Each year I feel like I say the same thing: whew another year gone too quickly, as usual. It has been a rather busy one for us with loads of changes, fun and growth.
We spent Christmas 2009 in Sri Lanka, a country of contrasts, poor yet giving, quiet people yet noisy, beautiful yet devastated. My heart opened up to the beauty of the landscapes, tea and rice plantations, game reserves and spice gardens and in the same breath ached at the stories of the tsunami and great loss that was experienced. We went on a safari and stood on one of the beaches where tourists and guides were having an early morning picnic, all were lost while guides stood further up on the hills, having reached safety and watched as their friends’ lives were taken and there was nothing they could do. There are hundreds of these stories, each of them sadder than the next, it is amazing how the Sri Lankans’ have rebuilt their lives and just how happy they are with how little they have.
We spent a long weekend in June at The Palm Atlantis in Dubai, Sol really knows how to set up a resort for fun. We swam with dolphins, fed ray fish, and played in the water park. We also visited the city and went up the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) to the 120th floor, and shopped in the biggest mall. Much too still go back to…..
July and August were meant to be spent in Cyprus, but Mum fell ill and it saw us doing a last minute trip to South Africa where we spent 2 months with the family, Shirls came across from Ireland so the whole family was together. It was great fun to stay with Debs and family and they were so good to us all!
A small trip to Jeffries Bay and then a drive back to Joburg was the biggest adventure for us, we stopped off in Cradock and stayed in an old Elizabethan house, it was a special treat for my 41st birthday. Actually Steve had an eye infection and I am night blind so we had to stop, had to have a good laugh at getting old. Mum started chemotherapy and finished her last session in November. Dad and her have been living with Les and Paul and when they return will stay with Debs and Dave. Mom will come back for a cat scan in January and hopefully will have the tumor removed at the end of Jan. So far the results have been very good and Mom has been a star, along with Debs and Les.
November we popped across to Cyprus to sort out the purchase of the apartments, buy furniture and have a bit of a break. Love Cyprus and got to catch up with a wonderful friend from school.
December, we are back in Joburg and will be traveling down to Jeffries Bay again for Christmas, we are looking forward to some sun and sea. Then off to Durban and the Drakensburg, before coming back to Joburg and Doha.
Has grown so much this year, our little boy has become a little man. Sean enjoyed his time at Cubs this year, participating in campouts, the Terry Fox Cancer Walk, Regatta (making their own miniature boats), Derby competition (making their own miniature cars again), and completing many of his badges. Sport wise, Sean has participated in football, softball, athletics and cricket at school, and he managed a bit of sailing too.
He has continued with his Taekwando and is now on Brown Belt. He loves gymnastics and has started the boys federation sessions on Fridays, which includes rings, trampoline and bar workouts. Drama and music have become his passion, he takes part in extra lessons with the Doha Players Perform group and has now been in two of their plays – acting as Olivier Twist in the first one and A Narrator for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He loved the Clowning Around workshop at the Doha Tribecca Film Festival where he was taught to be a clown, not that I think he needs lessons in that! He started playing the piano in March and auditioned in November to be accepted into the newly established Qatar Music Academy as a “guinea pig” for the next 6 months and was accepted. He will be continuing on the piano and adding the violin as an extra instrument and learning about Arabian music. Auditions for the School concert occurred just before we left for SA and he has a part in it to play a piece of music on the piano, I think he has chosen The Entertainer, which he plays beautifully. Academically he is enjoying school and is one of the top pupils in the class, and loves reading. He reads a 500 page book a week. Mostly we are happy that he has settled into life in the Gulf and is happy.
Our little girl, as sweet as punch with “a don’t mess with me” attitude. I love it, she stands up to the bullies and is very hard headed. Jess has fallen into the Doha lifestyle with ease and has made some lovely friends which I am grateful for, her best being a little girl from SA, Christina. Jess is very busy and also does Taekwando – red belt now, gymnastics with a supple little body and the splits which makes grown people cry to watch.
She has tried out for the athletics and cross country teams, but has just missed being selected.
She does yoga at school and is always showing us the different poses, love the fact that she loves yoga like I do and also did the sailing course in April. Jess started piano lessons in March and was selected for the Qatar Music Academy along with Sean. She is not as advanced as him, but knows more theory than he does. She loves doing everything he does, and on turning 8 in August joined the Doha Players Perform drama group as well, acting as an Oompaloompa in the play and loves it. Her speech has become so much better and she is very confident in front of an audience. Apparently she likes to tell the drama teacher if something is said incorrectly and how things should be done. Cheeky! Jess has also played softball, cricket and football at school and loves all the sport she can possibly be allowed to do. Academically, she is also doing very well and sits at the top of the class and loves loves loves learning French (which they both do) as well as Arabic. The wonderful part of living where we are is that the kids are being exposed to so many different cultures and therefore languages and Jess has a knack for picking up the conversations that are going on around her, with friends from France, Russia, Venezuela, Greece and Japan. Hopefully she will become our little translator on our travels.
Life is always filled with surprises, we did some lovely traveling this year, which is my passion. If I could travel every month I would. I have kept busy this year with gym or yoga to keep me healthy , working on the website, doing the kiddy run in the afternoons with homework , and basically cooking and cleaning. I have fallen nicely into the expat lifestyle and have made some wonderful friends from around the world. Learning about other cultures and social norms has been enlightening and I love seeing how our children have no bias towards people that are different from themselves, and how easily they mix with other people. I even had Sean going to the sales person in Cyprus Ikea to find out how to shop there as everything was in Greek (if you have shopped in Ikea you will understand), he was so grown up. Our standing joke now, is that “Everything is Greek to us”.
We moved homes again in September, and are so very happy with the move. We should have moved months ago, but the apartment block was very convenient, however now we are in a compound and cannot believe how much nicer it is. The villa is so much bigger, with 2 lounge areas, 2 dining areas, a lovely kitchen, maids room and small garden. Upstairs there are 4 rooms, 2 of which are en-suite and the other 2 share one, with another smaller area for a tv lounge. The compound also has a wonderful play area for the kids, a gym, tennis court and swimming pool. The club house has a Wii for the kids and table tennis. No end to entertainment. There are also so many more children for them to play with and I find that often they are gone for hours on the weekend either on their bikes or cruising from house to house visiting mates. We have lovely Australian next door neighbours and their 4 kids and our 2 get on so well. We are thrilled.
The New Year is bringing with it more adventures for the Mc family. Feb will see us scooting to Cyprus to finish our unpacking, May Steve and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in Austria and then back to Cyprus for the summer break. I will be trying to learn Greek and Arabic this year and continuing to practice Yoga, to hopefully start my yoga course in September and learn Dreamweaver to create our own little family website.
We are praying that Mom gets better and that her operation goes off well, so please keep her in your prayers. Love to you all, miss all my family and friends dearly when I am not with you and know that you are all going to have a fabulous 2011.
Lastly, my 2 cents worth. 2010 has been a good year for us overall. When we returned from Sri Lanka as 2009 drew to a close, we felt for the first time that we were going “home”. We have all settled into life in Doha and although we know it can never be forever, we are blessed with a good life. We are very fortunate to live in a wonderful villa (Sean says it is our best home ever), the kids have many fiends and a wide range of extra mural activities to keep them busy in addition to their school life. Denise (Minister of Fun in the Family!) is the rock that holds our life together and seems to never stop, between running the household, gym/yoga/running, home entertaining, school runs, homework, and extra-murals. Seeing the kids blossom and fulfill their potential is the reward of all Denise’s efforts However, thankfully we are finally getting a full time Maid when we get back in January as we are both tired of spending our evenings doing laundry and dishes after the kids have gone to bed! From my side, my job allows me a healthy life-work balance (as opposed to work-life!). I typically leave work just after 3pm (without taking work home), and I get 47 working days leave a year (37 annual leave and 10 public holidays) which allows for good quality family time. Such a contrast to my old life in Johannesburg, where I just never stopped working and dealt with the huge frustration of my mostly government related projects (enough said).
My running days are now definitely over, the chassis is no longer able to cope with running after countless come back attempts. I leave it with my last personal best having been back in the 80’s having joined my first running club in 1976 and completing my last Two Oceans in 2007 in a pedestrian 6 and a half hours! 31 years as a club runner is a lot to be thankful for, with so many great memories. I now love mountain biking on the dessert terrain around our compound. I can go hell-bent with legs and lungs pushed to the limit and not injure myself (my running friends will understand the need for this now and again!). I have also learnt to love walking and Denise and I do a long walk each Friday when the kids are at drama classes. We will hopefully start doing some “hiking” holidays as Sean is now ready and Jess almost ready for walking holidays. We plan to try and reach the contour path that runs past “Gatberg” and “Greys Pass” in the Drakensberg in early January. This was where I was introduced to the Berg back in the mid 1970’s when I was Sean’s age. We also plan to do some of the hiking trails in the Akamas Peninsula in Cyprus during the year. The eventual goal will be to do a family trek through Nepal together in a few years time
We miss all our friends and family being so far away, but we also treasure the safe, secure, relaxed environment in which we live where Sean & Jess can grow up as we did as children free to say “Bye Mom & Dad” as they head out the door to play with friends down the road, ride their bikes or go to the park. Our house can go from silence to 10 noisy kids arriving for juice and a snack in a matter of seconds If you are keen to come out and visit us and experience the culture and sample life in the Middle East and Cyprus we would love to have you come and stay with us any time.
Merry Christmas and Happy (Healthy) New Year