Life was just settling into a comfortable monotony in Doha, we had emigrated and said goodbye to Ireland nearly two years ago, and it has taken that length of time to find a rhythm to my new life in Qatar. Uprooting from Ireland and setting up temporary home in the Middle East was a massive shock to the system a direct repercussion of the recession and it was the ultimate sacrifice I had made in an effort to dodge financial ruin. I had left Ireland very much a reluctant emigrant and met Doha with a skeptical pout and crossed arms, the body language of a spoiled Celtic Cougar born of the glory years in Ireland.
Realisation of the world outside of Cork (I wasn’t sure there was one) and encounters with expats from all over the globe had changed that skepticism into a grudging acceptance which in last few months had further developed into a sedate security that if Doha for five or six years was the answer to escaping the fallout, then, how bad. Similar to the relationship between the kidnapper and the captive, I had begun to rely on Doha to at least be consistent. “Home away from home” may be a stretch but it had become a palatable “Refuge away from home”, a comfort blanket that was a little itchy.
And so, contentedly living my days in Doha, I began to invest a little in this sandbox pushed off into a peninsula and I began to make our house a home. I had been hesitant to do so up to now, as the purchase of a picture frame, plant or fridge magnet might suggest that Doha was a destination and not the en-route pit stop I saw it as. It was just as the plastic was taken off the glass jar that held the cinnamon scented candle, that I received a phone call to say we were moving! My husband was being transferred to another project in Abu Dhabi. Stumped, stunned and shocked I stood in the open plan living area holding the candle not knowing whether to place it down on coffee table or straight into a suitcase. Reeling from the news, and thoughts of packing, unpacking, finding a new house, securing places in a new school, saying goodbye, saying hello, I lugged out a suitcase and placed the candle inside. I knew Doha was a transient society, people come and go all the time, nobody stays too long, people inevitably move, but like a house fire, I always thought that it happened to other people. We had three weeks left in Doha. As little as there was to do in Qatar, I began to think of the things we hadn’t done. I wasn’t a moving around the UAE kinda gal, my big move was Doha, next stop home not Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi was one of those places that in school we thought didn’t exist, like Timbuktu or Tasmania. Abbi Dabbi was a made up name, a place you said when you didn’t know where someone lived, e.g. “Where do Timmy and Rita live now?” response, “they live out in Abbi Dabbi or somewhere”, translation, somewhere foreign and hot, not America or Australia.
Slowly, regret crept in and despite having spent an eventful 20 months in Doha, the birthplace of my young son, I had never exhaled, never fully embraced expat life, and never shook off the reluctant emigrant hankering for home, never lit the wick, as it were. I thought I could hold my breath and exhale when back in Ireland, but alas, it isn’t that easy. Was I to become an eternal expat? Would I, in years to come, talk of how we moved from place to place before eventually settling back to hibernate at home. If so, it seems more pertinent than ever to adopt the belief that home can be anywhere as long as you’re with your family.
And so I exhale, surprised to notice that part of me is fond of Doha, I decide to strike a match and light the wick, no more wait and see, no more reluctant emigrant, home today is Doha, next month Abbi Dabbi, here I come!