Kirsty, from Australia

doha

One of my favourite memories of my parents and sister was at a Lions club dinner. In retrospect I don’t think my Dad was a member of the Lions Club for all that long, but my childhood memories of Lions Club functions are endless. I loved the barbecues that came after working bees. I loved the Christmas parties and the fact that the kids would run wild outside while the parents sat together over drinks. There always seemed to be some Lions Club function that involved a houseboat or a barbecue or a stand in the main street. I still giggle when I picture my father introducing himself as Lion David, and then gesturing towards my mother to introduce Lioness Maxine and his cubs Michele and Kirsty. It’s making me laugh now. It feels so beautifully Chevy Chase in National Lampoon, or perhaps more Purpoise Spit. I was blessed with the happiest of childhoods. In a word, I was secure. I felt loved, I felt safe, and I felt a great sense of home.

Last night when G dropped me off at the Museum of Islamic Art I found myself having one of those Doha moments. Not frustration or weariness, I was bowled over once again by the beauty of Doha. The MIA is a magnificent building, it gives the appearance of rising out of the water. Its backdrop is the skyline of Doha which has to be one of the prettiest city skylines I’ve seen. G decided to be kind to my feet and drop me at the entrance while he went and parked the car. I was greeted by a man in a tuxedo and what looked like a mile of red carpet leading to the glass entrance. “That’s a beautiful dress madam, welcome.” I’d had my hair done, it was supported by roughly 173,000 pins (I know because it took G and I an hour to get them out at the end of the night), the heels were high, the make-up was on, the jewelry was out.  I looked and felt nothing like me. A car with a flag pulled up as G drove off.

“Good evening Ambassador” my tuxedoed friend had moved on to the next guest.

The event had been meticulously planned. Canapes were passed around while people made choices about juice and had photographs in front of backdrops. Thobes of importance were worn, men with beautifully colored scarves mingled with women with saris and abayas. Introductions were given welcoming guests from all over the world while headphones were switched on allowing translators to speak to each of us personally. The video presentation included Hilary Clinton, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama. At our table a man from Columbia told G of his family, his life and how it is to live in his world. I was captivated by a young Qatari man who spoke of water shortages and planning, he was inspiring and left the audience with hope for the future of a Middle East without the resources it currently enjoys.

It’s times like these that I wonder what I will bring home with me. What have I learnt? What has travel given me? Just this week I haven’t bothered entering a writing competition because although I am Australian the fact that I do not live in Australia full time holds me back from competing.

“We’re not quite sure how people would cope with someone out of Australia winning. Is there something you could enter over there?”

“No, I’m not Qatari, therefore ineligible”. I tried not to sound too jaded. “I’m Australian. I have a house in Australia. I have an Australian passport. I’m an Australian writer.”

“Yeah, sorry.”

An expat life can bring so many opportunities, a chance to really take a look inside the life of others, to explore a culture, understand why choices are made. At the same time it can provide a great feeling of loss. “But he/she doesn’t even live in Australia?” you’ll hear someone say about a successful Australian abroad as an award is given or a ticker tape parade organized. Is that how you feel? Once we leave we’re out? All rights to be recognized as an Aussie revoked?

We met up with a friend at the end of the evening, he was in work mode. His hotel would be hosting many of the dignitaries that were in town. Home for him is Victoria, an area South East of Melbourne, he talked about the beauty of the main street in his hometown. “We love it there” I heard him say to a new acquaintance “it’s definitely home for us.” As we climbed into the car at the end of the night I took of my shoes to release my feet, took out the earrings, put the bracelets with bling in my purse, and began to return to the comfort of me. Kirsty, Maxine and David’s daughter, Michele’s sister –  Kirsty, from Renmark, Australia.

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