my lawyer assures me it won't be much: the guy has a really weak case. But what I'm struggling with is the loss of belief in the goodness of people.

Why should I be so surprised? We don't talk anymore, we don't accept apologies, we don't turn the other cheek. We fight, we hold onto every perceived wrong we possibly can, and, let's not forget, we seek revenge.

I'm wallowing. I know. I needed a moment to do just that. But let me also just say now that I know Christmas isn't about finding the good in others, it's about finding the good in ourselves. So, in the spirit of Christmas, I won't counter sue. Will that suffice until I can honestly say, "God bless us, every one"?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

For those who are wondering...

A friend asked me what sort of restrictions I'll face as a woman in Qatar. So, just in case anyone else is interested:

Virtually none. Women can drive there, which is unusual for that part of the world. Now whether I'm okay with driving there is another issue entirely. I checked the State Department's website for any warnings on traveling to Qatar. The only one--I repeat, the only one--issued concerns the driving and the lack of interest too many people seem to have in traffic laws. Or obeying them anyway. Doha instituted quite an extensive list of new fines and punishments in October, and from what I've read, traffic incidents are down considerably since then. I'm hoping that's still the case when we arrive there.

As for clothing, there's an unofficial dress code for ex-pats that, being unofficial, isn't enforced: knees and shoulders should be covered. Not a problem for me since I'm not a hot-pants-tank-top-wearing kind of gal. As for head coverings, those aren't required either, although I have a wonderful straw cowboy hat my sister gave me a couple of years ago. I'll be bringing that along simply to keep the freckles (oh, and cancer) at bay. I've seen pictures taken in the Doha malls, and it looks as though a lot of ex-pat women don't pay attention to that dress code. I'm not necessarily ready to put on an abaya and/or burka, but honestly, it's simply disrespectful to spend time in a Muslim country (even if nationals only make up roughly 20% of the population there) and not at least try not to offend the people.

Speaking of giving offense, I should have started months ago to train E not to stare at people or talk about them while they're within earshot. All African-Americans, Asians, and Indians are, to her, "brown" people. She's 5 so I haven't pushed her too hard to be perfectly p.c. But we were at an Indian restaurant on Saturday and she kept looking at the people coming in. Finally, she turned to me and said (loudly), "Everyone here is brown." I said softly, "They're Indian and just have darker skin than we do." A beautiful young woman was sitting down behind us just then and E said, "Indian?! I didn't know there were girl Indians!" (To her, Native Americans are the only Indians she's aware of.) The young woman smiled and said she was from Sri Lanka. E slid down in her chair, embarrassed to have been noticed. So we had a talk on the way home about not pointing out people's differences in front of them. I know... she's still learning about the world around her. What better experience for her to have then than to spend some time in a different county with a completely different culture?

Let's hope my optimism is still with me a month (or two or three or four) from now.

Monday, December 10, 2007

20 days and counting...

S reminds me daily how many days are left before we leave for Qatar. I've asked him to stop because I've done such a fine job of cramming myself into this lovely state of denial that I don't need to be brought back to reality by a 10-year-old.

I don't dread being there; I just dread going. Wait. Maybe dread is the wrong word. hm. Nope, it's the right one. I dread the packing and the cleaning and the 4,698 things I'll remember I've forgotten just as we're heading out the door and toward the airport. However, I did pack my shoes. That wasn't so painful. Unpacking the 10 pairs that I'll probably have to give up in order to make room for necessities like sunscreen, school uniforms, and the kids' Wii? Dread. I've also packed an entire box of books since I've been told access to English-language books is pretty limited. Ron wonders (aloud) if that's the best use of space. I answer (aloud) that it will be cheaper than buying all those titles when we get there. The economist in him relents. Aside from the books and the summer shoes, we're still using much of what I'll need to pack, so I can't really get a move on quite yet. It's just as well since Ron keeps forgetting to bring home boxes from work for me.

Aside from the packing and cleaning? How about a 13-hour flight with a 2-year-old? And not just any 2-year-old, but the 2-year-old that lives with us and made it very clear to me shortly after he was born that my mental health demanded he be the last of our brood. I'm starting to hyperventilate again just thinking about it.

Back to my state of denial...