Category Archives: Grains of Sand

A How much? Encounter

If you are newcomer in Qatar, you may be shocked to get a straightforward question from a stranger: “How much is your salary?”


Been living in Doha for almost 5 years now, I should have been familiar. But still, I am shocked.

#1. I was in a tire shop; changing old tires. Engaging a conversation with the service desk personnel; from cars, tires, nationality, where i work until we finally came to an awkward and shocking situation (at least for me) when he asked how much salary did I get? Very straightforward.

My mom doesn’t even know.

#2. I was giving a ride to a worker from Ras Laffan Industrial City. As usual we’re engaged in a conversation. Until a time, “My salary is QRXXXX a month. How much is your salary sir?” Fortunately I could still control my car 🙂

Even I don’t want my boys know how much his father earns.

#3. I had a quick shopping in one of the Indonesian stores in Doha. A stranger caught me in a mere two minutes conversation. Again at the end, “How much? Ten thousand? Thirty thousand? or more?”

I am sorry. Not your business.

#4. A car accessory shop mechanic was installing roof mount DVD player in my car. I supervised him and unfortunately this got me into the same conversation ending. “Kam? (Arab: How much) Too much? (He tried to speak in a broken English)

My friend, don’t bother with what other grass looks like. Just focus to your job and you’ll get what you dream of.

Oh Doha.


Silent Cancellation

If only I knew…

The story started with a big advertisement from Qatar Marine Festival  in Gulf Times (not sure how many) but the last time I saw was on Tuesday, about Qatar Marine Festival Carnival to be planned on Friday, 11 March 2011, 4-6pm. The carnival is basically a parade of 16 floats with marine motifs and 140-street-artis performance.

And here we go. We had been standby at Corniche in front of Emiri Diwan from 4pm. Unfortunately, until 5+pm no signs of carnival whatsoever. We checked its website, Facebook status, Tentangqatar milist, and Qatarliving if there were any update. None. At 7pm we passed corniche from souq waqif but it’s negative. Morning before I read newspaper and no cancellation notice posted, so i assumed it’s still going on.

Turned out it wasn’t only me. At least three of my friends were waiting in vain. One milister advised us that there was cancellation note in Facebook page! Oh my….

The carnival parade is now part of daily event during festival. Parade will take place twice a day at 6-6.30pm and 9-9.30pm.

Probably it’s not enough for me just to read main newspaper, social website or rely on organizer official website. I should expand my event future telling capabilities….May I recommend that if you want to cancel something already been publicly announced, make it louder, louder….  as loud as you firstly announced it.

In any case, it’s just a grain of sand in my shoes…don’t bother… 🙂 …just no offense. Cheers. Good luck with the festival.

Shrimpy Promise

Shrimp. For some it can cause allergetic incoveniences. For me it caused dissapointment and lead to swearing for not to come again. All is because of “Shrimpy” promise.

I don’t like to be cheated nor false promised. I don’t like my rights are robbed by dishonest practice. And if I am being so, I will be fighting against it.

The story started when I ordered kids meals from Shrimpy outlet at Gondolania Theme Park, Villagio Mall, 1 October 2010. My kids ordered it for they can get toys that come with the meals as indicated in the menu register. It’s only QR13 per meal. After about 20 minutes of so of waiting, my orders came. I checked the box inwhich it has french fries and chicken nuggets. But no toys, in the box nor on the tray. Immediately I inquired the only server why toys were not given. She innocently explained that no toys were given because of late delivery. I asked further whether there would be compensation or price reduction in exchange of no toys. “Sorry Sir, no compensation. We don’t have toys because of late delivery”, she repeated.

This made me gone mad. “This is not right. You have to give me toys because I’ve paid QR13 for kids meal with toys….and on…and on…I went so emotional. “No Sir.” she insisted. Done. It’s clear.

I then returned a box of kids meal to her. “Eat it” I said unheard. Then left her confusedly.

It is not about 2-4 riyal cheap Chinese made toys that come with the meal. I don’t bother with the money spent. It’s more about a false promise, about a poor quality of service from a company that awarded ISO 9001:2000, about customer satisfaction.

Isn’t easy that Shrimpy explains to a customer when orders that no toys come with the meal at the first place so that the customer can decide? Isn’t easy that Shrimpy temporarily covers the word “toy” in its menu register when toy is unusually unavailable? Isn’t easy that Shrimpy just offers a compensation in exchange of absence of toy?

Never mind. I first thought to report it to Customer Protection Hotline but changed my mind. Let it be shared here.

I don’t like to swearing but this time I swear not to come back to Shrimpy for the second time.

As the history has been showing, you can’t underestimate a dissapointed customer . Believe me.

A promise is a promise

As a result of incident that I had, I need to send my car to a workshop in Industrial Area. Going to this area is a struggle in itself. For traffic jams and potholed roads. The service counter staff promised me that my car would be ready within 12 working days and I am expected to give him a call after 10 days. See….for only  minor scratch and dents you’ll need to wait until 2 weeks. I am sure that they will have no customers in Indonesia should this happen there. For the same level of damage, it only takes 3 days in Indonesia.

10days passed. I gave him a call and was told that the car wasn’t ready but would be ready next two days (Saturday). As I was out of country, I was only be able to pick up the car on Wednesday. At about 11.30 AM, I met the same counter staff only to be told that the car was not ready. His supervisor also met me and said that the car would be ready by 5 PM . I said no. You can’t do this. You said that the car would be ready by Saturday, four days ago.

The supervisor asked me go to the garage. I saw two mechanics were working on my car’s door.

“Tell me”, said the supervisor who seemed to expect me understand the situation – as if it would not be able to be finished soon.

“No. You tell me why it is not ready while you promised me that it should have been ready four days ago” I insisted.

“Why do you look angry my friend?”

“Of course I am angry. Look. You promised me when I called you last week that my car would be ready by last Saturday. But now it is not ready”.

“My friend, please, if you can’t keep your promise don’t say any promises!”, I added

The supervisor was quiet, and seemed thinking the way out.

“OK my friend. I will ensure that three technicians are assigned to your car and it will be ready by 2 PM. You know we’re closed at 12 to 1 PM”, the supervisor promised me.

“OK fine. I’ll be around here and be back at two o’clock sharp. And sorry for my harsh words to you“, I smiled.

At 1.20 PM, I was called that the car is ready. The problem is not because they can not do it in timely manner, it is about eagerness to customer service satisfaction:. Keeping a promise is a promise.

Lesson learned is:

– Allow lower expectation when it comes to quality and timely service

– Do regular updates

– Insist if you are deserved what you have been promised to get

Strange DHL Routing

Recenty I sent a document to Balikpapan, Indonesia via DHL. This is the first time I use DHL in Doha; normally I do with a postal service: EMS. With a tracking tool via its website, DHL provides up-to-date information to my document whereabout. What surprised me is the route that DHL took to deliver my document. Instead of directly sending to Indonesia, or at least to Singapore first, DHL rerouted my document to London, then to Germany. The result is the same delivery duration as EMS. I dropped my document on Monday night at DHL Office, Salwa Road and received in Balikpapan on Saturday afternoon.

Have you experienced the similar strange routing?

DHL Strange Routing

Homesickness starts with the food!

Che Guevara once said that the first sign of homesickness is missing the food. Unfamiliar foods make you homesick for everything else?

I couldn’t agree more.

Bayangin dari sejak kecil kita dijejali oleh makanan itu-itu, lalu ketika kita di luar negeri kita dicerabut dari jejalan makanan itu. How can we not be homesick? Jangan heran kalo ada denger cerita temen yang pergi ke Houston dan yang selalu dicarinya setiap hari adalah makanan padang. Dan temen yang bersangkutan tidak mau di-assign ke luar negeri untuk jangka waktu lama karena takut homesick dengan masakan padangnya. Tentu saja homesick ini ada tingkatannya. Ada yang baik-baik saja dengan makan jenis makanan baru, ada yang tidak bisa tidak harus makan nasi, ada juga yang di antaranya. Temenku yang di atas tentu saja yang agak parah tingkatannya.

Fortunately, ada banyak cara mengatasi homesick akan makanan Indonesia. Berikut di antaranya:

1. Ikut acara kumpul-kumpul orang Indonesia. Yakin deh pasti salah satu atau semuanya menu Indonesia

2. Berburu makanan Indonesia. Ada tiga restoran resmi Indonesia di Doha – yang aku tahu: Central Restaurant di Umm Ghuwailina, Restoran Minang di Musheireb, dan Qatindo di Al Ghanim Bus Station. Di luar itu, banyak penyedia makanan Indonesia tidak resmi. Tidak resmi maksudnya tidak terdaftar sebagai company tapi sudah diketahui umum menyediakan secara terbatas atau based on request makanan-makanan Indonesia. Contohnya di belakang McD Al Wakrah, di Qapco Accommodation di Al Wakrah, di banyak tempat di Al Khor Community, di 7Pearl-Doha, dst…Soal rasa? Ada yang karena keterbatasan bumbu kurang menggigit tapi banyak di antaranya gigitannya lebih kuat daripada gigitan anjing herder.

3. Bawa bumbu dari Indonesia atau beli bumbu di sini lalu masak sendiri di rumah.

4. Sewa koki dari Indonesia yang sedang bekerja di sini. Seperti yang pernah kami lakukan dengan menyewa salah satu koki kenamaan restoran terkenal di sini untuk pesta tahun baru 2009 lalu. Yang ini tahunya dari mulut ke mulut dan koki yang bersangkutan juga kadang fully booked.

5. Mencicipi makanan lain sejenis. Masakan Thailand bisa dicoba karena bumbu dan rasanya agak mirip. Sudah coba Supreme Fried Rice-nya Thai Chi di Villagio atau Thai Snack di Al Mirqab? Rasa masakan Filipino beberapa di antaranya juga mirip dengan masakan Indonesia.

6. Turunkan addiction Anda terhadap masakan Indonesia . Ya saya tahu perut kita sudah punya filosofi: Belum makan kalo belum kena nasi. Bisa-bisa cacing di perut teriak-teriak. Tapi menurunkan addiction ada baiknya jadi Anda akan siap menerima masakan baru. Sekaligus ini pengalaman baru menikmati makanan setempat. Belajarlah dari Pak Bondan “Mak Nyus Pemirsa” Winarno yang sudah terlatih menerima segala jenis masakan. Jangan salah, masakan setempat juga banyak yang enak-enak. Aku sendiri senang menikmati dessert Mid-Eastern i.e. baklawa, Umm Ali, Kunafa atau masakan lain seperti hummous, shawarma, khebab.

Masih homesick juga?

Sama. Tapi aku bukan karena masakannya. Wong anggota Jalansutera kok homesick with the food. Aku kangen ama suasananya, atmosfernya. Duh, mana bisa kita duduk di luar malem-malem nungguin mie tek-tek lewat, atau sarapan ama bubur ayam si mang yang lewat pada jam yang sama setiap paginya. Atau jalan dikit di pinggir jalan makan pecel lele, sate ayam atau soto di warung. Teh botol dua Mas!

Siapa suruh pergi ke Qatar Wahyu!

Jika kau jauh: the emotional cycle of deployment

Berada jauh dari pasangan untuk waktu yang lama jelas membawa konsekuensi emotional. Apalagi mereka yang punya siklus pergi-bertemu regular dengan jeda pergi lama dan ketemu yang singkat. Banyak rekan yang bekerja pada plant yang masih dalam tahap konstruksi tidak diperkenankan membawa keluarga, tapi dikasih fasilitas pulang setiap 3 bulan untuk 10-14 hari. Ada juga yang mungkin sudah berbulan/tahun tidak pulang lalu pulang untuk 1-2 bulan dan pergi lagi. Ketika bertemu pun pasangan membutuhkan beberapa waktu untuk resettle – karena begitu banyak yang terjadi dalam sekian bulan dan pasangan punya banyak hal untuk dikejar . Siklus seperti ini mengaduk-aduk emotional dan ikatan antar pasangan.

Bagaimana sih siklus emotional pasangan dengan kondisi seperti ini?

Contoh yang paling mudah adalah tentara, yang dikirim ke daerah konflik (deployment) untuk say 6 bulan atau lebih, kemudian pulang tapi belum sempat establish relationship yang semula sudah disuruh pergi lagi. At some point pekerja dengan ritme seperti tentara juga mengalami hal yang mirip.

Stage 1: Anticipation of loss

Typically occurs four to six weeks before the partner leave, and is a period marked by increasing tension – which allows emotional distance between two.

Stage 2: Detachment and withdrawal

Happens in the final days before departure. Couple feels that they should be enjoying the last few days but feel a sense of despair and hopelessness. Sexual intimacy can be difficult, and partners often feel that they want to get on with the leaving part.

Stage 3: Emotional disorganization

The first six weeks after departure. Initial sense of relief, followed by guilt, numbness, aimlessness, and loss of purpose for one left behind. New routines must be established – feelings of being overwhelmed and difficulty sleeping/excessive sleeping are common. The deployed partner feels loneliness and frustration.

Stage 4: Recovery and stabilization

The partner at home starts to cope, and adopt the role of “single spouse”. New freedoms emerges, stress  levels drop and the separation becomes bearable.

Stage 5: Anticipation of homecoming

Happens up to six weeks before homecoming. Can be a time of mixed emotions, such as apprehension or excitement. Those returning may be worried how they will be accepted. Restlessness and confusion may occur.

Stage 6: Renegotiation of marriage

Occurs up to six weeks after reunion. Couples are together physically, but not necessarily emotionally. Some left behind may feel a loss of freedom and independence. There may be feelings of being disorganized and out of control. Sexual relations may seem frightening. Couples need time together to become reacquainted before they can expect true intimacy.

Stage 7: Reintegration and stabilization

Happens six to 12 weeks after homecoming. New routine have been established, spouses feel relaxed and comfortable together again.

Lalu apakah hubungan seperti ini selalu berarti hal yang buruk? Tidak selalu – seperti peribahasa “absence makes the heart grow fonder”.  Menurutku sih yang terbaik adalah usual 5-2 office work cycle. Kalopun harus on-off, siklus 2 weeks on 2 weeks off adalah yang terbaik. Serasa pengantin baru terus, kata temenku.

At the bottom line, setiap orang tahu bahwa kunci dari berada jauh adalah komunikasi. Kadang karena masing-masing tidak mendapatkan kabar secara regular, mereka akan kehilangan perspektif dari dunia masing-masing pasangan. Beruntunglah kita yang sekarang berada dalam gelimang teknologi. SMS, MMS, webcam, email, weblog, dst memberikan banyak opsi untuk berkomunikasi. Yang kedua adalah menekankan niat, bahwa berada jauh ini adalah konsekuensi dari keputusan untuk mendapatkan hal yang lebih baik yang telah diambil bersama dan kita harus konsisten dengan itu. Ketiga, berada jauh bukan alasan memudarnya perasaan kita terhadap pasangan, justeru kita harus mengambil kesempatan dari jauhnya ini. Semacam ujian kesetiaan, ujian romantis, yang kalau lulus that will make the heart grow fonder. Taiye?

(Source: mainly from The Times)