Today marks exactly 2 years since I arrived in Doha, Qatar. 731 days have passed since I got off that airplane & the heat whacked me in the face.
I think back at how nervous I was & I don’t believe that was misplaced. I had never been here before, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know much about the culture & I didn’t follow the religion. Each one of those prospects is daunting alone, never mind adding them together. Well, 2 years on & how do those same prospects look?
Doha is familiar to me. I know its ugly & I know its beautiful. I’ve experienced the downright indescribable heat of summer, but I know it can get quite chilly in winter. I know which taxis you should use & which you should avoid. I know the metro system very well & for the most part, I know which exits will take me to the correct side of the street. When I leave Doha & come back, there isn’t excitement, sadness or dread & I’m happy knowing that because it means I’m comfortable.
In the last 2 years, I have met all kinds of people from what seems like an endless list of countries. I’ve made some great friends who I know will be in my life for years to come & quite honestly, my life would now be odd without them. I’ve also had the privilege of having almost all my loved ones come visit me here & those visits have been very special to me.
I still don’t speak Arabic. I will admit that I have never tried to learn the language & it has never been a desire for me. I have picked up certain words & phrases & I know the Arabic numeral system very well, but I don’t know anything more. Qatar has a very high number of ex-pats & English is the de facto language used here. Unexpectedly, I have learned some Hindi & Tagalog words & phrases because of the high number of Indians & Filipinos living & working in Qatar.
I will never claim to know much about the culture here because there is just still so much more for me to learn. However, I will say that living here has been such a learning curve because the culture I grew up in & the ones I was exposed to are so vastly different from the culture here. I also notice that the outside world has so many misconceptions about life here.
When I moved here I didn’t follow Islam & I still don’t. Having said that, I do have genuine respect for people who follow this religion. Before coming here, I thought I had a basic understanding of the religion & perhaps I did, but living here has been an opportunity to learn a lot more. A person’s beliefs play a huge part in how they act & if you learn a bit about these beliefs, it gives you slightly more clarity when trying to understand them.
I have absolutely no regrets about moving to Qatar. There have been highs & lows. There have been unforgettable experiences & there have been events I missed back home. There have been times when the homesickness has been overwhelming & those times are hard, I’m not going to sugar coat it. The homesickness & hard times pass & when they do, I know I made the most amazing life change. I absolutely, positively do not want this crazy, wonderful adventure to end.
Keep traveling, keep safe.