Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Holidays and Relocation

Been almost a couple of weeks since my last post, so thought I had better do something.

The delay has-been for good reason though!

I went back to the UK to meet up with family and friends and head over to Tignes in France for a spot of end of season skiing. Could tell it was end of season as it was absolutely scorching (for the Alps), especially when the sky was blue and we were sat out enjoying refreshments, a few little on the slope bar / restaurants. The downside of these temperatures were heavy sticky snow particularly from lunchtime on-wards. Fun was had by all though, so worth the travel.



I had the pleasure of Qatar Airways Business Class for the flights to / from Qatar, and this was on the A380-800.
A Rather Comfy Space
It was a very pleasant experience, particularly on the way to the UK as I was fully stretched out, totally relaxed for the flight. On the way back however, I could not get comfy, think this was due to being in aches and pains from skiing coupled with an economy flight from Geneva to Aberdeen followed by a 2 hour drive only a matter of hours before. The QA staff were excellent and really couldn't fault the flight or service.

While I was in Aberdeen, I also took advantage of the local B&Q diy store to purchase bits and bobs for the villa in Qatar. Nothing fancy, things that would fit in my luggage and be easier to get and cheaper than in Qatar. Kitchen cupboard door handles, sink plugs and gate latches etc. See, nothing fancy!

My shipment from the UK was due to arrive in Doha while I was in France and sure enough I received an email from the shipping agent confirming arrival. They sent me a letter to print and sign then scan and send back to have start the import process. Fortunately the staff at the hotel assisted happily in France and printed this out for me to sign and scan and send it back to me for forwarding electronically onto the shipper.

Now that I am back in Qatar and offshore, the shipment is going through customs release delivery so now it will be when I get back onshore in May. Just in time for the wife and kids to happen for a wee visit! Guess I'll be building furniture and un-packing boxes..........

On the schools front, things are still desperate, with rejections, wait lists and assessments schedules. Certainly glad when it is all over!

And finally, quite a few of us make an appearance in the latest Visual MediaCom video just released .... but I'll leave you to work out who is who in the group.

Ok, here are a few hints;
Gary and Me @ 0:04, Maya and Brooke @ 0:13, Louise, Dawn, Brooke and Maya @ 0:35 and quite a few other appearances!

Friday, 10 April 2015

1st Traffic Violation?

Was recently on a works course that introduced some of various basics about living and working in Qatar.

The government affairs head gave us an overview on how to deal with traffic accidents, traffic violations etc.

One thing about Qatar is you do not get any tickets through the post. There is no postal system. You have to check only against your vehicle periodically and see if there is anything outstanding. It is also important to regularly check as if there are items outstanding this can prevent the vehicle being re-registered and the end of its current year, and more importantly can prevent you leaving the country if there are outstanding fines against your QatarID number.

Last night, I thought I would just have a check out of curiosity to see how the system worked etc. Much to my surprise it looks like I have managed to acquire a speeding fine already, about a week after getting the car! I have been extra cautious the first month and been making sure I haven't been speeding or doing anything daft, so was quite surprised to find a violation listed against my vehicle.

Looking at the date/time, I worked out that this was when I was heading over to the Technology Park for a course. I remember getting lost finding my way into the tech park, and there was also huge amounts of roadworks in the area so maybe there was reduced speed limit or something I hadn't noticed. I was probably too busy trying to work out how to get back to the exit I had missed.

Anyway, the fine is 500QAR (about 95GBP), but more importantly there are no associated points to go on my Qatar Driving License. They work a 14 point system, but any points acquired expire a year after the event.

I could have gone to the transport facilities and asked about it, or asked to see the evidence, but really didn't want all that sort of hassle. I elected to just pay the fine online which means there is nothing outstanding against the vehicle. All clean again!

The initial check page is done at: http://www.moi.gov.qa/TFCViolations/English/EnglishInput.jsp and you can check against any vehicle. There is another page that can offer more information and is also used to pay off any fines and that can be found by clicking the "Settle The Traffic Fine" button on the page. You can then search again and it gives more information, i.e. the description in my instance had some content.



Thursday, 9 April 2015

Banking Update and Villa Move!

After the previous mishap with the bank ATM packing in during the transaction, the next morning I headed up to the bank and after a quick chat, the card was returned and the form was completed by the staff for me to then sign and have the money returned to my account. Simples. Checked today and it is all back in order. Only thing was they had put the money back in the Riyal account instead of the USD account, but no great shakes where it went.

I then decided with my current schedule for the next few weeks being a bit manic and add to the fact I was fed up having a villa and not living in it I wanted to move out of the temporary apartment.

I got up one morning and headed over to the villa to have a think about what I would need to get to facilitate moving in, without my shipment arriving. Taking into account food, drink, consumables I made a list of things in my head as a starter then headed off to Carrefour to buy them and anything else that jumped into my head while walking around.

Came away with;
Inflatable double bed, duvet, pillow, sheet/cover/pillowcase/towels, plates/glasses, knifes/cutlery/tin opener and various other smaller bits and bobs.

On the way back, went into QDC and had another top up of beer and added some spirits to start the stocking up on various things such as Vodka, Bacardi, Baileys, Disaronno.

Also, grabbed some Peperami and Smokey Bacon crisps from the Pork Department! (yes you need a liquor license to buy these as well!)

Headed back to the villa, cleaned all the floors, then setup the bed. Went over to the temporary apartment, packed up all my stuff, emptied the fridge and then went to the reception and told them I was checking out early due to changes in plans. They went and printed out one of the moving out inventory checklist and went in to the apartment checked through everything and happy nothing missing or broken. Handed over the keys and left.

Back to the villa and emptied out the car, I had put all the sheets and towels I had bought into the wash and they were ready to hit the tumble dryer, ready for later.

Sat back for a moment and enjoyed a little break;
Yes, license required to buy the food!
Loaded up the fridge and freezer, put the things in the cupboards, washed all the plates and cutlery/glasses I had bought in the dishwasher etc. It was all taking shape nicely.

That night after everything done, had a shower and climbed into the inflatable bed, surprisingly comfy and it will do for the time being till my things arrive. Only going to hopefully sleep in it for about 5 nights max over the next 5 weeks, By then everything should be here.

So that's it..........no more temporary apartment and another step closer to being fully moved in!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Liquor Permit, Banking Woes and Missing Parts

After a tremendous day/night out at the Spice Market in W for a Friday brunch, I had set today as the day to get my Liquor Permit. I had requested the letter from work whilst offshore and picked it up last week, but never got round to actually going and getting the permit.

So this morning, feeling surprisingly fresh, headed off out to do a spot of shopping at Villaggio, then head to the Qatar Distribution Centre to get the permit and some beer.

In Villaggio I had previously seen a relatively cheap Karcher jet wash as I wanted to get one for the villa to be able to jet wash the roof and clean it all up of pigeon nests and mess. In I went got the Karcher, a new garden hose, a extension hose and a mains extension lead. Perfect.

Finishes in Villaggio and heads of to QDC, arrived, handed over the letter, filled out the form, got my picture taken, paid the refundable deposit of 1000QAR and then headed downstairs to the actual liquor store. Place was mobbed, everyone stocking up on beers/spirits and port products. I just wanted to grab a case of beer as a starter, then would come back another day first thing when it is quieter and get a proper "shop", of course, limiting to my monthly limit set by the QDC based on basic salary.

Back to the villa, drops everything off and opens up the Karcher stuff to find that the Karcher gun, nozzle and hose were all missing from the box. Arghh!! Back in the car, and back to Villaggio. The place is now absolutely mobbed, with the endless sound of car horns in the car park as it was gridlocked.

Into the shop, over to the customer services and the woman "ding dongs" the relevant department supervisor to come and assist. Over he comes and I explain to him pointing to the box contents list and said they are all missing and it is only the pump unit that is in it. Off he wanders and returns 5 minutes later carrying the hose and the nozzle. I said to him he's forgotten the gun and it is also missing, He gives me a funny look and wanders off again. After another few minutes he comes back with the gun, now all is good and I head off home, again.

On the way back, I stopped at the HSBC on Salwa Road to get some money from the ATM machine. Putting in my card, entering my pin and how much I want, the machine display's "Processing request, please wait" or similar. 5 minutes, I'm still waiting, 10 minutes I'm still waiting. By now I'm thinking what do I do, who do I call etc. etc. Don't want to leave the machine in case it spits out my money and card and someone else grabs it. How long do I wait??? Clearly something wrong. I went out to the car and grabbed my phone and notice on it that there is the transaction notice from HSBC saying my money has been withdrawn! Back to the machine and it is still displaying the same message. After about another 5 to 10 minutes, the machine suddenly displays a fault message then promptly reboots. Yes, it is running Windows 7! After rebooting it just goes to the fault message and does nothing. No money issued and it has eaten my card! Arghh!!

Guess I'm going to the HSBC on Salwa Road at opening time tomorrow! Then it will be back to the villa for a spot of jet washing.......

[TripAdvisor Contribution] La Spiga - A late top up of food was welcome!

We had all been in The Spice Market for brunch and the day was now well and truly getting on. The rumblings were starting and headed into here for a top up. Good selection on the menu and had a great steak which filled an empty space.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d4733336-r263605272-La_Spiga_by_Paper_Moon-Doha.html#

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Spice Market - Excellent Friday Brunch!

8 friends for afternoon brunch, on arrival presented with a choice of sparkling wine or a Mojito and shown to our table.

I have a distinct feeling I ate too much, by then end of the third plateful of beef, lamb, chicken and roast potato chunks I think I was ready to burst. The staff were very good, the place was fully booked.

Fortunately other members of the party had been before and knew what was what. Otherwise I would have been lost with 'protocol'......If I remember correctly it worked out at 410QAR per person, and given what we had consumed from a food and drink point of view, felt that this was pretty reasonable.

Anyway, great meal, great company and sure I'll be back!

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d1576497-r263604384-Spice_Market-Doha.html#

Thursday, 2 April 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Maxim - Beef was Amazing!

Went to the Radisson to meet some colleagues from work for a few drinks and bite to eat. Having left the sports bar, headed up to Maxim and immediately thought "this is nice"....

The restaurant was quiet with only a few other guests, the pianist tinkling away in the background which was perfect for the style of the restaurant.

The staff were very good, and the food was excellent. Ordered the lamb for starter and the beef for main, the beef was absolutely cooked to perfection.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d4802707-r263193080-Maxim-Doha.html#

My First Sandstorm!

In the Radisson last night for dinner and drinks with some work colleagues. At the end of the night headed downstairs from the bar to leave the hotel and head back to my apartment. Stepping out of the lift into the ground floor of the hotel to be presented with a completely bizarre sight. It was like the hotel was full of smoke and visibility was rubbish. This was the dust in the air from the sandstorm outside.

Heading through the lobby towards the exit, I could start to see outside and it wasn't very pleasant. The sky was orange with dust. It was like a really foggy day....Visibility was shocking, the air was dry and gritty, my eyes felt like someone had removed all lubricating tears.

I got home and the white polo shirt I was wearing was orange, my boots were covered, and everything arms, face, head all felt filthy. My car is now filthy........

 

Turns out the sandstorm was apparently one of the worst for years and was over Saudi, Qatar and UAE.

Today, the Supreme Education Council in Qatar have closed all schools given the levels of dust still in the air.

Someone posted the video below of the sandstorm whipping up and blowing in. Quite and impressive view.

More videos and pictures from various people can be found on this article: http://www.qatarday.com/news/local/photos-and-videos-a-massive-sandstorm-swept-through/16813

Think today there will be a lot of cleaning being done!