The Smorgasbord House

When moving to your new home in Qatar, it's unrealistic to expect 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. You may well end up with your own version of a Lego block house ... and you might end up quite pleased ... even quite happy despite it all.

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Tim Hortons Etiquette 101 ... Lessons on how to order a Timmies in the ME ...

Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee and donut chain, venerated by Canadians more as a community gathering place than as a coffee shop.

Tim Horton's Menu in Arabic ...

Some would argue that life's greatest lessons are learned not at home, nor at school, but at the local Tim Hortons.  This Canadian institution is in fact where many key curriculums are covered, including but not limited to:

  • Vocabulary:  Tim Hortons is rumoured to have coined the phrase ''double-double''
  • Maths:  What are the odds of bringing home a car in the ''Roll up the Rim to Win'' contest?
  • Science:  What chemical properties in Tim Hortons coffee render it so addictive?
  • Social studies:  What is it about Tim Hortons that causes strangers of all ages, races, religions to be willing to share a table and exchange life stories over a steamin' cuppa?
  • Innovation and sustainability:  Tim Hortons invented the Timbit, thus reducing waste by creating a whole new donut from the donut hole traditionally discarded by less progressive bakers.
  • Time management:  Tim Hortons drive thru's have mastered the art of efficiency.  No faster can you say ''I'll have an extra-large double-double with an everything bagel, buttered on one side only, and a french cruller'' than it will be all packed up and delivered through your driver's seat window.  Mind boggling.
  • Finance & Economics:  Where else can you still get a soup, donut and coffee for under 10$ Canadian.
  • Meteorology:  EVERY Canadian blizzard is immediately followed by weather enthusiasts who congregate at their local Timmies to resolve once and for all how much more timely snow removal would have been if the city had only invested more in dump trucks and salt.

All of this, coupled with the fact that it is Canada's largest food service operator, surpassing even McDonald's, tells you that Tim Hortons is no flash-in-the-pan franchise.  It is indeed an industry unto itself.

Needless to say, Canadians in Qatar were thrilled beyond belief when it was announced that Tim Hortons would finally be piercing the Doha market back in 2013.  For years we'd gracefully swallowed Turkish coffee.  But there was no hiding it - the year Tim Hortons opened its franchises in Doha is the year a Canadian pulse truly started beating in this desert city.  

We were willing to live with the fact that you couldn't get a proper BLT sandwich (just not the same without pork bacon), and that the shop name carried a ''Cafe and Bake Shop'' suffix (just sounds a bit posh for the likes of the veteran Timmie's crowd).  But there are some offences that Canadians are still struggling with about the Doha Tim's rendition almost two years after it first set up shop.

I've listed a few of the more glaring ones below.  And I swear to you that I have personally been witness to every single one of the following Tim Hortons etiquette breaches.  Canadians, be warned, you may find this offensive, and may choose to not read further.

Patron:  ''Hi.  Do you sell Krispy Kreme donuts?''  (Blasphemy!)

Patron:  ''Can I please have the iced cappuccino, but please don't make it to cold.''  (????)

Patron:  ''Yes, I would like the Canadian Maple donut, but without the maple please.''  (Seriously ... Canadian WITHOUT Maple?  That's like expecting yin without yang.)

Patron:  ''Do you have Turkish coffee?''  (Uhmmmm, nope.  No falafel either.)

Staff:  ''No, I'm sorry Sir, we only have American coffee.''  (PARDON ME????)

Patron:  ''Why don't you write my name on the cup?  Starbucks always writes my name on the cup.  Yalla, please write my name on the cup.''  (No one would EVER dare try this in Canada; you would risk being barred for life.)

Staff:  ''Ma'am, we're out of Canadian Maple donuts.  Would you like to try the croissant with Zaatar?''  (Deep breaths, deep breaths ...)

Staff:  ''I'm sorry Ma'am, the coffee machine's not working.  Would you like some iced tea instead?''  (I think I might have to slash my wrists now.)

Staff:  ''Ma'am, do you want your iced cappuccino cold or warm?''  (There is NO SUCH THING as warm ice, people!)

I mean, just how Canadian do you expect your Canadian Maple donut to be if you take the maple away folks?

International Community, please take me seriously.  Tim Hortons is the java beast icon of Canada.  

It is the only supplement we need to get us through -50C winters and 8 feet tall snowbanks.  

It has sustained many a university student through final exams, mothers through their child-bearing and rearing years, and fathers through double shifts at the plant.  

It has helped heal international rifts, paving the way for peace negotiations.

It has helped economically disadvantaged children develop lifelong skills that help them bring a positive attitude and commitment to their lives and their futures. 

It cannot be treated as just another commodity.  Many would argue that Tim Horton's is the heartbeat of our Nation.

I beg of you - the next time you're at Tim Hortons in Doha, simply treat the shop with the simple reverence it commands.  Don't overcomplicate things or try to pull an ''elongated double java iced frappe latte with caramel sprinkles''-type manoeuvre on the hapless staff.

Simply walk up confidently to the cashier, order a large double-double and a box of Timbits, ask the cashier about her mom's health, take your tray, go sit next to a lonely patron, offer up some Timbits, and start up a conversation about the weather.  

And do NOT - EVER - again make mention of Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts while inside a Tim Horton's establishment.

It's that easy.

PS We even write songs about Timmies.  That's how seriously we take it.  Click on the link below for a glimpse into how the average Canadian feels about his/her   ''T-I-M     H-O-R-T-O-N-S'' (song by Johnny Reid).

Gypsy in the ME goes social with her first BloggingMEetup ...

Today was a small step for me, a giant leap for GypsyInTheME.  

''I'', ''me'', aka ''Gypsy the antisocial blogger'',  attended a BloggingMEetup, hosted by the incredible Kirsty Rice and Sarah Derrig at Blogging ME.  If you haven't heard of these two ladies, chances are:

  1. you're missing out because you haven't yet checked out 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle
  2. you're missing out because you haven't yet checked out Lady Sadie's Emporium
  3. you haven't been checking out the New & Newsworthy section on iTunes or you would have seen that Two Fat Expats is rockin' the charts
  4. you're missing out!  Click on those links peeps!

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand.  You see, I'm not a social butterfly; not in realtime, not virtually.  I am the epitome of the kid playing ''the tree'' in the school play; swaying in the wind in the background, happy to be a witness to the action, but perfectly content to be a part of the backdrop.  


Much like that tree in a play, I like to think I'm a part of the bigger Qatar blogging community, an element that contributes to the star quality that is out there, that brings a bit of colour and movement to the set, but that wouldn't be sorely missed if ever the show had to carry on without it.

I revel in my semi-anonymity; it brings me great comfort to write, and that's really more than I'd ever hoped to achieve from starting up this blog.  As I told one lady I met today, my blog has actually pushed me to delve deep, deep, deep into the good and the bad of living in Qatar as a Western expat female, and it's shown me that if I delve deep enough, I'll always find something good.  If someone finds my blog and they like it, bonus.  If no one ever reads it again but it continues to provide release, good enough.

I'm afraid to be discovered.  Not like I think I'll be ''discovered'' like some hidden miracle writing talent; ''discovered'' as in ''found out'' for the really amateurish, elementary, and ''not-a-clue-what-she's-doing'' blogger I am.  

The reason I went to the meet up was partly to get to meet my fellow Doha bloggers, but mostly to support Kirsty, who I know socially, and Sarah in their incredible initiative to connect Middle East bloggers.

I was terrified to even share the name of my blog when I arrived at the meet up venue this afternoon.  I sat there with the likes of A Girl and Her Passport, and Only in Doha, who write with such relevance and are so connected to what people actually want to read.  There were numerous other ladies who are in the developmental stages of their blogs.  The latter are hard at work developing very professional pages that are tailored to their audiences and have a theme, a niche, a following.  All these talented bloggers have put such care and thought into colour schemes, backgrounds, borders.  They've got logos. Most if not all have very active Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages associated to their blogs.  

And then there's me.  I'm the one who went with Squarespace ... because it was easy and I didn't have to worry too much about the look and feel.  I just had to write and post photos displaying my piss-poor photography skills.  I rarely, if ever, think about whether I'll be pleasing an audience.  If the code for superscript is too much of a headache, I just go with italics.  I don't have a niche because my theme (living, breathing, working, driving in Qatar) is so broad as to include the 2.5 million people living in Qatar, yet boring and overdone enough so as to attract only about 4 of the total population (and that would include Smilin' Vic).

But you know what?  This awesome group of talented ladies made me feel so incredibly welcome in their midst, and as I listened to the lady from Texas tell me about her 80-year-old mom setting up to record a podcast I couldn't help but feel inspired.  

After all those gathered on how great her fashion images were, another blogger talked about the humiliation she sometimes has to put herself through to get the perfect shot or selfie.  

As I listened to them talk about what motivated them to always get better at their craft, I was motivated to try a little harder.

It was so nice to put real-time faces to the blogs.  One of the girls told me she had pictured me in her mind and was happy to finally put a face to the blog.  When I asked her if I was what she'd pictured, she told me she'd imagined someone a bit more relaxed.  Yup, I am THAT awkward in social situations! 

So for her, and for the lady who stands in her front yard taking selfies where the light hits 'just right' so she can get ''the perfect shot'', I took this selfie with Kiddo tonight ... to prove to them and myself that I CAN take a selfie, and I can be relaxed when the mood is right and I'm home alone in my onesie!

Thank you BloggingME, for infusing the social into the gypsy, and for inspiring me to go just a tad beyond my limits :-)