Unpacking Memories

Time to Write

Life is so busy.

As a paraeducator working in the public school system, I’ve been enjoying a well deserved March Break staycation to rest, rejuvenate, reorganize, and get all the back burner to-do items checked off the list. This has been very satisfying.

I now have a few days left to allow for creative reflection and meaningful written expression.

Time to Reflect

June, 2019 my husband Michael and I repatriated back to Canada from the State of Qatar.

Everything we owned in Qatar was neatly packed up and stored in a small shipping container that sailed overseas to meet us in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Since then, a majority of our belongings have sat in that container because we have basically been living out of a suitcase until the day finally arrives when we can permanently move us and everything we own into our new, personally designed dome home on land we purchased back in 2019. I will explain this a little more clearly further on in this blog.

Along with this, Michael bought SketchUp to design his dream dome home for us. You can read a few steps in this process in the below blog series:

Building A Geodesic Dome Home Series:

Stephanie Joy

Yesterday, we unpacked a few more boxes out of our Qatar shipping container and I happily found my jewellery box. I had forgotten most of what I had in it, and was so pleasantly surprised to find a custom made Arabic pendent saying Stephanie Joy. I had this pendent made to say Joyful Stephanie and Stephanie Joy was either the only translation or what fit in the pendent. I can’t remember.

Arabic design that says "Stephanie Joy". Joyful Stephanie
Arabic design that says “Stephanie Joy”.

Remembering When…

With the items we unpacked from Qatar, I was so happy to be reminded of our time there.

In August of 2015, a few weeks after Michael and I married in Nova Scotia, I packed up my life in this Maritime province I called home and set course for Qatar.

There I would join my new husband to begin our life as expats in the Middle East.

Up to this point, Michael was already settled and had been established in Qatar for a year. He was an international hire, a Canadian from British Columbia working at the College of the North Atlantic Qatar – CNAQ.

I was brand new to the country.

A Whole New World – 2015

I set foot in this Middle Eastern country where:

  • I did not know anyone except my husband’s circle of friends.
  • I did not have a job.
  • I did not have a car or a drivers license.
  • I was in a Muslim country with different laws and culture from Canada.
  • I was expected to follow a dress code.
  • Milk was different.
  • Grocery stores were different.
  • The currency was different.
  • Power outlets were different.
  • Phone numbers were different.
  • The driving style was certainly different in a wild west cowboy style sorta way!
  • Housing was different in that we lived in a villa within a compound owned and provided by the college Michael worked at.
  • The desert climate was very different from Canada’s temperate climate!

I remember waking up and being astonished that every morning was a blue, sunshiny day! It became difficult to distinguish what month was what, as I was accustomed to knowing it was February because of the drastic weather difference, say from August and February.

Honeymoon in Oman

September – December of 2015 was a blur!

Within a few weeks into September, we honeymooned in Muskat, Oman.

You can read more about Oman in the blog below:

Muscat, Oman

Wearing a Teacher’s Hat For a Few Months

In November of 2015, I was hired as a short-term Grade 6 substitute teacher (I do not have a teaching degree – my experience as a paraeducator landed me this job) at the Canadian School of Doha. This school was a P-12 for children of international and national families working at CNAQ. Substitute English speaking teachers were nearly impossible to find in Qatar for obvious reasons. Most subs were local hires, spouses (like myself) of international hires.

I thrived at this challenge as I followed a detailed sub plan. I had so much fun and learned so much! After this amazing gig, I was soon hired in my paraeducator role as academic support at the prestigious American School of Doha, where I worked until we repatriated back to Canada.

Canadian School of Doha

Life in Qatar

Life in Qatar had its bumps and challenges, and life was very good. Life was easy and travel became the norm during school holidays and breaks.

I am so very grateful for the four years Michael and I had in Qatar. Sometimes, we both truly miss living there.

2015 vs 2023

Overall, while in Qatar, I can honestly say that fundamentally I was the same woman I was in Nova Scotia, just a little more free to feel myself as I settled into the world of expat living.

While overseas I continued, as I did previously in Nova Scotia, to struggle with my mental health and alcohol addiction. There was an abundance of alcohol to be found in the Middle East and a thriving expat drinking lifestyle. Michael and I know a Canadian man who died because he basically drank himself to death in Qatar. Not something one immediately associates with a Muslim country. There is Alcoholics Anonymous in Qatar. I did attend, but was not ready to accept I am an alcoholic and give up drinking. I tried, oh, how I tried to manage my drinking….

Today as I reflect I think about how much I’ve experienced since 2015 and have settled more comfortably into my own skin – for a variety of reasons.

I have a blog series called Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder that speaks to my mental health issues and alcoholism. You can find the link on my main page menu.

Unpacking Memories

Since June of 2019 I often find myself forgetting our 4 years experience in Qatar.

Why, you might wonder?

Because, as mentioned, Michael and I have basically lived out of a suitcase since our return to Canada and have not been surrounded by our memories of Qatar and our travel memories we collected while overseas.

And, everything we own in Qatar and Canada is mostly packed away while we journey this long path towards building our dome home and developing our property.

Finding my Stephanie Joy pendant ignited a flame of memories within me.

There is truth in the sentiment of belongings.

While, yes belongings are things, these things hold valuable memories and smiles, heartbreak and growth, and reflect experiences such as travel that brings me back the moment of a purchase or photo taken and the story behind it.

An example would be the framed version of the below photo we unpacked yesterday of one moment while in Giza, Egypt.

Giza, Egypt - 2015 - December 21st  - Sitting on one of the Queen's Pyramids while wearing our new matching Converse sneakers!
Giza, Egypt – 2015 – December 21st – Sitting on one of the Queen’s Pyramids while wearing our new matching Converse sneakers!

This trip to Egypt was a dream-come-true trip for me. When we arrived in Cairo and traveled by taxi to our hotel in Giza, I cried the very first moment I saw those famous pyramids silhouetted in the purply blues and pinks of the setting sun.

Below is the photo of that moment:

Giza, Egypt -2015 - December 20th - Seeing the pyramids for the very first time and starting to cry of sheer happiness and awe.
Giza, Egypt -2015 – December 20th – Seeing the pyramids for the very first time and starting to cry of sheer happiness and awe.

Home is Where Your Heart Is, And…..

COVID, then the resulting Nova Scotia building boom and lack of available trade workers and supplies slowed our building plans by two years. This however has allowed time to fine tune the dome designs and save money as Michael researches products and suppliers.

For the past two years we’ve gratefully lived in the bottom floor of and stored our metaphorical suitcases in (and a whole lotta boxes!) my stepdaughter’s house. We’ve been slow to settle ourselves (not our unpacked boxes!) too much into her home. We’ve been kinda going with the flow as Michael started building the foundation of our home last spring/summer. We had unrealistic yet high hopes we might be moving into the sealed dome in late autumn… but again, the lack of trades people slowed the process and this did not happen.

With yesterday’s unpacking of a couple of boxes, I found myself energized and inspired to allow ourselves to settle into my stepdaughter’s home just a wee bit more. I created a small “living room” space for us and hung more paintings and art in our bedroom.

It sure is nice to be surrounded by a few more of our belongings that reflect meaning and memories for us.

These belongings that create such a nice, cozy feeling of home….

S, 💛

March, 2023 - Waverley, Nova Scotia, Canada - A small taste of home...
March, 2023 – Waverley, Nova Scotia, Canada – A small taste of home…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. mama says:

    Really enjoyed “Unpacking Memories”…So happy you are surrounded by belongings that create such a nice, cozy feeling of home. Your “small taste of home” shelf really has that Stephanie flare.👍 Great Blog..mama..🥰❤️

    1. Thanks mama!! 💛🌼🌼💛

    2. Thank mama!!! 💛🌼💛🌼

  2. Beautiful pics! You have had a lot of fun indeed! I wonder if you have considered an earthship for a future home. I used to live in Taos and there is an earthship community there.

    1. An earthship! Never heard of it… I’ll Google it and check it out! An earthship community sounds like something my husband would love!

Leave a Reply