Holiday Thoughts

Hey all,

It’s me again.. this time from the deep deserts of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. No, I am not plotting an attack over any country (yet), I am on a peace mission to rescue the Qatari Land Cruisers from quicksands. In case you don’t know who this is, keep reading or buy some Ginseng for your memory. Firo is the american slang term for Firas, the IBM voodoo doll of the Sahara.

It’s been over a month that I left beautiful San Francisco to move with IBM to Doha City in Qatar. I’ll just say that it is quite an interesting endeavor! I miss California though..

For those who are celebrating the holidays, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year! This is for you:

For those who aren’t, fat luck! But hey, you probably just had a long vacation for the Eid. I sure enjoyed cruising the sand dunes at 140 KM/h in a Land Cruiser (remember this name, it will come in handy)!

For those who know what a GSM mobile is (and what an SMS message is), my GSM mobile number is XXXXXXXXXXX. Send me an SMS so I can add you to my addressbook.

For those who have no clue what GSM is, and are still wondering which is better, Verizon, AT&T, Voicestream, T-Mobile, GTE, Sprint, Nextel or Cingular (Can you hear me now?), my cellphone number is XXXXXXXXXXXXX

My personal email is still, but I can also be reached at my IBM Qatar email XXXXXXXXXXXXXX and my Qatar Government email XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Random facts about the area:

– No one rides camels here, but they drive their 2003 Land Cruiser as if it was a camel

– People don’t live in tents between desert sand dunes. It’s quite modern here, in fact, something like a mini-Los-Angeles surrounded by the Sahara. I keep wondering why the desert doesn’t decide to move in one day and burry the whole thing..

– Everyone owns a Toyota Land Cruiser, even the camels. There are more Land Cruisers than people in Qatar. A Land Cruiser can drive over any obstacle, whether it’s a sand dune, a road divider, a sidewalk, another car, a person, a building, a city, a group of  people sitting peacefully in their living room, water, clouds and even laws, rules and limits. A Land Cruiser cannot drive over another Land Cruiser unless the first Land Cruiser is driven by a Qatari Citizen/National and the other one isn’t.

– You can’t get alchohol except in hotels and their clubs, bars and restaurants. You can get alchohol anywhere if you are connected or have a lot of money and know how to flash it. You can get even more alchohol if you offer some to the policeman coming to arrest you.

– If you ask for anything and the person says the word “Inshalla” (translates to “If God’s Will Allows It”), they actually mean “I will never do this for you. You can wait for days and weeks, you will then call my GSM mobile 674 times, I will never answer your calls. You will then complain to your manager and mine. I will be on vacation in my Land Cruiser. When I come back in 3 weeks, my manager would’ve forgotten. You will then call me again. I will finally answer you and say “Inshalla”. You will break something and  decide to do the thing yourself without my help. I will get a raise and I will go on another vacation to the same exact desert spot in my Land Cruiser”

– Qatari nationals don’t pay gas, electricity or water. They also treat any restaurant as a drive-thru, by parking their Land
Cruiser outside and honking until all the employees go out and service their needs

– You can speed in front of a police car, that’s OK. There are no actual enforced speed limits. It’s even better if you’re a Qatari national, in which case there are no actual enforced driving laws at all, except basic survival necessities.

– There is one company that provides telephone, electricity, water, GSM cellular phones, internet, oxygen, life, and headaches. It’s called Qtel, but it has been baptised Qhell. Their working hours are from 8am till 8:05am, enough time to punch in their timecards. The minimum amount of time for any service is 1 month from the time your boss’ boss’ boss calls the general manager and offers him a favor in return of this favor, or a Land Cruiser EFI 4500 VX-R Safari with “nabikeyshun”

– The official word for Yes is “Atcha-Atcha”, which stems from the fact that 150% of the population is Eastern Indian. If you can do the affirmative infinity-sign headshake, you get a 10% dizgawnt.

– You can bargain ANYTHING. I mean ANYTHING. The rule of thumb is, if he asks for X, start by offering X divided by 10. You’ll eventually get it for X divided by 2 or 3 (refer to the headshake above)

– Nothing is illegal unless you are caught.

– Leaving anything in your car in the summer sun means that this object will become a permanent part of its surrounding area, whether it is the dashboard, seat or trunk lining. This applies to cassettes, CDs, clothes, drugs, machine guns, car engines and transmission. People left in the car will melt and disintegrate through spontaneous combustion. Cooling time for a car sitting in the summer sun for 1 hour is 1 day with the air conditioner on.

– Finally, please don’t get the wrong impression. Life is really awesome here, tons of friends, tons of things to do, and really nice and genuine people. Everyone is truly helpful and generous. You’d love it!

– Buy a Land Cruiser..

I’ll be in Lebanon from the 25th of December till the 3rd of January (for those who care). Email me your numbers in Lebanon and we’ll get together. My Lebanon GSM mobile number will be XXXXXXXXXX. I’ll be in the States sometimes in March or April.

Happy Holidays, and sorry for the long venting message

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