NO matter where you live, life will throw up a few changes, but when you live in Qatar, changes are more frequent and have more impact.
In Ireland, we’d be surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and an established community, but in Qatar people become pivotal in your children’s lives.
Friends leave, and every year, they see new people come and old people go, until they find themselves reticent to place too much value in friends or people because, ultimately, they will be gone. Enter: the focus on inanimate objects.
Look at an expat Facebook page and you’ll see it, a request for a replacement dolly, toy or teddy. Usually the original is lost in an airport, packed in the wrong box and stuck in a container somewhere mid-ocean and they’ve a child who’s feeling misplaced and the only thing that can bring comfort is the misplaced teddy! I was this soldier.
We left Kitty on an Etihad flight 18 months ago. To say we left him on it might be slightly incorrect as we know we had him on the flight and don’t know if we took him off and lost him in Dublin Airport. Perhaps Kitty ventured back on the return flight alone and is back in the Middle East posing as another family’s mascot. Either way we don’t have him.
Every time a friend said goodbye or things went wrong, Kitty’s name was mentioned. Eyes would fill with big fat tears and the words, ‘even Kitty is gone, forever’. I had enough, I couldn’t bring, Julie, Jake or Jeff back, but I could replace Kitty, surely.
Amazon.com and long hours spent googling black and white toys cats, careful not to mis-google and type black and white pussy, because if the sentiment of the former was sweet the later would end up in being arrested and getting 100 lashes in Qatar.
Lo and behold I found him. The very one, a lot perkier than the one we lost but I’d easy rough him up when he arrived: 28 days later, he came, a brand spanking new Kitty. The black acrylic glistening with newness and his head held high, a result of plump stuffing. Roughing ‘Camina the Cat’ up and changing his identity to Kitty might be harder than I thought.
I referred to old photos. Kitty had a guzzy left eye, very lacklustre fur and was floppy to the point his head hung low. I started that night, with a tennis racket against the back wall; Carmina the Cat was bounced back and over until his lustre began to fade. To accelerate wear I dragged him along the wall, hoping for a pulled thread or two. I noticed the neighbours brought their children in from outside.
Still looking a little fresh, and needing a walk myself, I tied Kitty (the name was changed but we were still waiting the final op) with a string and I walked around the compound, happy to get my steps in while making Kitty feel more like himself. The neighbour again, waved, hesitantly. Acrylic is resilient. It was still fresh, I steeped him in flour, water and milk, the acrylic washed clean.
I rubbed him down with a bar of soap and left him in the sun and to finish him I off, I lay him down, opened his belly pulling all the fluffy and replacing it with little beany bags which I found inside other unimportant teddies, to give him a well-worn feel.
I was just finishing the final few stitches, the wound ended up quiet extensive as fluff had to be removed from his head also, when my neighbour, the same one who witnessed the beatings off the back wall and my walking around the compound with the cat on the string, happened to walk in. ‘Is everything ok?’ she said, looking down at the kitchen counter which was covered in fluff and the skins of the unwanted beany teddies, ‘nearly there’, I said, breaking the thread between my teeth. I picked up the scissors and with one quick stab, cracked his eye, ‘Kitty is back now’ I said, ‘unfortunately, I can’t bring humans back’.
‘You OK,’ I asked her. She replied: ‘I was going to tell you I’m leaving, but I’d rather you left down the scissors first’.