Monday, December 29, 2008

I really need to bring a notepad with me!

So the past few days I have written some AMAZING blogs!!! in my head. The trouble is by the time I get to sit at the computer for a few min. all of the witty, smart, thought provoking sentences that I compose throughout my day, spurred by the events that I witness and the conversations that I hear, seem to vanish into smoke.

(or maybe that's the cigarette haze that seems to hover in the air in every single establishment here)

You know, as much as we all complained (and I say "we" meaning westerners) about the smoking ban, how it affected the economy, how it drove bar business down, how it was an infringement on our very rights as free people.....I am totally aware of the benefits to it. I can't tell you how much of a difference I feel in my own lungs having just been here a little over a month and spending alot of time in bars and restraunts... with poor ventilation to boot... Next time someone asks me what I miss... I will tell them it has to be smoke free establishments.

I was watching a movie the other day. "The Dutchess"

There was a scene, and in this scene, as the new husband is undressing his new wife for the first time he says something like "I have never been able to understand why womens' dresses are so confusing" or some such thing.

Her response... " You men have so many ways with which to express yourselves, we women must make do with our dresses and our hats..." This movie was set around the Golden Age or the Victorian age or something like that ( i know, I'm showing my lack of knowledge sue me)

the point is... in an era when women were not allowed to have opinion, and their worth was measured by the male heirs they could produce the only form of expression and individuality allowed them was their dress. The fabrics they chose, the ornamentation they adorned themselves with, the floursh on the hats they wore.

I bring this up because just the other day I began to truly notice the womens' abayas. At first glance they all seem the same...long, black, head covering, flowing, almost ethereal like.

But when you really take notice you see that each woman, whether she covers her face fully, partially, or not at all, exercizes her right to public individual expression and personality through the adornment and ornamentation of her abaya. (as well as the choice to cover her face and to what degree)

Once I started taking notice, I became aware of how truly beautiful some of these outfits can be. Some have small piping along the edges...a more understated and shy look.

Some have crystals embedded in the hems of sleeves and the edges of the head covering...almost to the point of disco ball standards... for the woman with a big personality hidden under all that fabric.

Some have butterflies, or flowers or just swirly patters stitched on. All in about the same place but each very different, and all chosen, I am assuming, according to the personality of the woman wearing it.

In a part of the world that has the reputation worldwide as providing little room for a woman's

indiviuality and personality and self expression, you see the manifestation of those very things in the same way women hundreds of years ago felt they could openly express themselves safely.

Also, seeing soooo many people dressed soooo alike, it's easy to make the mistake of complacently disregarding the individual under the garment. "they all look the same so therefore they must be the same..." and nothing could be farther from the truth.

It just takes a little time and patience to see all the color that is here, hidden just beneath the surface of black(abaya) and white (thobe or dish-dash)....and BEIGE.

I had my first real conversation with a Qatari man the other night... while buying a chicken. (roasted of course) I was suprised at his warmth. He kindof reminded me of my father.... in a very strange and foreign way. On the surface, the traditional dress can keep you at bay. The mannerism of the culture isn't like our own... and it can be off putting and daunting. But this experience the other night and the few Qatari women I have had the fortune to meet in my chair at the salon is helping to put me at ease and to allow me to lift my own veil of misconception to see these people as the individuals that they are, not just the Arabs that we see on the news.

I found this and thought it interesting... i didn't write it however:

"For many, the native dress of Arab peoples is odd if not absurd to their modern sense of styles. Somehow they tend to see this as proof of backwardness of Arab society. However, such thinking is in itself very flawed and narrow. If we can see other cultures such as Japanese, Pakistani, or places in Russia, South America, and where culture still plays a strong role in families, people can still be seen wearing traditional clothing. The question should be asked why? Often we find that clothing not only fulfills an identity but also practical solutuions.
Upon first moving to the Middle East I found the clothing odd myself. Yet after having lived here for more than a decade, it is clear that the type and shape of the clothing serves several purposes. Naturally for the women, there is a religious fulfillment by wearing loose, long clothing that covers the woman and maintains her modesty. Secondly, there is distinct cultural connection to the type of dress worn depending upon the location.

Palestinians typically wear clothing with traditional cross stitch needle work, which is very intricate and valued. Within Saudi Arabia, women from the Asir region will wear a different type of dress compared to those of the Hijaz. Several of the dresses are interesting and different in design. Many women in Islamic countries increasingly choose to wear the hijab or scarf. And while in places like Saudi Arabia where the face cover is expected of Saudi women, many of the practicing Muslim women choose to do so of their own free will out of a sense of piety. When women go out they typically wear an Abyaya to cover normal clothes like jeans and t-shirts or maybe fancy dresses. This again is to protect the woman’s modesty and high honor in society.

As for the men, most men wear some kind of Thobe, or long white garment similar to a shirt with thin cotton pants underneath. The Thobe is perfectly suited for the hot desert climate of Saudi Arabia. The design allows air flow to cool the body. Additionally most men wear the Ghutra or Smagh which is a square scarf, made of cotton or blends, folded in a triangle and worn over the Tagiyah (a white cap). It is either all white or red and white checked. There is no significance placed on which kind the man wears. The Quran states that a man should be judged by his deeds not on his appearance so the Thobe also expresses equality.
The traditional dress may seem outdated in these ‘modern’ days, however living in this environment will quickly show any person that the long clothing protects the body from the elements and sand, and when caught in an unexpected sand storm the Ghutra protects the face and nose from the harsh elements. One soon learns to see the Thobe as an elegant form of clothing, and hey, try to keep them sparkling white day after day as they do!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Live....From NY!!!

Hi kids!! Well... the past few days have been a whirl wind. It was a last min decision, but yesterday morning I showed up on Len's doorstep for a Christmas suprise. I have to say I have never ever done that before... so I was a little nervous, but... I'm glad I did.

So I'm here in NY just till Thur night then back to Doha.

It's great to see everyone...well... the few people I have managed to get the time to see...but having been away has been very good for me. The new job, the responsibilities, the new adventure... I feel more like my old self than I have for a very long time. And although I am looking forward to going back and continuing my adventure I am glad I decided to take this trip back home.

Since I've been home everyonbe has been asking me how it is different living in Doha compared to here... and I have to reiterate... it's strangly the same, but just slightly off. Like someone from another dimension saw Vegas...drunk...and tried to recreate it from a hazy hungover memory. It's almost the same but just not...quite.. right, somehow.

The biggetst fear I have is becoming too clmplacent and foregetting that I am living in a Muslum country where the laws and rules are not only foreign to me, but also strange, and as far as I am concerned, aren't based in much common sense.

Like roundabouts... coming back to LI I realize that I have always driven a little like a Qatari. Pushy and defensive. But OMG!!! In most places in the world, if you are driving on roundabouts there are rules, codes of conduct. In most polite societies the outside lane of the roundabout is for taking the right exit, the middle lane is for going across and the inside lane is for taking the left exit or for doubling back. Not so in the land of Doha. Apparently the inside lane is called the "captain's lane" which means that what ever the person on the inside lane feels like doing...well, be damned to the people in the outside two lanes... forget about common courtesy. Just be well aware of the fellow in the four wheel drive looking to plow across two lanes of traffic in order to take the right. The right that by rights is YOUR right, and he really should be going left. And god forbid you get into an accident with this guy...because it will be your fault. No conversation about it. (see, no common sense to the rules here)
anyway enough of my rant. I hope you all have a fantastic holiday season and I'm sorry I didn't get to see most of you while I was here, but it was really for three days.

Merry Xmas, Happy Chanukkha, and Peaceful Qwanza.

Remember to tell those you love often and loudly how much they mean to you. Never go to bed without at least saying I love you (even if you are still angry), and don't let anyone you care about travel without first telling them how much they mean to you.
Life is short, and you never know what is going to happen. Make the most of every day, for yourself and for the ones you love. So with that in mind, I miss you, I love you and I am blessed to have you in my life.

I'm still trying to upload that damned video from a few weeks ago... don't worry, it will happen.
sorry this is so all over the place, but i write what i think, and right now i am just trying not to think about leaving tomorrow....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

pics from Qaws

These are pics from QAWS the animal shelter here in Qatar. It is an interesting thing to have a shelter here as the local population doesn't really have the same outlook on animals as we in the western cultures do. To say they don't like dogs is a gross understatement. Most are terrified of dogs and feel that they are dirty creatures and use them for target practice. Cats are tolerated outside as they help rid the area of rats. Horses... they have the highest importance here as far as animals go. Other than that, you don't find many local people caring about the treatment of animals.

So QAWS was born... from the need seen by a few westerners. I don't know the whole history of the place, but I do know that I am happy it's here and hope to be able to help out there as soon as I can get the guts up to try to drive there on my own.

There are so many dogs and cats there, as well as a kestrel bird and an Australian possum.

The people who run the shelter are hardworking and dedicated to helping every animal that comes through. Even Ferdinand the bull...has been given a second lease on life...he's such a friendly bull. He loves rubs and kisses...and follows you around like a puppy. They have a mule and a donkey that keep Ferd company. A host of geese and chickens and a few ducks.

Hillary found a baby kitten the other day, and we sent her to QAWS. (although, to be honest, i might just have to steal her back...) they named her Fairy at the shelter. I have some pics attached of some of the animals... next time I go I will see if I can take some pics of the wonderful people who help save the animals here.

The sad part is that most of these animals wouldn't be here if WE weren't here.. we meaning expats. We come and bring our animals with us and sometimes when we leave we can't take them back for one reason or another, or the animals we bring breed and now we have more animals than expats.

I had a great ride yesterday. They gave me a new horse... Little Thor... lol and that's just what he is. He is a gelding, who runs endurance races... and his main joy in ife seems to be figuring out ways to avoid doing what you want him to. He pushes boundaries and generally tries to be a little shit... so of course I fell in love immediately. I have video, but have to download it. I will show you guys when I get it.

I've been riding three or four times since I have been here and I already feel stronger. The ride yesterday was my best ride here yet.

Hopefully today I will be going to the beach. I'll take some pics from there. Have a great day.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Care packages sent here....

One more thing... if you want to send anything to me this is how to send...

label and send to

niki zborower
c/o Hillary K Reese
DOH 4504
147-29 182nd st
Springfield Gardens, Ny 11413


All packages will be routed through here and then on to me.
any shipping charges I will take care of.
And if anyone is interested in giving to a good cause... I am in desparate need of good tint brushes(like a dozen), like the ones we use at Who Does Your Hair Salon, as well as capes and robes and color keys. (there is only one distributer out here and he had two tint brushes... both crap. We are down to two or three capes in the salon and 6 gowns. I will happily pay back any expenses... but I can't have the stuff sent by a company. There are strange import/export laws here that apply to retailers but not to care packages sent by friends and family. I think it has something to with payoffs and such. Otherwise, just a bit of home is always welcome.
kiss kiss

In the land of Good 'n' Plenty

So, I have been here almost three weeks, and according to all of the people I have met I have done more in the short time I have been here than most do in the first six months.

(they don't know me very So, last night I was invited to a party at the embassy with the marines here.... there weren't a lot of people there as most have left for the holiday, but it was fun. I met some great new friends and had a really nice time. The embassy is a pretty neat looking place. I didn't take any pics there though, as I wasn't sure if I should.

Then that same night my friend Mattie picked me up and took me to a yacht party that his friend was hosting. NICE BOAT!!!! Four bed four bath... Here I am in the middle east eating lobster and lamb and drinking a veeery expensive bottle of champagne, which, by the way, here in the Mid East is 3x the cost. One glass of Moet....$75 usd!
 HAILED!!! Of all things! We had a freak storm this afternoon and it poured down buckets for hours. Then there were hail stones falling from the sky! That is something that I never imagined I would see here. I took pics of the sky but all you see are clouds... (my camera didn't capture the rain...ugh) but even clouds out here are hard to come by.

So, there I was a few short weeks ago, ridding myself of most of my worldly possessions so that I could become freer, live life more fully with less and be more mobile. And let's face it, I had no place to really store all that stuff anyway... lol

I figured I was moving to a land where spirituality (in what ever form they see it here) is prevelant. That living lightly was the way to go....and here I find myself in the land of PLENTY... plenty of malls, plenty of shopping, plenty of fast food joints, plenty of big, fancy cars, plenty of yachts, plenty of people wearing plenty of diamonds, plenty of women veying for attention with their Gucci and Prada and plenty of men showing off their houses and cars and....YACHTS, and Bentlys....

Ahhh the irony.

So much for living

I went to a club the other night called The Pearl.. there they have this deadly, and I mean DEADLY drink called, aptly, the Lambourghini. I have know idea what they put in it, but it glows. And then they light it aflame and you have to suck it through the straw before the flame reaches the glass you are drinking from or you will inhale fire. (the drink itself is flammable, as are the straws as attested by the fact that i was too slow and my straw began to melt AS I WAS DRINKING)

Pics are attached ... it is a tower of flaming booze.

So, I am now officially a resident of Doha, with all the privledges that brings... like free medical andd......and..... er... ummm....oh, no taxes.


Ok, it's late and I am going to sleep. Enjoy the pics and thank you everyone who sends me little notes and emails attached to these blogs. They make me feel good and keep me linked to the real world.

All in all, it's good to be here, having this adventure, meeting the people I am meeting and gaining new knowledge about myself.

And there are plenty of things here... plenty of entertainment options and plenty of reasons to have taken this adventure on.

miss you all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This is the Middle East???

So, if anyone had told me a few months ago that Fri night I would be getting into a large SUV with my new friend Alan, a very, very large, intimidating looking British bloke, on our way to a Benny Benassi (very well known Italian DJ fellow) tent rave in the Middle East, singing Dolly Parton songs at the top of our lungs, I would have said they were out of their minds, or at least on some form of hulucongenic drug. For reasons, not the very least of which, are that I really don't like raves. The only reason I have ever gone to one is because Len likes the music. Personally, I don't get it... it all sounds like one very long, very annoying, synthesized noisey "song"....

But, lo and behold, that is exactly what I did fri. night. And I have to say...I loved every min of it. This guy actually has songs that sound different from one another... and the vibe was amazing!!! And all drug free. In this country there is zero and I mean zero tolerance of drugs. So, in a venue where there are usually tons of zoned out, stoned out and generally whacked out people, there were just a bunch of folk, from all over the globe, coming together to enjoy dance and sound and reverie. There was alcohol...and alot of it... but funnily enough, there were no fights, no drunk people throwing up in corners or bathrooms, no xrated displays....(but def some very skimpy clothes...and lots of touching and sensuality). No one getting hassled and no one getting tossed out. Tons of smiles, lots of fun, great music, and a very open environment to meet new people and make new friends. In fact there was a whole group that converged on Alan and I... shared their drinks and have kept in touch... go figure!

I have pics and vids for proof... even vid of the Dolly Parton sing along, but that will be in the next installment.

Now... let's see what lessons I have learned so far... I have learned that in my mid thirties I have lost some of my adventurousness. I find I have been keeping myself enclosed in a westerized bubble here in the Middle East and haven't yet felt comfortable enough to explore the culture. I am starting to learn a little about the customs and take in visually the way the people here live, but it's interesting. There are sooo many diffent ethnic cultures that create Qatar that I have a hard time figuring out what is culturally native and what has been tainted by all of the other ethnicities. Also, it's interesting, the varied customs among just the different Muslim sects from other cultures. The Qataries have a very specific style of dress... black for women, white for men. Some women cover their faces, some do not. Most cover their hair. That's what I've got so far. There are other Muslim nationalities here as well. The style of dress is different as well as the amount of coverage required. I'm interested in learning more about these differences and what they mean. Anyone have any knowledge??

I am hoping to really get more invested in the cultures outside of my westernized view... when I was younger, living in Nepal I coulnd't stand having to be kept with my fellow Americans... apart from the locals and would sneak off every chance I got to immerse myself in the culture, the smells and the diversity.

Here, I am finding myself a bit reluctant to let go of what I know to be comfortable and familiar...and it seems I am not the only one. As I have said before... it kinda feels like Long Island only beiger. Or anyplace, USA or Europe... We have all come in and created smaller versions of our lives at home that I really don't see much of what might have been an interesting culture, other than the museums and mosques.

Well, ok... off to jet skiing now... Oh... this moring I went with a lovely Aussie lady who took me to QAWS the local animal shelter, where I think I am going to volunteer a few hours a week after work. The have camels and donkeys and a BULL(he is soooo sweet... love to be scratched on the neck) and tons of dogs, cats hedgehogs... and one baby falcon.

I will have pics next time I go there. It is nice to see one of our western customs is taking hold here, in a land where there is no regard whatever for animals other than falcons and the Sheiks' horses. I know they need more funding so I'm thinking about starting up a drive... if anyone wants to help please let me know, thank you.