Monday, March 21, 2011

Road Warrior

Things have been going quite smoothly lately, and frankly I've been feeling a bit too comfortable.  So I decided to embark on a new Doha challenge:  Vehicle Registration.

While many of you are holding vigil at the bedside of Old Man Winter, hanging on his dying coughs, and wishing you could trade places (for weather-related reasons) with us, I would encourage you to dig deep and really try to appreciate how good you have it in the simple and non-chaotic Western world.

Case in point:  You know every year when you're happily cruising along the highway of life, busy with school projects, the flu, Pilates class, Q2 reporting, piano exams and birthday parties, and then suddenly, out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever, you get a REMINDER IN THE MAIL THAT YOUR CAR REGISTRATION NEEDS TO BE RENEWED?  And then, to make matters worse, you've only got about TWO MONTHS to procrastinate and/or keep forgetting to go the registry office which is right by your house, so then you have to resort to renewing online the day before it's due?  Well, let me tell you, it's exactly like that here:  Once a year, you have to renew your registration.  Except without the reminder in the mail.  Or the ability to renew online.  Or getting the whole process done without driving to another planet.

About a month ago Dan said, "I'll take care of it...but don't let me forget that your car's registration is up on March 13."  So on March 16 (ahem) I enlisted the help of my friend Lynn, who also needed to go, and we took our cars together.

The process is simple if your vehicle is less than three years old.  My MRV, however, is not.  All cars over three years old need to be inspected before the registration can be renewed.  There is one place where inspections are done, and it's in what is affectionately and accurately referred to as The Industrial Area.  This aptly named area in the far southwest part of Doha is best described as the movie set from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, only with more buildings and nicer cars.  Picture the right lane of the roads filled with bumper-to-bumper big trucks, and the left lane filled with the rest of us.  Potholes abound.  Construction persists.  Congruously, on a map, this part of the city is depicted in complete grey.  Its saving grace from a travelling perspective is that it's on a grid, so in theory things are easy to find.  To make our trip even more authentic, we made sure we went on a day when the wind was howling at 50 km/h, so that sand was blowing across the road in blizzard-like fashion.

By some miracle and great navigation by Lynn, we made it to our location.  I was quite happy that my car passed the Technical inspection, but a little freaked-out that it failed the Legal.  Upon receiving this news, I went to the information desk where a friendly Qatari man with impeccable English (who apparently studied in Minnesota and called me "young lady" - I now have a new best friend) told me that this was no problem at all.  My vehicle had previously been registered as a five-passenger, while it actually seats eight.  Mr. Minnesota wrote something in Arabic on a sticky note and directed me to take my car next door for registration and insurance.

The deed is done, and now I can rest easy for another year.  I could always hire a "runner" to take my car for registration next year, but why deprive myself of another road adventure and an opportunity to take better photos of The Industrial Area?  Stay tuned for the results of next year's decision.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Warriors Reunite

For the past several years, the sport of hockey has dominated our household.  With Dan playing on two recreational teams in Calgary, and the three boys in minor hockey, it seemed inevitable that any kind of international move would seriously cramp our style.  But, with all the criteria that I put forth to my husband on condition of a move, hockey was one on which he was unexpectedly able to deliver.

Doha has a small but well-run minor hockey program.  In each age division there are two reasonably evenly-matched teams that play each other.  When we learned that Dubai was hosting a U9 tournament, we quickly booked our flights, knowing that it would give Jacob an opportunity to play against a different group of kids.  However, there weren't enough families interested in travel for this particular age group, so we decided to go ahead and have Jacob play with one of the other participating teams.

The real driver behind our desire to go to Dubai was to visit with the family of one of Jacob's former classmates and fellow Westwood Warrior.  We were excited at the prospect of having Sam and Jacob play against each other in either of our current locations.  But when the numbers shook out, and all the extra kids were placed on teams, Jacob played for Al Ain (one of the Emirates in the UAE), and Sam graciously decided to forego playing with his own Dubai team to join Jacob.

The tournament was held at Al Nasr arena, which is disturbingly similar to West Hillhurst Arena in Calgary.  It was actually a little surreal to sit beside Jennifer and Guy and watch our boys on the ice!  The boys played great all weekend, with Sam getting a two-point game on his first outing and Jacob playing a solid defensive game.  After five games, Al Ain got the third place medal in this five-team tournament, and the boys wore their medals proudly.

All told, it was a great weekend.  Despite spending two and a half hours at Passport Control in Dubai getting our visas and eye-scans* (after a mere 45-minute flight), we made it to the restaurant Thursday night in time to join our friends for ribs and beer.  Guy and Jennifer hosted us to a wonderful dinner on Friday, and Jacob to a sleepover.  Can't wait until it's our turn to host a tournament in Doha!

*Blogger's note:  Perhaps I'll write more on the visa issue for Canadians travelling to the UAE another time.  Meantime, if you could all contact your local MP and have him/her pass on a message to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, we would really appreciate it!  We need him to sooth the bruised egos of Emirati officials who are a little miffed at Canada.