Slipping from one world into another is a nice punctuation to have as the cool begins to slide into the air in Ireland and week by week you’re putting summer clothes away and edging towards the darker side of the closet.
Leaving home is always hard but thoughts of our cushy winter in Qatar, in comparison to the harsh winter elements of Ireland, softens the blow. As people in Ireland were stocking up on winter coats and under armour we’re excited about the winter months in Qatar, when the heat ceases and moderate temperatures take over for a good four months, bliss.
The schools have swimming pools and air conditioning. The outdoor play is always dry, and the fake grass is always green. School has a dedicated music room fit for recitals during the year, no dragging the chairs around the classroom here to accommodate an audience in a makeshift auditorium the swimming is chilled and heated to ensure a constant temperature and as swimming is outdoor and in warm temperatures, it’s wholly acceptable to come home wrapped in your towel if you don’t feel like changing. Soccer is played on a state-of-the-art astro turf pitch. Keep hydrated is the mantra. The trainers are lithe Nigerians and svelte stylish young Italian men with excellent ball control. It’s true we have it all here in Qatar so coming back wasn’t all that bad.
Swimming lessons at home in Ireland, always conjure up for me a stressful 2-and-a- half-hour exercise during the week, complaints of a cold pool, waiting for the hairdryer and making sure the kids are fully dry should they suffer the cold outside and subsequently perish. As the weeks go by at home, football training will get muckier and murkier as the temperatures drop, and the kids come of the puddled pitch with flushed faces and sweaty backs make magnificent breeding grounds for colds and flus. Keep warm is the mantra. The trainers are Mick and Pat from the down the road and while they are proficient at teaching the offside rule they fall short for eye candy for the soccer moms. Unless of course blood shot eyes and rounded bellies are your thang, and then, you have it all.
So smug in climbing back into our bubble I forgot the cost. Because no sooner were we off the plane than the invoices started coming thick and fast. School itself, think of a number, double it and add on a zero. Soccer is a whole twenty euros a one hour-session (for a group of 7-year olds that take a 10-minute toilet break mid-way and a couple of water breaks and chat breaks throughout), swimming is 20euro for 45 minutes, and music is 25 for a half hour. Soccer and Swimming are compulsory at twice a week. Bang, bang, bang, the invoices came, as soon as my phone picked up the network, I had messages looking for money, by the time the luggage boy had taken the cases from the carousel I had reached my monthly budget it felt like there was a queue lining up getting ready to batter me with more invoices so that by the time the first day back at school started, smug was replaced by bruised and that high moral ground that I looked forward to from Ireland now seemed a little stifling.
It’s the thing that keeps coming back when trying to ratify emigration, community and lack thereof. Without real investment in the community and willingness to give your time free of charge, everything will cost, and that is situation here in Qatar, everyone is here to make money so the chances of finding a group of parents willing to give an hour of their time for free is nil. The school is private so every opportunity they have to make a riyal them take it.
It’s true it’s all here in Qatar, but at what price? Sitting penniless admiring the calves of Thomba and Nico I’m suddenly re-thinking Mick and Pat on the sideline in Carrigaline and their 65 euro a term. Sure, it’s no picnic playing in the rain but while their stuck in mud, we’re stuck with bill.