Every parent knows the feeling when their nine year complains about her ear being sore at 10 o’clock at night, after you’re been out all day and she hasn’t mentioned it, all this on the night before you have an appointment the next morning with the Qatari fingerprinting department to finalise your application for residency.
Looking intently at my ear infection prone nine year old ear, I asked for the fifth time, “Is it very bad, would it help to stay up a bit late and have a Capri Sun?”, no such luck, she looked back at me with that look of “What age do you think I am, my ear is bloody killing me”.
Being at an absolute loss of where to bring a sick child in Doha at 10’ o clock at night, I doubted there would be a facility such as Middle East Doc or Doha Doc that I could call to give me the details of which clinic in the area was on call and I was right, there was no equivalent to South Doc in Doha. Without a number to ring, I was vaguely aware that the procedure in Doha was to attend your local medical centre when feeling unwell, but never having being one to think of these things when everyone was well , I hadn’t a clue where it was. We both left the house to take a drive to see could we find our local medical centre and before long, we did. It is be noted that between the hours of 6 and 10 are the busiest in Doha as a good number of shops, facilities, offices etc close between 12 and 4 due to the heat. As I entered the medical centre which is free to children under 12, it ran through my mind that I never thought I’d miss of the luxury of paying out fifty euro’s to my GP to be given a prescription for Clonamox or Augmentin and a further fifteen or twenty in the chemist for my 9 year olds earache but at 10.30 one night in Qatar I did.
There were at least one hundred people in the queue, a lot of large Indian families, that seemed to have brought along, the kids, granny, grandad and uncle Bo just to make an outing of it, they even brought food along. A good number of maids stood holding screaming babies and children while their Arab madam sat hard-faced (I presume, I couldn’t see with the Abaya). The nurses scanned the crowd, shouting “What you want?” and “Who sick, who sick”, and it was here in the queue that you explained your symptoms to the nurse while the rest looked on with interest as they bit into their naan rolls.
Earache or no earache, this was not the place for me, we left and went to the nearest chemist instead, knowing that all I needed was the Augmentin, I decided to plead ignorance, something that has always worked well for me in the past, even when I wasn’t faking it. We entered the dimly lit, dimly stocked and dimly staffed chemist, I began to explain that my nine year old suffers from ear infections and that we were new to Qatar and that I didn’t know where to go and that if only I had Augmentin and that , well you get the message, he replied, “sorry no English, go to other pharmacy, near airport” On again until we found a chemist near the airport, of which there were about 5, I don’t know did he mean to point me to one in particular or just any chemist near the airport, so we walked into the first chemist we saw. Approaching the counter, I spilled my story, I signaled to my daughters ear, thinking that the extra explanation couldn’t hurt. He seemed to get my drift and replied politely and accurately, as only it seems only Indians can. “I am sorry madam but it is against the law to administer drugs to children under 10, we must receive a prescription from a doctor at the medical centre, I would lose my license and it is dangerous for the child”. So madam, I understand your daughter is in some distress so I now need to ask you one more time, “What age is your daughter Madam?” , quick to spot my chance, I scanned the premises for cameras and hidden shoppers, I was afraid it was a trap, but there seemed no sign of any spy ware, so staring into his eyes and very slowly I said,” my daughter is 10”. As if our previous conversation never happened, he replied, “Very well Madam, I will prepare the antibiotic immediately”. I didn’t miss our local GP after that.