The Smorgasbord House

Just a note ... most of this post was written almost a month ago already, a mere two days after our move, when I was still ''Internetless''.  I also need to explain that our move was managed through my husband's company, as is often the case for expats in Qatar - as such, we're limited when it comes to options and barely got to see the house before the move.  We've since settled in, held our annual 'fake birthday' party for Kiddo, and started to remember which cupboard we've stored the coffee cups in.  Like I said in my previous post: little has changed, yet nothing is quite the same.

The Smorgasbord House

After an extremely hectic two weeks, the move is done!  No more worrying about whether old furniture will sell or fit through the new doorway, whether Kiddo’s school bus will be there to pick her up at her new address, whether we’ll be able to sleep in our new surroundings.

Humans adapt extremely well to change when it’s the only feasible option. 

Everything’s done. And frankly, looking back on it tonight, it all went amazingly smooth.  All but two rooms are sorted, Kiddo’s thrilled with the flurry of knocks on the door and new friends popping in daily, and we’re taking a little breather before getting all the frames hung on the walls.

We’re also taking in this foreign living space.  Because of an extremely short timeframe, we never looked much beyond the bare fittings of our new home before moving in.  Yes, we’d visited the house, but it was in the midst of major maintenance & renos at the time, so it was hard to see beyond the exposed plaster, the paint on the floor and the dead cockroaches on the doorsill.  

We checked to make sure the lights were working, the water running, the toilets flushing.  We measured a few rooms to make sure our stuff would fit.  

We balked a bit at the size of the backyard; it was slightly smaller than we’d hoped for.  But it was still twice as large as what we had before.  

We were happy that the parking bay had plenty of room for both our cars and Smilin’ Vic’s bike.

We loved the way the sun lit the house bright.

And at the end of the day, we knew this was our ONE option.  We wouldn't be offered another chance.  Take it or leave it.

We were, after all, moving for the community, not for the house.  And we knew that in Qatar, you can never get it ‘’all’’.  You may have to forsake an amazing kitchen for a grand yard.  You may have to give up the extra bedroom to get a top-of-the-line gas cooking range.  You may have to forgo the compound of your choice for a stand-alone villa if you want to live within reasonable distance of your child’s school. 

Much like Quebec poutine, you'll likely find something to love and to hate about it:  you’re pretty much guaranteed what I'll call a ''morning-after'' combo.    

But this was our ONE option and we were hungry.  So we went for it.

It’s on Day 1 of the move, while unloading the kitchen goods, that we started to note a few true oddities in our new digs (beyond the kitchen sink draining directly onto the kitchen floor and the bathroom sink that had fallen out in the upstairs bathroom).

I'm guessing this wasn't part of the original design feature?

Firstly, the kitchen cabinets.  Why in the world were they such an odd combination of yellowish-beige and gray?  Why were there about 22 varying models of light fixtures scattered throughout the house?  Why were there five different types of flooring on the ground level?  Why did we have two patio doors opening side by side at the back of the house?  Why was the backyard a mishmash of marble, interlocked brick and grass?  Why did each bathroom in the house have such distinct tile schemes and polar opposite colours?

Someone, somewhere, apparently thought this colour combo might work?

It was like some random stoner had smoked a big doob and gone house decorating to keep the munchies at bay. 

Moving from a house tastefully decked out with wooden kitchen cabinets and fairly rustic and subdued tile work throughout, the randomness of this house's decor was an assault on our senses and initially a little hard to digest.  

When the property manager popped in on day one to update us on ongoing repairs and to see how we were settling in, I took the opportunity to grill him on it.  ‘’Why, I asked, would anyone in their right mind think all these things would work well together?’’  Which is when he explained that we’d actually moved into one of the compound’s four ‘’demo/show houses’’.  Each had been crammed with options for the purpose of showing potential tenants what the eventual fit-out potential might be.  He assured us this made these the best villas of all.

In that second, the cacophony of design and colours melded into one crystal clear image of strangers perusing our villa as the rental agent explained that they could choose ''this tile, that tile or the linoleum.  Would you prefer the beige cabinets or the grey?''

We’d been given a multi-coloured Lego block version of a house!

I was appalled for all of about 30 minutes. 

Until I decided to take a break in the backyard.  Until I heard the wind gently rustling the banana tree leaves.  Until I heard another 9-year-old knocking at our door to see if she could join in the roller-blading party happening in our as-yet unfurnished living room.  Until we all fell asleep, bone-dead tired, in our old beds and new rooms.  Until Kiddo woke me up excitedly the next morning, so excited that she’d been awoken by a bird chirping on her window sill.  

Until I sat down here tonight in my garden under the bougainvillaea with my laptop and a glass of wine. 

Under the bougainvillaea is when and where I decided I quite like our Smorgasborg house.  I quite like the orange tile, and the beige tile, and the grey tile, and the brown linoleum on the floors.  I’m starting to appreciate the burgundy bathroom, and the fluorescent green-and-pink one, and the black and white one and the beige one.  The extra patio door let’s so much light in, and allows me a full view of our garden … the one that’s chock full of banana trees, bougainvillaea, and lime trees.  The kitchen cupboards?  Well, they’re quite the conversation piece, aren’t they?

The house is good, the garden is good.  

And the community spirit we so desperately sought?  We found it.  Every single time another 9-year-old knocks on the door.  Every single time a neighbour has said hello.  Every single morning when we sit in the backyard sipping coffee.  Right here, in our Lego block version of a house.  Right here in our Smorgesborg villa.  

I love it all.  

I am blessed.