10th Sep 2012
After the summer holidays I am starting to feel like life is back to normal. Eid, is over, Ramadan is over for another year and yesterday the kids went back to school. This means that Yuliya is teaching, and when not facing the class, is busy preparing work for the next day or marking assessments from the day before. The weather is cooling ever so slightly and some days the humidity drops right off and it is nice enough to spend some time outside. I am hoping that it might actually be cool enough to go fishing this weekend.
Our company moved offices over the Eid break and we are all now trying to get used to working in an open-plan area in line with modern office design.
Unfortunately some of the other ideas that modern businesses have adopted to improve the quality and productiveness of the work environments, such as open-plan break-out/brainstorming areas, and communal areas for eating and socialising, have not been implemented. In many ways it is a bit like a return to an early-twentieth century typing pool. All we are missing is someone marching up and down to make sure that nobody is slacking-off.
We are now forbidden to heat our lunch at work as the smell might offend the more delicate noses in the office and the toilet facilities are very limited which means that we may have to implement a ticketed queuing system soon. Some things though have not changed, the public transport is still non-existent, and so is sensible car parking. One day last week I parked my car in the dust-bowl across the street (the only free parking anywhere in the area) and came out to run my wife to the airport at lunch time to find the car parked in, both ends. Someone had unilaterally decided to create a third row of parking between two avenues, effectively blocking an entire row of cars from getting out.
Still, the three or four offices that do exist are very nice, the building itself is very modern, and it is close to City Centre shopping mall which means that there is somewhere to go at lunchtimes.
Our Personal Effects
Our personal effects were finally delivered to us from England on the 11th August. All of the boxes had been opened and the contents throughly churned. This was the result of the Qatari Customs searching for smuggled pork, alcohol, drugs and “sexual stuffs” apparently. I am completely bemused as to what they expected to find by dismantling our electric toothbrush and dispersing the pieces across multiple boxes, but we found nothing missing except for a large aluminium trunk which was not delivered.
Upon following up about the whereabouts of the trunk (which, as it contained jewellery, watches and electronic gear, we assumed had been stolen) we were told that it had been withheld by Customs because it was locked. I still wonder whether, if we had not asked, anyone would have told us about this. eventually, several weeks after we gave them the key, our shipping company was able to retrieve the trunk for us with contents both safe and intact.
So now, a month later, we are still unpacking. We have had to buy some new furniture – this is an expensive business in Qatar where medium density fibreboard (MDF) is about as expensive as solid hardwood anywhere else and taste takes a holiday. I would recommend for anyone else coming here that they either bring all their own furniture or a rent a furnished villa.
Six weeks after putting the car in for repair at Toyota we got it back. And it’s almost fixed. To get the car out of their hands I had to call daily for the last two weeks, and despite multiple promises that they would call back I only ever received one call in return.
The original reason given for the delay was that the parts had to be delivered from Japan and would not be received until after Eid. When, two weeks ago they did arrive we were told the car would be ready in “a couple of days”, then “a couple more days”, then “the paint colours don’t match”, then no one answered my calls, then “the workmen had a half day today”. Eventually the car was ready. I went to pick it up and they had done a credible job on the repairs. Two complaints – the iPad I left under the seat by mistake has vanished into thin air and apparently because I signed a form saying I had taken all personal items from the car then it was never there! and… there is one more part required to complete the repair but it will take a few weeks until it arrives.
I must say the theft of the iPad is the first time that I have seen any evidence of crime in Qatar and it was very disappointing that Toyota would not accept any responsibility.
In the meantime I had a rental car from a small company called Mustafawi. This car looked like it had been used in the Whacky Races, a little Toyota Corolla with brakes that ground every time you applied them, an engine that growled as if it was about to explode, dents and scratches on every panel, and a service light that just wouldn’t switch off. When I returned this limousine, I inadvertently left my reading glasses in the car, a couple of hours later I received a call asking where the manager could return them to. My faith in humanity no sooner is destroyed than such an event restores it.
So what have I learned?
1) Nothing, but nothing, gets done in a hurry in this country, it is pointless pushing, it will happen when it happens.
2) Make sure you have cover for a replacement vehicle in your insurance policy as car repairs take a long long time.
3) Don’t leave anything in your car when you give the keys to someone else. Even a big company like Toyota can be infiltrated by thieves.