Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif translates to "standing market" and has been a staple in Doha life for more than a hundred years. The market was renovated in 2006 (I think due to a fire), and while the traditional architecture was maintained the alleyways are a bit bigger allowing merchants to be able to do more than just stand due to smallness of the area (hence the name standing market). Richard and I have been a couple times. We went one evening for the annual Date this isn't a festival of people out on dates, but a festival surrounding the annual harvest of dates. They were selling freshly harvested dates (yellow and red ones).

Though, we made the evening a bit of a date night since the kids did not want to come. There were signs in Arabic with information about the yellow and red dates, given we could not read Arabic we just enjoyed the photos. Some research on the googles, tells us that yellow dates tend to be sweeter and red dates have little to no sugar (apparently making them good for diabetics). Though both pack a powerful vitamin punch! The dates were sold in boxes of dates and given we enjoy the occasional date we feared they would go bad (get too dry) if we bought them in such a huge quantity.

Across the street from the Souq, is the Spiral Mosque (technically called Al Fanar Islamic Culture Center). It is a lovely landmark mosque in Doha and it offers non-muslims educational tours/courses on the Islamic faith. We have not been yet, but plan to go.

The lighting that evening was also wonderful for capturing this dome shaped minaret that is part of the souq. Minarets are towers/beacons that send out calls to pray five times a day. (You can also see the downtown skyline beginning to light up in the background).

In our wandering around the souq, we happened upon an artists centre. It is where not only artists can work and you watch, but they also sell their artwork. All the way through this studio per say were beautiful glass lanterns. The picture just doesn't do them justice (and there is a good chance we will end up with our own glass lantern chandelier before we leave!).

A few weekends later, we heard about a company offering tours (Coming Up in Doha) of the above Spiral Mosque as well as the Souq. I signed up for the Souq Photowalk and Richard signed up for the Falcon Event.

The Photowalk goes over some of the basic elements of design as well as take you to spots within the Souq to practice them out!

Why do I need elements of design class you ask? Didn't you take photography in college? Well I did and it's been a "couple" years. So I thought it would be a good refresher. Refresher, for what? Well I've decided start selling some of our better shots to the different stock photography companies. Fiji provided me with so many beautiful sunsets and scenery, as did the Caucasus mountains from our time in Georgia (and all these regional travel opportunities we have embarked on). It seems so silly for those photos to just sit on our hard drive and gather metaphorical dust. So instead of just this blog, I am sharing the photos with the of this writing, I have already had 3 images sell....for a whopping $0.25 I have made $0.75 more than if I had left them on the hard drive! The only hiccup we encountered is Richard takes some good shots too. So we have set up a business partnership, where I'll do the majority of the work (editing, uploading, managing the business/taxes portion) while Richard will contribute the occasional great shot! Given most companies have a minimum amount you must sell before payout, if I set us up to each have our own upload accounts it might take forever for payouts, but by combining into a business it streamlines everything. All this also provides me a job/career that I can take from post to post as we move. In addition to the stock photo sites, we I have set up our own personal website (ie if you have ever seen a picture and thought, I would love to have that on my wall, you can order a print for yourself directly from the website). You should check it our new partnership logo to get there!

You see what I did there....Next Stop, sounds like f-stop (a photography term) but also plays on our blog title. It takes time to go through old files to find the hidden photo gems, but I'm slowly starting to add countries we've visited and photos we have taken....anyway, back to the topic of this post. The Souq Photowalk was a great opportunity to get some Doha material, freshen up skills (as well as sneak in a little tour of the Souq). We obviously went to the spice market section of the souq (hmm, scratch and sniff photos....wonder if those are doable).

A ton of colors and textures to photograph! This reminded me, we really needed some cinnamon so I got a small bag after taking this shot!

We also went to the fabric section of the souq. You can not only just purchase fabric but also be measured to have something custom made. In addition to shop after shop of fabric in Souq Waqif, I've heard there is also a fabric souq in town.....shhh, better not tell Richard when I go ;)

This one alleyway, had another great angle of the Spiral Mosque. The local Qatari even stopped and smiled for the group of 10-15 of us taking photos. I missed the shot of him smiling, but here he is chatting with his hamalis for the morning. The hamalis wear red vests and can be hired to follow behind you with a wheelbarrow helping with your load.

After this, we stopped in some air conditioning (our tour was at 9am and it was a scorcher that morning) and for a chat with a Qatari in a majlis (place of sitting). This was actually the first Qatari I had officially met. According to World Population Review, there are approximately 2.7 million people living in Qatar, but less than 15% of those are Qatari (aka a lot of foreigners here!).

The kind man spoke of his job in Qatar and then fielded questions from the group. We had some fruit salad, tea, and other delights to nibble on. Afterwards, we headed back outside. It was here that I made the company's facebook page!

I found this neat building with Arabic carved into the side. I'm curious as to what is says, but still think it was a neat design. I have picked up (and Clarissa "taught" me) that when reading/writing Arabic you go from right to left.

Right after taking this, a woman asked if her son could have his picture taken with me. It struck me as odd, given there are so many expats....maybe I was just that much sweatier (or my lovely neck scar peaked his interest...he was probably about 10 or 11). I obliged and she took the photo on her phone, so sadly I do not have a copy. There are also lots of other neat metal craft colors/textures to be found at the souq.

As well as, old Arabic Coffee pots.

After the tour ended, a lovely cooling breeze picked up. It felt wonderful and afford me this great shot of the Qatar flag.

I then crossed the street (well actually it took several street crossings) to get over to the Pearl Monument.

The Pearl Monument sits right on the harbor. It is a giant oyster with a pearl inside. The monument is reminiscent of the country's history as a major pearl trader. There was no water in the fountain that morning...though I bet it much prettier when there is.

The Pearl Monument sits at the Dhow dock. A Dhow boat is an Arabic boat that was traditionally used for fishing or commercial transport. Dhow's have one or two sails, so today these boats have been replaced with much more efficient engine powered boats, but are still used for leisure/tourism activities. Taking a harbour cruise on a Dhow is definitely on our Doha bucket list. Here is a large group of Dhows, proudly flying the Qatari flag, moored in the harbour.

That evening, Richard went to the Falcon Event. He learned all about falconry in Doha (ie we can't afford to even buy a falcon...not that we would, we really like Isa and don't think they would be a good match).

He told us all kinds of interesting information and the rest of us will likely go to a later event. We know that you can not cabin carry cats/dogs on Qatar Airways flights...but you can cabin carry falcons! We have not seen one yet, but that should be interesting if we ever do (Richard learned the falcon will get it's own seat)! Richard even got to hold a falcon!

We will probably post many more images from Souq Waqif as there are so many alleyways and hidden gems all around. I foresee many more trips there during our time here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Our next adventure has started.....

So I worked hard and got all caught up on the blog about the fun we'd had during home leave and training, then all our household effects (HHE) from Fiji arrived and we were swimming in blogging took the backseat. We have a little more HHE coming from the states (we didn't use all our allotted weight despite buying lots of hand carved wooden artwork). Our supplemental HHE is set to arrive in country later this week (not sure how long customs will take) and our car just arrived and is waiting on delivery/plates. So I thought I would take this little lull to update.

I had put some fabric I picked up in Fiji and my staple gun in our UAB (air shipment) and covered our kitchen chairs. Beyond the regular wear and tear, we will be charged for damages made to the embassy furniture we are issued. So kids + light colored seats + food.....covering was a natural decision (we had put a towel down on Clarissa's chair at our last post, but she's too big for that now).

Before Khaki & After Dark Brown w/Green Palm Tree Pattern

It's been hot here....duh Deb you live in the desert. Oddly enough, it is not like the "dry heat" in the hot deserts of US Southwest. We have humid desert here. So at bus stop time (ie early am), temps are usually mid-90s (mid 30sC) with 50-70% humidity...which makes it feel like 110-120F.... It is like stepping into an oven when you walk outside. Speaking of more easy-bake oven for me!  Our oven is American size!!

We keep hearing that in about 1.5-2 months the weather will cool down and be wonderful. Waiting for that! In the mean time, we've gone to the neighborhood pool (which cools the water).

This is not quite half of the pool. It is great that a large portion of it is covered and there are wonderful views as it is on the roof of the neighborhood clubhouse.

Richard and I have both done some tours of the Souq Waqif (standing market)....I'll give those their own post. The company that did the tours offers lots of other fun things...we are just waiting on the weather to cool down a smidge! As you saw Monday, we had a fun little photo shoot with Isa and some American Girl glasses....while this one is not the most focused I think it portrays her feelings towards the photo shoot.

Another way to entertain ones self in stifling heat, is to head to the mall. To which there are plenty to choose from. We've gone to four different ones so far (some multiple times, as a grocery store tends to be attached to the mall). The mall that go the most "whoa's" so far has been Villaggio Mall. When you step inside, it suddenly feels as if you are in Venice, Italy....complete with a canal and gondolas. So naturally, we had to take a ride!

There are little bridges you can cross over the water and ceiling is painted blue with fluffy clouds. We spent hours there and when we walked outside to complete darkness it messed with our

We had to take care of some cell phone/internet business. So we found our way to that shop. What should happen to right around the corner from there? Gondolania Theme Park ....a theme park/carnival inside the mall!!

Kids were amazed to see the bright lights and rides...and since we had an afternoon to pass....we said why not and went on in to ride the rides!! Clarissa had fun driving a pink swan around a little lagoon while Mason and Richard went on a full fledged roller coaster (you can barely see some of the track going along the building facades as well as past the entrance).

Both kids rode on a little "under the sea" lazy river ride. We then rode the bumper cars, I think we did those two or three times in a row....super fun. We ran into each other a lot, but culturally we weren't sure how it would be taken to ram a complete I just said to Clarissa we were racing

Clarissa and I rode on the ferris wheel (here's a not so flattering selfie but it shows how high up it went and all the fun below us).

While we were on the ferris wheel, Mason and Richard rode the 'drop ride'. We happened to stopped near the top to load/unload people while they were we had an awesome vantage point to shoot a little video. There are the only two on the right hand side of the drop.

As I mentioned, we don't quite have our car yet (it arrived in country around midnight last night...not that we've been stalking it or anything). So we've mastered Uber (even let Mason Uber home from school one day), we are enjoying life with food delivery (there is an app called Talabat that allows you to order from practically every times it takes longer to decide where to get your food from than it takes to actually get said food!), and finally we have been busy with all the start of the school year events from new student orientation, meet the teachers, back to school night (just learning about the curriculum/grading methodology), and back to school coffees.....wooh! I get tired writing all that and thinking about all the things we've gone too. For the middle school new student orientation, they talked to everyone, then the middle schoolers went off for a tour while us parents got some more talking, finally we got a tour. Given Clarissa's orientation was right after the middle school one, she was with appears she took a bit too much pleasure invading Mason's locker.

So nothing out of the ordinary here....just getting up, going to work/school/unpacking, and then doing it all over again. Same routine, just a different country!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Something Adrift

So a few weeks back, I mentioned I may have been a movie extra....well confession time....I may have given some bogus details's the real deal!! The Film Fiji (ie the gov't film commission...who knew!) has been doing a great job in recent years at attracting production companies to Fiji. While we were posted there three seasons of Survivor were filmed (and I think they are still filming there), Wrecked Season 2 was filmed (we witnessed a couple scenes being filmed when we went away to a resort one weekend and went on snorkel trip with some of the production team...and personally I know one of the high profile extras) and Season 3 was starting filming when were leaving. Just after we left (ie we heard the calls for extras but couldn't apply) three more movies were filmed there - The Other Side of Heaven 2 and the Hallmark Movies A Summer to Remember and Pearl in Paradise! Those last three were all made for TV movies....but one major motion picture filmed while we were there was Adrift with Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin!

As usual, there was a call for extras. Fiji has rather stringent work visa laws (why I didn't work outside the Embassy while posted there). Though part of the process of applying for our long term residency visas included getting a TIN number for everyone. So when the casting crew called for extras they said you must have a TIN number....hmmm. So I talked to HR at the Embassy to verify visa requirements and given extras typically make peanuts they were okay with applying. Mason having always been a big movie buff and has toyed with being the "next Steven Spielberg" he really wanted to be an extra. Clarissa on the other hand hates strangers taking her she had no interest what-so-ever. So we went and applied, had measurements and photos taken....and got the call for a day of filming!! So we marked the calendar.

We also received a two page pdf of things were were not allowed to do or bring with us! In the mean time, Mason came down with pneumonia! Full blown getting chest x-rays, out of school for a week, on antibiotics pneumonia! So I did what any good mother would do....said rest all day, lunch is in the fridge, call Richard if you need anything....and I went to be an extra!! The instructions said to come to set with clean dry hair and no make up (and deodorant....I thought that was funny it had to remind people to wear deodorant). We were inspected by the head of the extra crew, some people were sent to costume, while a few of us were lucky enough to get sent to make up first. It took about an hour of magic and viola....

all my tattoos were gone! I had been a bit excited to get some 1980s style eyeshadow and big hair...but no....the only make up put on us lowly extras was to cover-up tattoos. They did a really good job - though you can see some starting to come off after 12 hours (I took this at home...I was good and followed directions and didn't take my phone on set). I was there for 11 hours and made a $100FJD (a little less than $50US) and was in the background for 3 scenes. The first scene shot is where 'Tami' is writing her mom a postcard in a little local cafe. Us extras were mulling around in back like tourists, but the way it was shot/edited you don't really see anything outside the cafe. Shailene did a wardrobe change and another take was done and either that was completely cut out or they really adjusted the lighting and it was the scene at the beginning where she is eating in the little cafe. Again you can't see anything outside the cafe. What is "funny" is initially me and another extra were pulled into the cafe and told that we would be handed a plate of food, then we would walk to a table and sit down. Then they decided it needed to be more of a locals cafe (not a tourist cafe), so we were swapped out for some Fijian extras....sigh...

The second scene shot (and the majority of the in about 6 hours total, we even broke for lunch and came back to the same scene) was Tami & Richard - the main characters - shopping in the market. They gave us shopping bags, I got some flowers (I was at the market after all), they also put a frangipani in my hair and were suppose to just act like we were shopping at the market. On one of the takes, I accidentally hit (and naturally apologized when we were resetting) Shailene with my flowers. Given this scene was shot for so long, from three camera angles, and I was so close to the main characters if I was going to make it in the movie....this is the scene that would provide me with my 0.3 second of fame!

Look there I am....totally recognize the back of my head don't you!! Lol. I joked with Richard that one of the camera angles the camera man was literally right behind me...I was all they are going to use that one and my butt will ginormous on the big screen and just to make Shailene's butt look tiny! Thankfully it's just the back of my head! So all in all, I think the back of my head got about 4 seconds of screen time - enough for me to get two screen grabs in different spots!

At lunch, I sat a table with Jeffrey Thomas (he is the older gentleman in the next screen grab). He was a friendly fellow. I felt so bad for the guy with the bananas. Our reset points (ie after every take we went back to the exact same starting point and then did the exact same thing) were right next to each other. His arms/back were so tired by the end of the day and the banana bunch had definitely seen better days (some smushed, others dangling off). 

After the market scene was done shooting those of us in "highly visible" areas had to go change into new outfits for another shot to be filmed. This last shot only took one take! I was standing with two other ladies so this may be me in the middle (it is quite hard to tell, lol). This was shot at rush hour and the bus station was packed. They had us extras stand/walking closest to the sidewalk/road to "block" the modern clothing of the locals (as well as draw attention away from the phones and tablets they were holding up and taking pictures/videos with). I understand aperture settings and depth of field, but I'm still pretty amazed that it blocked out so well!

All in all, it was super fun to be an uncredited extra. It has also been fun to watch the movie and look for friends/acquaintances I know from Fiji that were extras in the movie too. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend the movie Adrift....not only does it give you a glimpse of what Suva looks like (I took dive boats out the "marina" used in the movie), it is a very moving film...based on a true story!