Brida Anderson

Urban Fantasy

Tag: Qatar

NaNoWriMo across the World

In prep for NaNoWriMo 2015, over at NaNo-Headquarters they blog about The NaNoWriMo Writers’ Heritage, “Road Trip to NaNo”. A great idea. The lateset blog post is the one I stumbled on first and was written by Eve Shi (@Eve_Shi on Twitter), Municipal Liason for the Indonesian Writers.

The Road Trip to NaNo posts so far have been about:

It’s always a good idea to “look over the edge of our own plate”, as the German saying goes. So I’m looking forward to future installments of the “NaNo Road Trip” series.

On a different note, it makes me CRAZY and sad that I can’t take part in NaNoWriMo this year.

Robin isn't too keen on November

Robin isn’t too keen on November

I have too many unfinished books that have to be finished first. The kids’ long summer vacation and closing of schools again for 2 weeks for autumn break really put a dent in my schedule. “Poison Patch” was supposed to be reworked with the editors’ comments until the end of August, then the German translation of “Hedge Games” edited in September. I had planned to use October to finally work on our Kickstarter project (non-book related) and to prep for the NaNo book.

When I see the happy NaNo anticipation that sends ripples through the internet right now, I really, really want to take part!

I love the crazy-busy atmosphere of writing a NaNo book in November, the cameraderie with my Nano buddies and Facebook friends who also crank out 5-10-15 pages or more each day, the sleepy urgency of having to get up one hour earlier than usual (so at 5 am) to get in writing time before the kids wake … Magical times. Sigh.

Maybe I won’t be able to stay away. ;-)

Maybe it’s also time to hunt down some fellow Wrimos in Qatar this November. We can’t be many  — there isn’t even a region Qatar at Nano, only “Elsewhere: Middle East”.

Romantic dinner on a flying carpet

Come on, let’s head to a romantic dinner at a restaurant called “Flying Carpet”. As fellow fans of Fantasy what do you picture when you hear that name?

Let’s put it in an Urban context. Urban Fantasy. The restaurant is not on a real flying carpet (more’s the pity) but one floor of a hotel in a big city.

shot for you today: Torch Hotel in Doha. You can see the (few) stories through the transparent "skin" of the hotel

shot for you today: Torch Hotel in Doha. You can see the (few) stories through the transparent “skin” of the hotel

If I sent my characters there for a romantic dinner, I’d envision them eating sitting on the floor, parked on sumptious cushions. They’d have their own “private” carpet with a low rustic table in the middle. Since the hotel is expensive, I’d put only five or six of such carpets in the large room. The atmosphere would be 1001 nights-romantic, a tad dark, a tad heavy with incense and spices, soft drums would play live in a corner or from hidden speakers. The interior design would look styled by Inara, famous companion from Firefly. ;-)

 

The food comes in small portions, gorgeous (of course), and always meant to be shared. Tea and coffee are free-flowing and add their enticing scents to the air. Mint with green tea and honey, sweet black tea, coffee with cardamom are served in delicate clay cups and you look into the eyes of your sweetheart while you sip the hot brew.

One more thing before we compare my flight of fancy to the real “Flying Carpet” -restaurant in Doha.

If you opened a restaurant called “Flying Carpet” in a hotel that is famous for having a “hollow” core, apart from the pole in the middle that houses the elevators — what would be a cool idea?

Exactly. ;o) In such a building, you’d have the one-in-a-million chance of really offering your guests the impression of dining on a “flying carpet”!

They’d eat sitting on the cushions and lean over to gaze over the side of the carpet to the “depths” below. You could install one-way glass or a fake floor underneath with good tromp l’oeil painting, so no-one down in the lobby could look under skirts. Guests would be led to their private carpet over a narrow “trod” of colored glass to make the illusion more  real. When you sit on your carpet, you can lean over the side and look to the lobby twelve meters ((my guess)) below you.  Wheee.

Let’s do the reality check.

Since this is Doha, Qatar, I learned to hold my happy imagination in check. ;-) As one friend put it on Facebook recently: “I’ve learned to way lower my expectations. I lived in Qatar for years, after all.” (not a verbatim quote, just from memory)

So when I prepared for our romantic date (the first for my husband and me in a long time #kiddies #movingabroad), I checked photos and descriptions of the restaurant through Google search.

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That’s us tossing the bouquet back and forth at our wedding. Both not exactly the born ball-athletes ;o)

 

Strange: They’re in a huge hotel here in Doha which prides itself on being a high-end tourist spot. And yet their website runs on a free WordPress site, without giving their phone number. %-) Found it through Tripadvisor instead.

Plus-side: I left a message through Facebook to book a table — and received a reply in only 30 minutes.

So, how was the romantic excursion into 1001 night?

Well …

To get you in the mood: That's the design of the "tunnel" leading from Torch hotel to Villagio Mall. Brings back memories of the 80s, hm?

To get you in the mood: That’s the design of the “tunnel” leading from Torch hotel to Villagio Mall. Brings back memories of the 80s, hm?

It was a weeknight but still we were surprised that we were only one of 3 couples/families eating there. We weren’t surprised anymore after we had tried the food (okay, but nothing special) and were rebuffed when we asked for Arabian flatbread to go with the (lovely) hummus. They gave us two plastic-wrapped mini-bread pieces and said that was all the Arabian bread they had. In Doha! In a hotel adjacent to the Villagio Mall where you can buy bread by the cartload. cough

It’s a too small space, with too many tables too close together, giving it the vibes of a school cafeteria. Only one side of the restaurant is covered with carpets, the other side is a brightly lit row of metal food displays for the buffet, also with the exact charm of a school cafeteria. It’s made worse by the light being positioned wrong — it blinds you when you try to look at the food on display. %-)

According to other reviewers, the Flying Carpet’s only saving grace are the carpets hung up under the ceiling.

Under the ceiling … Which means you should see only the boring backside of the carpets. %-)

But the decorators were smarter than that: They hung the carpets overhead upside down. Seeing them “flying” (they were brought into shape with wires) the wrong way round made me seasick, so I kept my gaze on the less-than-charming cafeteria looks.

I’ll have to make do with visiting my romantic version of Flying Carpet restaurant in a short story. But my husband and I don’t give up  hope that we will discover romantic, good restaurants here in Doha. :-)

Would you share your stories of how what you thought would be a romantic spot turned out to be in reality? We could start with “kissing by Niagara Falls” while the surfs makes you deaf, spray gets in your eyes and about a million tourists push by … Or … c’mon. Spill. :-)
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I’d love to talk to you, either here on the blog or on Facebook and Twitter.

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brida_anderson_photo_babs_huber_thumb Brida Anderson’s novel, Hedge Games, released in December. You can find her at www.brida-anderson.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She and her family currently live in the Middle East with the newest addition to their household, a fae-cat called Robin.

Mom-bloggers and mom-writers unite!

Wow, it’s been crazy here, trying to write on deadline while the kids are on school/nursery vacation.

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It’s the first year of school for our oldest son, so I’m used to a maximum of 3 weeks vacation from his kindergarten days back in Germany. Here in Qatar, he has almost 9 weeks of summer vacation. 9 weeks!

We enrolled our youngest (3) in summer camp at his nursery. Which whittled his 8 weeks of vacation down to 4 weeks …

Whatever possessed me to agree to a deadline for a project that falls into my boys’ vacation? Well. I had planned to be done with the book before vacation even started. While moving thousands of miles abroad … Cough. Still, I almost managed. But that last sprint to the finish line kept eluding me.

So, here we are. 4 weeks of trying to write a nonfiction book and blogposts alongside a constantly prattling 3-year old. Who, of course, has just he entered into the infamous “Why?”-phase.

“Why’s that?”

“But why?”

“And why’s that?”

“Why don’t you know?

“Why …?”

… on and on  ;-) (Do you know the Louis CK sketch about the WHY?)

I’m also entering the last corrections into my Western-Aetherpunk short story … or I would be, if we hadn’t left for vacation. Where we promptly caught a stomach-bug and took turns being sick. (“Why are you holding your stomach, mom?” “Why do you need this bucket?” … LOL)

The crux is: We’re back in Qatar now. Here, it’s too hot, humid and sunny during the day to do anything outside. Even swimming is out of the question. Sunshade over the pool or the playground? That’s for sissies, apparently.

You’d think that the Qataris would have long caught on and built pleasure domes for families. Every bigger city in Germany has those artificial rec spaces, usually with indoor swimming pools, sauna, kid activities. But also with aquariums, Lego Centres, you name it. Here, everything is out under the sun, except for the malls. Weird. No, don’t get me started on the cramped indoor playgrounds in Qatar … I dubbed them Las Vegas for kids. = :-/

So life outside starts at sunset. Going swimming. Going to the playground. (The lights at the playground have been broken for a while. “Don’t hworry mamsir, we fix it.”)

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Playground after dark in Doha, Qatar

And I write during the kids’ afternoon siesta. Or I try to. A day of “why? why? waaaah! want X, want Y! Moooom!” isn’t exactly helping to write with a fresh mind.

It’s been a week only since we got back but we’re running out of indoor-activities that can hold a 3-year-olds attention. It wouldn’t be hard to entertain my 7-year old indoors. He’s fallen in love with crafting, he loves playing boardgames and painting. But the day is loooooooong when matched against a 3-year-old’s attention span and you can’t take him outside.

I tried my NanoWriMo routine of getting up before the kids but that only worked while we were on vacation. In Qatar, our youngest has started waking again in the night repeatedly – from nightmares, the air-condition or the crushing heat. So he ends up staying with us — and gets up with me. “Why are you sneaking off to your computer?”

(On the other hand – who can resist this little guy? :-)

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If you’d like to leave a comment on this blogpost, please leave it on the Facebook page or through Twitter instead. I’d love to talk to you.

tendril_small

brida_anderson_photo_babs_huber_thumb Brida Anderson’s novel, Hedge Games, released in December. You can find her at www.brida-anderson.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She and her family currently live in the Middle East with the newest addition to their household, a fae-cat called Robin.

Running after boys

I was racing after my two boys into Villagio Mall, when I saw this poster of Merida and came to a screeching stop to snap it for you. Very much fitting the mood, especially for a redhead mom :-)

#mom-writer #boys

merida_brave_poster_villagio_mall
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If you’d like to leave a comment on this blogpost, please leave it on the Facebook page or through Twitter instead. I’d love to talk to you.

tendril_small

brida_anderson_photo_babs_huber_thumb Brida Anderson’s novel, Hedge Games, released in December. You can find her at www.brida-anderson.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She and her family currently live in the Middle East with the newest addition to their household, a fae-cat called Robin.

Blogging on the go

There are (at least) two types of bloggers. Naw, make that writers in general. Those who process what they think by writing. And those who have to hear themselves think before they can form any thought into words.
For the thinking-through-writing kind, their output (at least in diary-uncensored-text form) is highest the more stuff they have going on. For the second kind, the more impressions bombard them, the less they write. There is no time to process.

I always thought I belonged in the first group because I am a typical woman (according to linguist Deborah Tannen) in that I speak to think. With the move to Qatar, I found myself tiptoeing around my Wunderlist reminders that prompted me to write on Book 2 of the Rule of Thorns series (following last winter’s release of Hedge Games) and to blog at least once a week. There was so much to share: about moving to a different country, a different culture, coping with children when all their toys and usual distractions are packed away, traveling over the ocean.

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So why wasn’t I blogging if there was so much to blog about? I keep jotting notes into Evernote: “hey, really important to know when traveling to Qatar”, “think to bring the following stuff if you come here from Europe”, … But mostly I snap pictures. I think I was before words, still soaking everything in (still am).
Snapshots of supermarkets aisles packed with detergent that shows women in black garb, from head to toe. Gender equality in so far, as the guys get their own shelf with white-washing detergent for their pristine white tunics. That’s not a blogpost, but bewildering for a freshly made expat: How can there be no detergent for wool and no eco-friendly one, but five different kinds for black clothes, especially for abayas, the regional women’s dress here?
Throne-like chairs in the waiting area of the Al Ahli hospital. A hospital with valet parking and a coffee/tea-freebie service which is served to you wherever you wait. And you do wait. For hours. Because the system ate your appointment, because you’re a walk-in and don’t know any doctors yet … Also not a blogpost, but something that shaped my perception of this country from the sheer amount of time I spent there since coming to Qatar.
Driving in Qatar — aargh. Strange roadsigns … My fav sign is a little sheikh who warns you that ahead, there are “Road Surprises”. I guess they use it when all the regular signs (Road Closed, Construction, Pavement eroded, …) are all used up ;-)

While moving abroad, there is no time to process

If you belong in the second group of writers/bloggers, who need time to process before they can write, moving abroad, especially with children, will shut you up effectively and for quite a long time.
We need to borrow a leaf from the other group of writers!
Input = output.
Or the new impressions will keep filling you, overfilling you. And as it goes with overfilling, the stuff that gets spilled is lost.

When moving to New York for a longer internship, I was so damn sure that I could still capture all my impressions after I had gone back home. There was simply too much to see and do to sit down and write! Only after running into other authors and hearing their prodding to keep a journal, did I jot down at least bare bones every few days: What did I go to see today? Was there something special going on? Weather, food, odd sights on the street, …
These notes, starting halfway through my stay, are now more or less the only detailed memories of my 7 months in New York, the rest is simply a rush of vague impressions. And vague always sucks in terms of writing, be it blogposts or novels.

Stranger in a strange land – moving abroad

When we first heard about moving to the Middle East (from Germany), I ran across the internet, especially all kinds of blogs, to find information about being deployed abroad for several years with kids. The with kids part nagged me most. And the question of what to bring. We’d be able to only bring along 4 cubic meters of our personal things (that’s about 40 small moving crates), so every gram counts. Hard to anticipate what you’ll need of baby medicine, equipment … when moving to a very different region with different climate, shops,  healthcare, …
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My two brave troopers – at 0 degrees back in Germany; with their new summer shoes for 25 degrees in Qatar
I was really surprised that I didn’t find many infos. I did find stuff about the region we’d be moving to (Doha, in Qatar), found info on how to bring a dog and what life’s like with a pet in 40 degree weather — among a people who don’t like dogs and consider them very “unclean” (like pigs). But no account of someone moving there with kids.
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Packing up all Playmobil and much beloved accys for the toy kitchen
Now that we actually made the move (3 days ago), I know why.
When moving abroad with kids, you don’t have any time to sit and write about the experience. :-D
It’s a race to get all stuff together, get the paperwork (oh, the paperwork!) and house sorted, estimates from moving companies, … No wonder I couldn’t find another mom’s chronicle of the move.

Now I’m jotting down stuff in Evernote to put together tips&tricks lists for other moms in the same situation.
Provided I can wrestle my computer away from my kids for an hour, I’ll keep you posted on how we settle into life in the Middle East. So far, school and nursery have not started and with no car at our disposal, the kids are entertained by treks to the mall a few streets away and DVDs. The hotel’s pool is cold – which isn’t too great a combo with the snot-noses we all brought from Germany. ;-)

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