Canadian expats in Doha

It’s Victoria Day this month in Canada, so we caught up with expats from the country living in Doha to find out what they get up to

Vancouver
Vancouver
Jasper National Park Image #2
Jasper National Park
Natalie Colleen Image #3
Natalie Colleen
Mary Anne Skill Image #4
Mary Anne Skill
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Skiing Mt. Mackenzie
Canadian expats in Doha Image #6
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Toronto
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Natalie Colleen

‘My family and I have lived in Doha for just over a year – we moved in 2009 on April 4. My husband had a great job opportunity, as he’s an engineer. I am a stay-at-home mum for the time being, and my youngest, Emilie (20 months), has just started daycare, so I will probably start looking for employment soon. My other girl, Ju, is almost four. As an expat for many years, I pretty much have done every “Girl Friday” job you can imagine, from teaching to being an office manager.

‘I am originally from Kamloops in British Columbia, but I also lived for a while in Montreal. There aren’t that many similiarities between Canada and Qatar, other than they are both very small communities and ironically enough Kamloops is classified as a semi desert.

‘Doha was nothing like what I expected. I thought it would be a big sand pit, with cement and the odd building. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. I was happy to see trees, not many, but enough, and in my first few weeks it rained, so that was nice too. Other than the obvious – family and friends – I miss grass, the smell after it has been cut or after a rainfall, the feel and the look.

‘I have not met as many Canadians here as I would have thought, but I have met a few. I was lucky to know a fellow Kamloopsian (of all places) that was living here. I have heard there are many out there, though.
‘If I miss home, I just go to the Rugby Club for a night out with friends. The atmosphere brings me right back. For food, I usually go to Johnny Rockets. As for hangouts to meet Canadians, most of the ones I have met have been through Doha Expat Mums and Kids, at coffee mornings or playgroups.

‘I love the souks in Qatar, and I wish we had something similar back home. I am not a huge fan of hiding in summer. I hate not being able to take the girls outdoors to play in the day. I am heavily involved with Doha Mums, and that takes up a lot of my time. I run a weekly playgroup and have helped out with special activities like Halloween and Christmas parties. We also have lots of mums’ nights out.

‘How long will we be here? Ah, that is the question. For now we’re here until the end of summer, but you never know. I try to get back home to Canada once a year. My husband is from France, so we have to split up our holidays between the two countries, which can be difficult sometimes.

‘I do get homesick on Victoria Day weekend, as back home everybody goes camping. It’s usually the first nice weekend of the year, where you can actually do something outside, plus we get the extra day off. Canada Day is a big day as well, but you can celebrate that wherever you are with the right people. Not everyone can appreciate Victoria Day. I will most likey be at home with my family, and have some friends over for a barbecue and a swim.’


Mary Anne Skill

‘I’ve been in Doha for almost 10 years now. My husband was headhunted to join QAFAC, a methanol producing company. When we got here, I attended Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to get a degree in graphic design. I graduated in 2005 as valedictorian, and then went to work at College of the North Atlantic, Qatar, as their graphic designer.

‘I come from Victoria, British Columbia – the garden capital of Canada. Victoria is a laidback city of about 350,000 people. We fully embrace the west-coast lifestyle, with a bit of proper British influence. In many ways, Victoria is the antithesis of Doha. Victoria is lush and green, full of parks and gardens. People are great walkers in Victoria because the neighbourhoods look so nice. We have a great many retired people, so the pace of life is slower and gentler – no crazy traffic. We are a tourist destination, so there is always lots to do from spring to fall.

‘When we first came to Doha, we were very pleasantly surprised to find a modern thriving city with so much to do and participate in. We cannot believe the rate of growth here. The Doha of today bears very little resemblance to the Doha we arrived in.

‘I do miss all the gardens and green space, though. I love the roundabouts here that are planted up so beautifully, and Najma Street, up by The Mall, is great to walk along – long blocks of green grass and flowering bushes. But I have found there are a large number of Canadians here. I was a warden in the Canadian warden system (in lieu of an Embassy here), and I know we have in excess of 1,800 families registered. I am now heading up the Canadians in Qatar group (www.canadiansinqatar.com), and I have a lot of contact with Canadians through that organisation. There are also over 400 Canadians working at the university. And if I do get homesick, I just make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. But I would dearly love a big ol’ bag of Hawkins Cheezies – there’s nothing else like them.

‘The Canadians in Qatar group keeps me busy, and we are currently planning the Canadian Ball on May 20. This year I really was homesick due to the Winter Olympics being in my home province. Vancouver. ‘July 1 is Canada Day, and my home town does a great week-long International Festival in celebration. I miss that as I usually get home one week too late to participate. Victoria Day is a normal work day here, but in my heart I’ll be cheering on the parade that we have every year… and longing for the swirl of the bagpipes from the Victoria Pipe and Drum band.’


Tracy Glenn

‘I’ve been in Doha for two years. I came over because a friend and ex-colleague I worked with in Kuwait called me up and asked if I would be interested in working in Doha on a new hospital project. I am now part of the clinical planning department working on Sidra Medical and Research Centre, and I really love my job.

‘My hometown is Vancouver, and I was there recently for the Winter Olympics – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Spirits were so high – I am so glad that I got to experience that. But Vancouver and Doha are complete opposites. Both are coastal – khalas – that is where the similarity ends. Vancouver is so green and temperate, with beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers, lots of rain, and so many outdoor sports. But I have a lot more “top down” days in Doha than I do in Vancouver.

‘I tend to miss family and friends, of course, and other things – fresh air, the smell of the forest, biking to work, good Chinese restaurants, parks with grass and flowers, the Skytrain, dragon-boating and live music. But I joined a gym here and work out a lot, and we do like the Marriott brunch on a Friday.

‘The sun shines almost every day here, and that’s really wonderful to wake up to. My umbrella has sat in the closet for two years. Souk Waqif is pretty special, and serves fresh juices. I’m addicted to lemon-mint. Qatar Natural History Group hosts some fascinating speakers and I joined them on a trip to Iran last year. Quiz night at the Ramada is great for laughs. I’ve been thinking of joining the biking group that goes out on weekend mornings. Travelling is high on my list. Friends come to visit as well.

‘We don’t celebrate Victoria Day here, but I get jealous knowing it’s a long weekend back home. That’s always a reason to celebrate.’


Country profile

Canada is the world’s second largest country, and its border with the US is the longest in the world. Its name is derived from a word the native Aboriginal people who settled there used for ‘village’ (Kanata). When the British and French arrived in the late 15th century, the word was used to guide explorer Jacques Cartier to the village of Stadacona, which led to it becoming the adopted name for the whole country.

Unfortunately for the Aboriginis, they found they had no natural immunity to European diseases such as smallpox and influenza, experiencing fatal illnesses. As a result the population rapidly declined, while the French and English continued to set up colonies.

In the 20th century, Canadian troops were deployed to Europe to help Britain in both World Wars, and in 1945 Canada became one of the founding countries in the United Nations. In order to create its own clear identity, it adopted the maple leaf flag in 1965, although the design had been associated with the country long before that.

Canada has served as a host of many major sporting events, the most recent being the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. It is Canada you can thank for the invention of the Trivial Pursuit board game.


Victoria Day

Victoria Day falls on the last Monday before or on May 24, so the exact date can change from year to year (in 2010 it does fall on May 24). It was first celebrated in the mid-19th century to mark Queen Victoria’s birthday, who was the first sovereign of a confederated Canada.


Details

Canadians in Qatar
Various venues, email canadiansinqatar@fastmail.fm and visit www.canadiansinqatar.com.

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