REVOLVING DOOR PUTS SPIN ON IDENTITY
“DAD, I’m sad. Sebastian is going back to Venezuela, and he’s not coming back.” Yaqeen delivers the news with a deep sigh. Fortunately, though, I know just how to cheer up my 6-year-old son.
“Yes, Sebastian is going to Venezuela, but only for a short holiday to visit his grandparents. His dad told me they’ll be back in Doha in a few days,” I smile. “Daaaaaaad, you’re talking about Sebastian B! Sebastian V is not coming back. Don’t you know the difference?”
Evidently not, it seems. Confusion aside, though, it’s not the first time Yaqeen’s seen a friend leave Qatar at short notice, and it won’t be the last. He just needs to ask his 11-year-old brother, Aqeel, and 8-year-old sister, Saabirah.
They’ve experienced it on more than a few occasions. It’s the lot of the expat family in the Gulf – we can be uprooted in the time it takes to say “we’re sorry to inform you that your contract will not be renewed”.
While some parents are forced to change their plans at short notice because their services are no longer required, others seek a return to familiar pastures so their children can finish school in their home environments. But the expatriate flow in and out of Qatar, and particularly capital city Doha, is constant. The latest census figures show a total population of around 2.7 million, with the number of foreigners unofficially numbering as many as 2.3 million.
Egyptian, Spanish, Syrian, British, Bangladeshi, Indian, Venezuelan, German, Swedish, Pakistani, Filipino, American, Somali, Palestinian, Canadian, Irish, Malaysian, Nigerian, Kenyan – and not forgetting South Africans – people from all around the globe are flocking to this immensely wealthy, yet relatively small, Gulf state in search of opportunity.
Throw a dart at a map of the world and you’ll hit a country whose citizens are working in Qatar. In one hour, let alone one day, you could deal with a plethora of nationalities. That’s a lot of Sebastians and Sebastians.
I take another stab at raising Yaqeen’s spirits. “I’ve got an idea,” I tell him, “how about we organise a play date with Mohammed if he’s available today? Won’t that be fun? He can come over to our house after your piano lesson this afternoon.”
Yaqeen’s reaction takes me by surprise, yet again. “Daaaaaaad! You know Mohammed’s got swimming today. So he won’t be able to play with me.”
Now I really am confused. “But I thought Mohammed had swimming on a Saturday morning – that’s why he’s never available then.”
Yaqeen replies slowly, as if that will help me understand. “Dad, you’re thinking of Mohammed S. Mohammed H has swimming today. Don’t you know the difference?”
Sorry my boy, guess not. But between all the comings and goings in Qatar, who can blame me?
Dad, you’re thinking of Mohammed S. Mohammed H has swimming today