Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm not a mussel virgin anymore!

Dear oh dear oh dear, I've been having a rather crap few weeks lately so meeting up with a few school friends from back in Doha (Capital of Qatar) was a nice way to break the monotony that is life in London. We all decided (I use the word 'decided' loosely) to go to a Belgian seafood place called Belgo in Covent Garden in central London. I was quite apprehensive about not only meeting up with these people who I haven't seen in nearly a decade but also the menu...mussels! I was constantly thinking to myself 'Should I try and order something less-adventurous or just go crazy and give these slimy sea-critters a try'.

In case you're wondering what mussels are

Suffice to say I stuck it through and ordered a plateful of steaming hot mussels in a red Thai sauce. I was quickly shown how to eat them by taking one them out of its shell and eating it and then using the empty shell as a tong to get at the rest.

As for meeting up with old friends it was great because two of them were family friends who just happened to know my class friends. It was great just reminiscing about everything from a multi-lingual pet parrot one of them has back home to the crazy speed of urban development and rent hikes in that part of the world. In case you're wondering where 'back home' is for most of us 'expat kids' here are a few photos of the country where we all grew up:

Contrary to this scene from the set of the new Transformers movie, Qatar cannot be summed up as one big Bedouin camp made of mud huts. Incidentally whilst searching for this photo I came across this interesting take on the whole film

A View from Doha bay looking out at the Sheraton (the pyramid-like building) and other developments

A panoramic view of the main business district in the West bay area of Doha

And so even though these oil-rich Arabs still don't know how to drive or wait patiently in a line and that their urban planning leaves much to be desired, Qatar or for the most part the entire Arabian Gulf region does not consist of mud huts, camels, tents and any other romantic notion of the 'Orient' my Western readers might still have.

And to finish off this little entry here's an excerpt of a "You Know You're an Expat Kid in the Middle East or Have Been When..." list as a fitting and candid bit of background information.

1. You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?" (And when you do, you get into an elaborate conversation that gets everyone confused and/or makes you sound very spoiled.)

2. You flew before you could walk.

3. You have a passport, but no driver's license.

4. You think California is cold.

5. You watch National Geographic specials and recognize someone.

6. You run into someone you know at every airport.

7. Conversations with friends take place at 6:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night.

8. Your life story uses the phrase "Then we went to..." five times.

9. You can speak with authority about the quality of various international airlines.

10. You feel self conscious around all white people.

11. You get offended when someone turns down an offer for food.

12. You live at school and go home for vacation.

13. You treasure pork and root beer as highly-valued commodities. (totally doesn't apply to me!)

14. You have ever had to wait for prayer call to be over to finish shopping.

15. You are fascinated by any wildlife bigger than a gecko.

16. You know the true meaning of "football." (and in your mind can hear the shout, "GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!")

17. You know that it truly is a small world.

18. You have ever gone to the "hammam" or endured a "shamal."

19. You get all the jokes in Aladdin.

20. Rain is still one of the most wonderful sounds in the world.

21. You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.

22. Your wardrobe can only handle two seasons: hot and warm.

23. Your school memories include duck-and-cover drills.

24. You are used to being stared at.

25. You think VISA is a document stamped in your passport, and not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.

26. You call a chicken burrito a "shwarma."

27. Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks a little like a museum with all the "exotic" things you have around.

28. You've heard of or tried "hubbly bubbly."

29. You've woken up in the middle of the night to watch the Superbowl on cable.

30. You have sat in a "men's" or "women's" section in an airport, hospital, or restaurant.


Melanie said...

I love reading your blog. Always takes me places I may never get to experience. TY.


Felix said...

loved that piece!!! so true......