My last few weeks in Qatar were a series of logistical challenges, trying to get everything ready for my move back to America. A big issue was my furniture, which I had shipped over to Qatar by sea freighter in 2013 and now my company was shipping it back to America for me. Closing out things at my apartment was also a lot of work and, of course, I spent time saying goodbye to my colleagues at CPO whom I’d grown close to during the past three years. I also ran around town and closed my various accounts and took care of a host of other logistical matters, like getting my passport/visa cancelled, and everything was quite crazy. But it all worked out and on my final night in Doha, I had a chance to walk around town and say goodbye to all the places that had become so familiar to me during my stay.
Above: The day after Christmas in 2015, I shot this video of my wonderful bedroom in my apartment in Doha. I lived in downtown Doha in a high-rise apartment building with the curious name of "Beverly Hills Tower." (2:02)
Oh, and then there was my roommate situation. Doha is one of the most expensive cities in the world (I paid $5,000 a month for my 3-bedroom apartment) so a lot of expats who move to Qatar find roommates to share the expense. I was lucky to have two good roommates in succession. My first roommate, Arul, was a co-worker of mine at CPO and was about my age. Originally from India, he’d lived in San Jose, California for the past many years with his wife and son and, since I’d grown up in San Jose, we had a lot in common. After about a year, though, he found another position about five miles from my apartment, so he moved out. It didn’t take me long to find another roommate, though – in fact, only 10 minutes online. His name was Gerry and he was a jovial Irishman from the Dublin area. Gerry had a great sense of humor and we got along well.
Neither of my roommates saw me too much, though, since I spent most of my time ensconced in my bedroom when I wasn’t at the office. My bedroom was only 243 square feet but I had everything I needed there including a refrigerator, all my furniture from America, a great view of the Arabian Gulf, and most importantly, a fast Internet connection and a couple of big-screen monitors, where I did my computer work and watched American TV shows, either streamed live or downloaded from iTunes. I also watched lots of live American sporting events on ESPN's web channel -- the best $168/year I ever spent -- though they were usually broadcast at some crazy hour due to the time difference, I'll never forget waking up at 3 a.m. to watch my Seahawks play in the Super Bowl (and win!) So everything considered, I was very content in Doha and was sad to leave.
Flying Back to the U.S. -- with Sister Goldenhair
Actually I almost didn’t leave. On my last night in Doha, I said goodbye to Gerry, who’d found a new place to live in the same apartment building, then I did some last-minute cleanup in my apartment and got ready for bed around 10 p.m. My flight was leaving at 8 a.m., so I’d called for a cab to pick me up at 5 a.m. and set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. And then I set another alarm for 3:30 a.m. as a backup. And then – being a total worrywart about such things – I set the alarm on a third clock for 3:30 a.m. as an added precaution and then went to bed, assured that at least one of the three alarms would wake me up on time.
Above: And here's a tour of the rest of my 3-bedroom apartment. I lived on the 19th floor and had a great view. By the way, Doha is one of the most expensive cities in the world. I paid $5,000 a month for my apartment -- so roommates in Doha are a necessity. (3:55)
I got some sleep, woke up a while later and snoozed for a long time, then I started thinking, “I’ve been lying here for quite a while. I wonder what time it is.” I lazily opened my eyes and glanced at the clock and it said 4:37 a.m. It took a couple seconds for it to register in my brain, but then I bolted upright in my bed: “4:37! My taxi will be here in 23 minutes!” Somehow all three alarm clocks had failed to go off (they were new clocks that I’d never used before – or more likely, it was due to user error). I sprang out of bed, took the world’s quickest shower, gathered my stuff, said a very quick goodbye to my apartment, which had been my home for the past three years, raced to the elevator, and made it to the lobby at 4:58 with my heart pounding. The taxi driver was already waiting, so from there it was off to Hamad International Airport and onto the plane.
My flight left Doha around 8 a.m., shortly after sunrise, and I settled back into my window seat. Now, I have to confess that I have a strange tradition: Every time I take off on a flight from the Middle East bound for America, the first song I listen to on my MP3 player is the 1970’s hit by the group America called “Sister Golden Hair.” I’ve flown from the Middle East back to the U.S. probably eight or nine times over the past decade, and on each flight, as soon as we’re airborne, I turn on my MP3 player and listen to that song. It’s partly because of the group’s name (America) and partly because it reminds me of someone I knew in high school. We all have funny traditions and that’s one of mine.
Above: The day after CPO closed, I went to Souq Waqif (the traditional marketplace in Doha) with my good friend and CPO colleague, Shashi. He was going back home to Bangalore, India the next day to look for a new job -- and a wife (presumably in that order!) (1:52)
I’d grown accustomed to the 24-hour flights between Doha and Portland during the past three years, and I actually enjoyed the long flights -- as long as I had a window seat. On planes, as in life, I like to have my own little space. Wherever I was, I didn’t need a big space, like in First Class or in a big house or a big apartment, but I wanted it to be my mine. Plus I love looking out the window. Yeah, I’m one of those annoying folks who always has their window shade open on long flights while everyone else is watching TV or sleeping with their window shade closed. Not me. On any flight (except over an ocean), I usually plaster my face to the window, staring in wonder at the scenery below as I think about when I last visited there, or the history of the area, or what people down there were doing, or if I’ll ever visit that country, or a million other things. I’ve always been fascinated with looking at the earth, which is one reason I enjoy creating maps.
Each time I fly back to the U.S., I try to take a different route. On various trips I’ve changed planes in Heathrow (London), Manchester (England), Madrid, and New York. On this trip I was flying from Doha non-stop to Chicago, then on to Portland on another flight. The Doha-to-Chicago leg was about 16 hours long but I enjoyed it, ate lots of (pretty) good food, looked out the window a lot, and watched some good movies – and a few bad ones.
As much as I enjoyed living in Qatar, it was always great to return to the U.S. and to step off the plane on American soil. I’m back home! It was nice to get to Chicago and I laid over at O’Hare for a few hours and ate some good American food at the airport (a pepperoni pizza and a big chocolate chip cookie), then boarded a plane bound for Portland. Our flight landed at PDX around 8 p.m., which meant that I’d followed the sun all day for the past 24 hours, seeing it rise in Doha and now setting in Portland. It was, quite literally, one of the longest days of my life. But it was great to be back in Portland. Home, sweet home.
Note: I’ll post more stories on my website about my experience in Qatar later.
The Last Day of CPO
Souq Waqif with Shashi
My Last Day(s) in Qatar
Flying to Portland