Sunday, 4 October 2015

What not to wear, or Scary Azeri's new (potential) business.

A friend of mine told me recently that, judging from my Facebook pictures, all I do these days is drink a lot. She even assumed, not sure why? That I don’t even read anything anymore. My brain, according to her, is atrophying. OK, I thought. She is being mean, but she has got a point. I do not work. And I do party more than I did in the UK. Even though, I do still read a lot. And not just Facebook stuff. 

So, the question is…Should I worry about it. Should I be thinking of getting a full time job? Another friend told me the other night that to her, I was someone who would not enjoy doing nothing all day for too long. 'You will get bored', she said 'and you probably will find that you need a mental stimulation. So you might want to look for a job'. 

 The problem of course is that I am not bored. Not yet. Not really.

 And I do not want a full time job. It will affect my routine quite significantly, in a bad kind of way, you know?

But I would like to do something. I do think my brain is deteriorating.

And, being smart as I am, I just came up with a beautiful idea.

You see, every time we sit in Paul’s with our coffee and watch people walking by, I see people dressed in unbelievably ugly clothes. In fact, there clearly are two major problems, linked to each other. One is that some people do not understand what suits their shape and what makes it a lot uglier than it already is. And secondly, some things should have never been designed, approved, sold and then bought and most importantly, worn. In public. By anyone.

For example, these pants.

I am not sure my sketch does them justice. They had a pattern of very brightly colored shapes, with the biggest one forming a black triangle, that was centrered right between poor woman’s thighs, sort of gently disappearing between her buttocks.

Or, today, I saw a rather large unit as Husband would refer to it, in bright pink sweatpants. In case it was not obvious, there was a big sign on her arse that read PINK.

Like this. 

And you know what? That big, round Kim Kardashian style backside is so in fashion right now, she could totally make it look good. In something else. In fact, in almost anything else but those pants. 

So, I think, it will be a bit like Simon Cowell, and a bit of What Not to Wear program I used to watch in the UK… What I mean is, it will be brutal. Sometimes you have got to be cruel to be kind.

Like this one woman I saw the other day who looked simply heartbreakingly awful in very tight ripped jeans. So she would just need to be told that, with her shape, these trousers are a NO.

But, she might argue…But…they are so cute…


But….I really want….




'I don’t think it is a good idea', my friend said, shaking her head. 'You will get in trouble'.

'Well, I am terrible with clothes!' a Russian friend interrupted. 'If I like a dress, for example, I always buy three of the same. At least three. Maybe four!'

Watch this, I said to the friend who claimed I would get in trouble.

Look, I said to the Russian girl. You don’t need 4 identical dresses. It is stupid.

Yes, I know, she said, but…

Listen, I said NO! You cant buy 4 identical dresses because you do not need them. That's just stupid and insane.  

See? I said. Where's the trouble? No trouble. 

That will be 50 QAR I said. You are welcome. 

 Yes. I think I will be very good at this. 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

OK. Here it is. Finally.

I have been meaning to blog about my summer trip to Baku for weeks now, but I guess I had so much to say about it, that I needed time to gather my thoughts. I am not even sure I am ready now.

I mean…WOW.  I was overwhelmed. In a good way.

As Big Chris said in Lock, Stock and Two smocking barrels’It’s been emotional’.

I don’t know what I expected to find after not having been there for six years, but what I did not expect is that I would like it so much.

It was strange being there again and not always recognizing places. Taking a taxi along some street, I would ask my mother where the hell I was. But I did not hate the changes. I have heard so much from all the social media and friends complaining that the buildings were changing all around that I was prepared to feel sad for my old city. But. 

Baku does not need sympathy. It is pretty. Shiny, glamorous, elegant, yet keeping to its original traditional image…I loved the changes.

I also loved the new parks, beautifully landscaped, like the Officers’ park near my old home. New benches everywhere, new fountains…Clearly, besides the corruption everyone is focusing on, there also is quite a lot being invested back into the city (and the country).

You might argue that, perhaps, I was so easy to impress because I had very low expectations. That is true. I did not think that the government necessarily would invest in public parks. Why would they bother? I did not think they would invest in better streets, more lights, fountains and safety (like the clean, usable crossings everywhere with dangerous roads) But they do. Yes, there is still an awful lot of work left to do, but come on guys! Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time.

What also has changed is chushkas. Chushkas are much more stylish now! What happened to the neon colours and dreadful earrings and horrible clown make-up? Chushkas are wearing trendier clothes, thanks to cheap Turkish denim available in little shops everywhere, and generally sport much cooler style.

The service is pretty decent now. I was so impressed with Gabala Qavqaz Sports hotel where we went on a little break that I almost felt I was hallucinating. OK, there was one teeny f** up when I asked for G&T and the waiter proudly brought me gin and sparking water insisting it was the same thing…But hey, he tried. And he looked so devastated when I wanted to send it back that I said fine, give it here and drunk it. It is not the same thing. 

And the beautiful nature? Really, I forgot, I completely forgot…I am ashamed to admit. I forgot how stunning my home country was.  

Also. Waiters. I noticed the waiters everywhere. They do much better job these days, look cute and actually are polite and nice. Huge difference to what I remember it was like before.

Finally….The women.

A cute (and single) French girl from Doha sent me a message while I was in Baku asking if I knew any good websites to help her find a job in Baku.

I had to tell her this. I said look…It is not the best place for a single expat woman. Not because it is unsafe. It is perfectly safe. But it is absolutely filled to the brim with beautiful girls. Oh my. Even chushkas, as I mentioned before, look better these days. (Until they open their mouth and speak, but you could maybe put up with that, you know, when she looks like Monica Belucci.) Azeri women, as I suddenly realized, are very pretty. But not just that. Having lived in England and abroad for so long, I got used to many women going for this natural look. I don’t quite know how to explain it without sounding offensive. I don’t want to sound offensive. There is difference in what is considered beautiful in different areas of the world. For example. I recently met a very pleasant woman with what my Spanish girlfriend here would refer to as the darkest Peru in the armpits area. That is just something that was probably OK in that particular country this woman was from. Natural, you know?

So what I guess I am saying is I thought Azeri women were almost Lebanese in their approach to their looks, except maybe not as OTT with botox and big boobs. Maybe a lot less natural than a lot of European women, yet…getting away with it. A lot of time and money and attention to detail is clearly spent on their looks, and trust me, it pays off. They look pretty good.

And one important detail to add, I said to the French girl. In one month I spent there, I did not see one good looking guy. None. Zero. Perhaps, they died out like dinosaurs. What a tragedy for the nation, really. 

I could go on and on. I loved it. I am going back and I wont wait another six years this time.

I am so pleased for you, Baku. You are doing well, standing tall and proud, and will do much, much better in future, I can see that. Just one word of advice, if I may. With all that oil money, buy yourself some handsome men. 


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Those lucky, lucky bears.

Holidays always make me feel a bit strange. There is something disturbing in how fast you can transfer from one completely different environment into another, get settled and used to it; and then come back to your home, where everything suddenly looks new and unfamiliar- for just the first few minutes after arrival. And then, it feels as if nothing actually even happened. Have I just been to Canada and back?

And speaking of Canada… what can I say? 

It was not love at first sight. 

But, I don't even believe in love at first sight, anyhow. A proper attraction demands time to develop. 

I think my very first impression was that it was unexpectedly different. Different from anything I had been to or seen before. Okay, Middle East was different, when we first came to Qatar. But I expected it to be different.

Canada, and Calgary in particular, however, took me by surprise. I could sense those little subtle differences in everything around; and at first, I could not quite understand whether they were good or bad different? Like Calgary airport, with a huge statue of horses and golden framed photographs at the baggage carousel. 

Or the Bas Pro shop. It is like a miniature planet of its own. Pluto on Earth. 
(the front entrance of Bas pro shop)                                                
So, what is that country like? Well, it would be safe to assume that they adore their bears. Bears are everywhere you look. Stuffed bears, painted bears, hand-carved and watercoloured, in all possible poses and sizes and combinations you can imagine. 

It is all about bears, moose and cowboys. 
  (inside Bas Pro shop)


Canadians are very friendly. Every sales assistant or a waiter I met, in a shop or a cafe, wanted to know where I was from, and once heard something unusual like Azerbaijan or Qatar, they seemed genuinely interested to find out where that was, how I ended up there and where is next. (Like I even know?) Thus, every purchase took approximately fifteen minutes. After two weeks, I was prepared to fake the accent just to get away faster. 

They are also incredibly law-obedient. It was particularly noticeable to someone like me, Azeri AND ex-Soviet. I come from the people who say the rules exist only while police are watching. We are genetically predisposed to bend the rules at any opportunity. Not only that, but I also live in Qatar, where laws seem to be very strict, yet a little flexible.

Let me give you an example. We drove to a beautiful spot on a lake. I noticed a sign with a list of rules of using the camping areas. You were to come in a group no bigger than X, in a car convoy of no larger than Y…and you were to pay a certain amount per night. I looked around but could see no one in sight. Not a booth with a security guard collecting fees, not a fence to stop you driving in…nobody. How do they control it all then, I asked. Well, I was told, you just drive in and follow the rules, and put the money in that box provided. 

Really? And everyone just does that? Everyone

Lastly, it is a very dangerous country. I am not talking about their bears. I am talking about their carbs.

Like your dream escort, they are beautiful, perverted and sophisticated at the same time. Imagine that, but also easily affordable and available anywhere you go?

You see, there are carbs in other countries I have lived in that are so obviously bad for you, and so OTT sugary that you find it quite easy to say ‘no’ to those.

However, in Canada? They don't just have a few varieties of crispy breads. They get you with some gentle hint of lime and herb, or a dried fig and rosemary combination…stuff that a normal person cannot even imagine existed. And then they have a shop like Bulk Barn. ‘You might want to leave the kids to wait outside…’ my friend suggested. Oh. My. God. And three more words: Chocolate covered pretzels. Would you prefer dark or milk chocolate? What about s'mores popcorn? Coffee beans covered in chocolate, I guess I know about those…But no, that was not quite imaginative enough, what about chocolate covered coffee bean blend? Or perhaps madam would fancy chocolate covered sponge toffee? 

The Carb Heaven

Get me out of here, I thought. Now, now! Before it is too late.

Also, the technology. Not just compared to Qatar, but England too (no offence meant to either) these Canadians, they live very comfortably. Everything is there to help you. The tools and equipment they use at home on the day-to-day basis are beyond anything I ever experienced. I am (proudly) not the type who would get excited about a drying machine. However, my friends’ drier that quickly determines how long it has to dry something for… And the speed and the size of it? I have to say I never enjoyed doing laundry so much in my whole life. And don’t even get me started on that super intelligent floor mop.

And then, there is the nature.

I am a complete convert. British Columbia, with its magical ( and there simply is no other word for it) beauty did something to me that I never thought was possible. When I was given a choice of either staying at the lake house or returning to Calgary to shop for a few days without the children, I shocked myself by my decision to stay at the lake. Me? Really? Someone who always chose a city break in any online questionnaire about a dream holiday? To say ‘no, thanks’ to a few childless days of shopping, in favour of a quiet time at the lake, just sitting there gazing at the mountains, paddle boarding on that glass-like water, and going on nature walks? Me?

The beauty of the nature all around that area is stunning. Indescribable. Bewitching. 

And that’s how I, step by step, with my brain intoxicated with carbs, Caesars and the lingering smell of pine trees, surrendered to the love for Canada. Yes, I thought. Good different. So beautiful, so natural.  In a very relaxed and laid back way.

Those lucky, lucky bears.  

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Ramadan experience. Quite pleasant, actually.

A few days before Ramadan, I was having a coffee with a Muslim friend. She asked if I was freaking out about Ramadan. 'I wonder', she said, 'how difficult it is for you guys, if you are not fasting? It seems to me that all non-Muslim expats are dreading Ramadan?'

I just shrugged my shoulders. I had no proper Ramadan experience yet, in the three years of living in Doha, simply because I was never here when it started. As soon as the school was finished, we would be on the plane and out of here. Not just because of Ramadan but because everyone else was away, and the heat was killing us.

However, this year, Ramadan started almost two weeks before the end of school year. And you know what? It is actually, bizarrely, unexpectedly...not that bad!

  • Firstly, the heat…I don't know what it is, but I guess, I have acclimatized to it. A lot. Yes, it is hot, but I do not feel like I am going to collapse and die anymore. I thought about that today, as I was walking from my car to school, wearing jeans. I mean, I never! wore any type of trousers in summer in Qatar before. Ever. The fact that I can walk from the car to school at 12pm wearing jeans is simply staggering. 
  • Instead of avoiding the heat altogether, I still go to the pool. Even last summer, it might have seemed insane to me, but this morning, I spent a whole hour reading a magazine and enjoying a swim; and the best part was, I was completely alone. Because everyone else has buggered off. I used to think it would be eerie and unpleasant in the compound with mostly everyone away. But, in reality, I am so rarely alone, that I really enjoyed it. I forgot how important, how therapeutic it feels to be by yourself sometimes. No music, no Internet, no people. Definitely no children. It was just me and an occasional pigeon. 
  • The traffic is great. That might not mean much to you if you don't live in Doha and drive here on a normal day. Every morning, on my way to school, I think just how peaceful the streets are. Mostly everyone is either asleep or away, and those who are on the roads, even the really bad drivers, seem to drive in this relaxed slow motion. So you have more time to react to their dangerous moves when they attempt them. 
  • As for the cafes and coffee shops being closed, after the initial shock to the system, you start seeing clear advantages. Temptation removed, I don't stop almost every day for latte or Paul bread, which of course is not only great for my finances but also for my diet. 
  • And, speaking of coffee and other hmm…beverages that of course we, non-fasting expats still consume in the daylight, there is something really nice about the fact that, should you want to see a friend, you just have to invite them to your home. You remember? That old-fashioned, sitting in your kitchen with a cup of tea way? At the moment, we spend a lot more time BBQ'ing and having drinks inside the houses, which makes the whole experience a lot more personal, somehow. 
  • During Ramadan, you make new friends, or see more of the friends that you might not see as often during the year. Yesterday, a friend who lives and works in West Bay, dropped by after work. Ha, I told her. I know why you are here, all the way in suburban compound, far away from your glamorous West Bay! All your other friends are gone for the summer, aren't they. But, the truth is, in the busier times, with family, school and work commitments, she might not have been able to sneak out and simply sit in my garden, chatting for a few hours. 
  • Finally, Iftar. A bunch of us, the hardcore who are still here, are planning to go to the evening buffet next week. Somewhere nice, you know. Feel a bit naughty, as we are not fasting, and still are going to eat a lot in the evening, but will justify it by telling myself it is an important cultural experience for the children. In reality of course, I just love eating in fancy restaurants. And eating at night is my favourite.

So there you go. Ramadan has not been that bad for me. But, I am, of course, excited about my summer break, which by the way is somewhat different this year. We are not going back to the UK, but visiting family friends in Canada. And then, after long six years, I am taking my girls to Baku! ( If you are reading this, Azerbaijani secret services, please don't arrest me. I am NOT a political blogger, as you can clearly see here.)

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Check it out. Scary Azeri making an attempt at inspirational posting.

                                                          Scary Azeri as a toddler.

I started off wanting to write about ugly people.

You see, I had a fascinating thought (well, I thought it was fascinating but according to Husband it was a mean idea and he stopped me discussing it in front of our children, not to raise them into shallow individuals like myself) about ugly people finding partners to match themselves. I mean, just because you might be ugly yourself, does not automatically make you find other ugly people attractive, right? Or does it? And, if it does, then isn't it beautiful, how nature has its ways of achieving this perfect balance in the universe? And people always have hope to find love, even if they are... well, very very very unfortunate looking? Just a thought, really.

But, hey…Husband's recommendation was such that I should not really so openly demonstrate my shallowness to the world. So instead, I will tell you something else today. Something more inspirational.  ( Even though, I still maintain that ugly people having hope of finding love with other ugly people, and being given a chance to reproduce and make ugly babies together... is a beautiful AND inspirational thought. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing shallow about that, is there?)

I was thinking the other day, as I was getting ready to go out and applying make up, that I am not uncomfortable in my hmm….mature body. I, in fact, quite like it. I am trying to improve it as much as I can, but I am quite grateful for what I have. As I just celebrated my 42nd birthday, I thought that right now, at this moment in life, I probably feel the most comfortable in my skin. I am the fittest I have been in years, I know how to dress to show the best bits and hide the worst, and I know how to apply make up better than ever.

But it was not always this easy.

In fact, I used to be ugly. My mother told me many times how, when she brought me, the newborn baby girl, home from the hospital, my grandmother looked at me, and kindly announced that they had never had such an ugly baby in their family. My mother cried for hours.

So we established that I was never a pretty baby to start with. As a toddler I got away with my looks due to a cute personality and blond curly hair. However, again…Nobody would have called me pretty.

And then...the turning into a young woman started. And it was a painful journey.

I still remember, clearly having been badly scarred, comments and remarks some people made about my looks that made me feel uncomfortable about the way I looked. And, the most ironic part of this is that the very body parts they criticised turned out to be my favourite parts as I became older.

Once at school, I must have been what? thirteen perhaps, when a boy in my class made a comment about the shape of my lips being ugly. You won't believe how ashamed I was of them since then, for years to come! How I avoided bright coloured lipsticks, and how I was worried sick that no boys would want to kiss me. (Ha!)

On another memorable occasion, I was walking up the stairs with a friend, wearing a short skirt when a ( very unattractive!) guy behind me shouted that if I had not had such awfully skinny legs, he would try and pick me up.

Trust me when I say now that skinny legs is not a bad thing when you are 42.

As we girls get older, we always worry so much about ageing, there is so much concern about wrinkles and saggy bits, so many discussions with girlfriends about microdermabrasions, fillers and Botox…that I never really stopped and thought how I feel now about my body, compared to when I was very young.

And when I did think about it, I was pleasantly surprised to realise that, despite getting older, despite at times wondering about investing in fillers and bigger boobs…I am actually much more comfortable in my skin right now than I was years ago.  I love my legs! And my lips. And I don't care if someone does not, which I guess is the most important part.

So maybe, thinking of ugly people…Maybe they are not really ugly. My legs are pretty fucking great. But, to that Azeri guy who preferred his girls curvier and meatier, they were too skinny.

I guess the answer to my shallow question above is…None of us will appear ugly or beautiful to every single person. And sometimes, it is how we feel about ourselves that makes the biggest difference. I just wish I realised that when I was 16. It would have spared me a lot of unhappy moments.

How's that for inspirational writing? Not my style, but I wanted to try it.