Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

The landscape has changed just a little.

I dropped the little travellers at school and met a girlfriend at a new mall for coffee. I was back to following familiar directions, no numbers or street names.

“Drive through what used to be decoration roundabout, then past the old Aramex building, and take the first slip road on your right”.

When I parked out the front I scolded myself on my excitement over yet another new mall. Another venue to shop at the same grocery store, while buying coffee from the same franchise and ignoring the same clothing labels. Same shit, different shovel.

“It’s cold in here”

“Welcome back” she said slyly.

We both grinned.

G and I bought a new car before I left Doha. It’s not so much a car, more of a mobile living room. One of those monstrous people movers that sexy mothers of four get to drive. I was excited about the button that makes the back hatch lift open on its own, no I mean it, I was really excited.

I spent twenty minutes looking for the keys yesterday morning before the children reminded me that the car didn’t have a key. I then sat in the front seat staring blankly at the steering wheel, until I was forced to ask my nine year old “how do I turn it on?” There was eye rolling, “Seriously Mum?” they all giggled as he pointed to a switch.

“Don’t panic kids, It’s just a brief period of readjustment, now, left or right to get to school?” I was joking. And then I took the wrong turn.

I looked at my wardrobe and tried to remember which bits went with what. It was so much easier when it was throwing a shirt over a pair of bathers, and hiding my unwashed hair with a straw hat. I flicked past each hanger, the truth was, I didn’t want to wear any of it. I looked in the mirror at my rapidly fading tan and said “it’s not real life back there, that’s holiday life”.

There have been times when returning to our expat life has led me to lock myself away for a couple of days before venturing out to face the day to day. In the early years I would return to Jakarta, KL or Libya, and lay low in a self imposed cultural hyperbaric chamber until I was ready to face reality. My misery didn’t need company, it needed to settle, take some deep breaths and re-adjust its levels.

My drives are no longer filled with hills littered with grapevines and coastal views. My mother can’t choose which day to come to visit based on the heat and when she’ll water the lawn, and the idea of popping down to the markets for some of those gourmet sausages seems hysterical.

I now sit at traffic lights looking at goats in the back of cars, while pretending I can’t see the man driving next to me who is both smoking a cigarette, texting, and eating a bag of dates. Who said men can’t multi-task? This morning I rushed to the supermarket to buy one of the six remaining trays of chicken in what has now become the great chicken shortage in Doha. I giggled when friends told me their parents brought them vacuum packed chicken from the UK for Christmas, but I’m now wondering how I could have been so careless in my packing. Women speak about chicken in hushed tones, as if it’s a black market item.

“Some-one said the chicken arrives at 2pm”.

“I hear they’re bringing them in from Bulgaria”

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get on a boat to Doha.

It’s just a brief period of readjustment.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01023787854786251105 aussiemama

    Think we can ALL relate to what you are saying.

    I started to tear up when I read ‘it’s not real life back there’. This can relate to an extended visit home, or to your previous expat home while you settle into the new one.

    The other line we love is ‘it’s not Kansas Toto’

    We all find our mojo eventually and holidays home are but another wonderful memory

    Hope you got to the shop in time to buy your chicken!
    x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09334181966209041832 Corinne – Daze of My Life

    I’m having a day of readjustment after my mother and mother-in-law returned to Oz last night. I’ve been teary and in the doldrums. But I’ll drag myself out this afternoon and be thankful it’s Thursday and tomorrow is the weekend. x

  • Anonymous

    Made me teary eyed! “There have been times when returning to our expat life has led me to lock myself away for a couple of days before venturing out to face the day to day. In the early years I would return to Jakarta, KL or Libya, and lay low in a self imposed cultural hyperbaric chamber until I was ready to face reality. My misery didn’t need company, it needed to settle, take some deep breaths and re-adjust its levels.” I have felt like that each time I’ve left – and then come back to – Doha. Thanks for putting the feeling into such beautiful words.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08609190990579743429 Kath Lockett

    Or ‘chicken run’ ? As in, “They’ve ARRIVED! Get in the car, quick!” When you work out how to start it of course…. :)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thanks for the giggle! Kx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08233773591457421170 Valentina VK

    everytime i read your post i just think you are the older sister i always dreamed to have
    seriously
    i was re-reading your answer of some month ago to the email i wrote you about coping with my family and friends breaking my balls about coming back to pursue a career instead of being with the kids…that was so helpful during the christmas holidays when i had to face again all these suggestions of “maybe you should go back to work and my dear, i hope you dont consider to make even a third one…”
    anyway, about the usual expatache of re – wearing the faraway life…
    DONT PLAY CHICKEN!

  • Anonymous

    Feeling for you and with you. I am an Expat in China- I can relate to so many things you are writing. I do not follow blogs. Only yours. Brilliant. Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00730557217264985056 manycoloured-days

    What’s with the chicken shortage, why?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      I believe it’s because Saudi have either stopped or slowed their exports. I ruled out lamb months ago due to problems with live exports etc, we are heading towards forced vegetarianism. Kx

  • Anonymous

    I saw the photo and knew immediately it would be a great piece! Thanks for the updates!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13213887812737407113 Kim S.

    Perfect description for re-immersion to ex-pat life – or really any post-vacation adjustment. Going through it myself. Give yourself a good week. Hang in there dear!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05681227038111050561 Melody

    Yeah, what’s with the chicken shortage? I remember the size of chickens in AD were so small and when we moved back to Oz it was like “look at the size of the chickens!”

    Hope your readjustment period is smooth and uneventful.

    • http://www.ourbigexpatadventure.wordpress.com/ KJ

      I’m an Aussie expat in Singapore and the size of the chickens staggered me when we were abck on AU over Christmas! The ones in SG are like the people here – tiny. And my kids pretty much knocked their cousins out of the way to get to the stuffing first. “STUFFING” they cried, “I’d forgotten about STUFFING!”

    • Fokkelien

      When I lived on an Island in Nigeria, we always had a chicken shortage. Whenever there would be a ‘fresh’ supply of (frozen) chicken we called our friends to let them know (only a selected few friends to share the loot).

      I did end up with a weird habit from buying chicken meat in Nigeria. I sniffed the bird first to detect any chemicals used. They used some sort of de-licing powder before they kill the chickens. If there was only a hint of it we couldn’t eat it for the yukkie tast it left. I have been seen sniffing the occasional chicken at a supermarket long after we left…..

  • Anonymous

    I live in Doha and always wondering about these goats. Normally they are alone at the back of a car, sometimes up to 3-4 of the.

    Where are they going? How’s their life? Where do they live? Will it end…?