My sister and I have never spoken

Clare has Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder affecting mostly girls.

Clare has Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder affecting mostly girls.

My sister and I have never spoken.

That’s not because we had a huge falling out as toddlers, or because I find her objectionable.

Clare never learned to speak. Well, she did utter a few words as a baby, I’m told, but lost the ability to form them almost as soon as they’d arrived.

I was a toddler then, so I’m unable to recall the sound of her voice. I often wonder what she’d sound like, and what she’d say if she could. Would she have chastised my teenage dress sense or told me my first boyfriend was a loser? Probably (she’d have been right on both counts.)

Clare has Rett Syndrome. It’s a genetic, non-hereditary disorder which mostly affects girls. As well as not speaking, she can’t walk, feed herself, and has no use of her hands.

Although she’s 36, we believe that her awareness is toddler-like.  She is a very happy soul, laughing and smiling a great deal. She adores music and loves tasty food. Sad music makes her cry. She also thinks that Dire Straits are the height of musical genius, but let’s forgive her that.

I’m writing this because October is not only Breast Cancer awareness month – it’s Rett Syndrome awareness month too.

My Mum founded Rett Syndrome UK when we were children. It’s a charity which supports the families of those with Rett Syndrome, and funds research into the disorder.

If you or anyone you know has a child who seems to be losing skills they’ve learned, who has unusual hand movements and is lagging behind in physical development, it’s worth taking a look here and asking your doctor about Rett Syndrome.

 

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A three-part series on giving birth in Qatar

Megan Sparks/Flickr

Megan Sparks/Flickr

I recently wrote three stories for Doha News about the state of maternity services in Qatar. They were the result of a lengthy process of research, multiple interviews and communication with hospitals (where it was possible – Al Ahli hospital refused to reply) to get their responses and points of view.

The first piece was about systemic issues which midwives and doulas working in the country allege make giving birth in Qatar at times unpleasant, overly-medicalised and in the case of a restriction on opiates, very painful.

The second piece carried on in this vein, examining the aftercare new mothers do (and do not) receive from medical facilities in Qatar; and in the third piece, I spoke to three women who had experienced miscarriage and stillbirth in the country. It was a depressing story to write, and all three women called for change in hospital policies.

The comments underneath each story are very interesting. There’s a real mix – some women were clearly delighted with the care they received, saying that it was far better than in their home countries, while others argued strongly that the opposite was true.

Have you given birth in Qatar? What was your experience like?

 

 

 

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“My name is Catherine. I am in desperate need.”

Catherine and Adam

Adam and Catherine at Doha’s Hamad International Airport

“My name is Catherine. I am in desperate need.”

The email arrived in my inbox just before bed on December the 9th, 2012. I’d had an ordinary, well-off Qatar expat sort of day; the drive to and from school twice, a morning of writing, a coffee with a friend in the afternoon, and a trip around the supermarket.

Catherine’s email cut through my privileged, cushioned, segregated life like a serrated knife through butter.

She told me that she had been following me for some time on Twitter, and had read an article I’d written for the Telegraph about the birth of my son in a Qatari hospital. It was this that had prompted her to pose me some very pressing questions.

“I just don’t know where to ask” she wrote. “I want to know if you have any idea about the laws here in Qatar regarding giving birth without a marriage certificate and single?“

It turned out that Catherine was 37 weeks pregnant, and single. Having sex outside of wedlock and giving birth unmarried are both illegal under Qatari law; the two crimes are usually referred to colloquially as “love cases.”

I knew a few single Western women who’d got pregnant unexpectedly in Qatar. They’d either flown home on the first available flight or got married post-haste.

Neither option was open to Catherine, however. Her boyfriend had left her, and she had given her passport to a private money lender as security for a high interest loan.

She had tried to persuade this lender to give it back to her so that she could fly home to the Philippines for a few months to give birth, but he had refused. She was late with repayments and he had lodged a court case against her for “bad cheques,” another criminal matter in Qatar.

“I have made some bad choices and took risks that were beyond what I could manage. I regret all that” she wrote. “I do not plan to run away from my obligations because If that was my plan I would have done it long way back. All I want is for my baby to be safe and not be taken away from me. I’m worried and I’m scared of that.”

I could see, even with the sparse details she had provided me with, that she was in dire straits.

I typed a response frantically, telling her that my (basic) knowledge of the Qatari legal system told me that she needed to get out of the country immediately, if she possibly could.

She and I both knew, however, that she was already beyond the safe limit for flying in pregnancy, and barring a miracle, all airlines would now refuse to carry her.

I also told her to pay her embassy a visit, and she promised she would do so the following day.

Reassurance

The next evening, I received an email update. She told me that her embassy had advised her that she could deliver her baby in Qatar, but that she would have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate for her child afterwards, as she was unmarried. They also told her that they could offer her accommodation if her employer sacked her after the birth.

Freestocks.org / Flickr

Freestocks.org / Flickr

She seemed optimistic after the meeting. “I hope and pray that all will be well” she said.

I was reassured by her email, and filed it at the back of my mind to follow up on after Christmas.
The festive season came and went. In January, I duly sent an email to Catherine asking how the birth had been, and how things were with her in general.

I received no response. At this stage, I wasn’t unduly worried. Her email about her visit to her embassy had been reassuring, and in my world – the world of the well off, professional European expat – these sort of things resolved themselves without too much drama.

It took some months before I had a sense of growing dread about Catherine’s case. By the summer, I realised she was never going to respond to my emails. I tried once more to get in touch, and receiving no response, I resolved to try to find out what had happened to her.

The problem was, I wasn’t even sure of her nationality. I’d originally assumed she was Singaporean, but the Singapore Embassy told me they’d never heard of her.

In jail

Next, I called the Philippines embassy. I was put through to several different people – and I gave a rambling explanation about Catherine to each – before I finally reached the vice-consul. I explained why I was calling, and in a calm voice – a voice which told me he said this stuff every day, to many people – he replied “ah yes, Catherine. Yes, she’s in prison here.”

The vice-consul confirmed that she had been arrested in hospital after the birth of her child, a son. He reassured me that mother and baby were together, and that he had visited her in jail several times. I asked if I could visit, but I was told that only family members or embassy officials were allowed to visit Qatar’s main jail.

my_southborough/Flickr

my_southborough/Flickr

After we’d established the facts, he invited me to the embassy to talk about the case, and it was as a result of this conversation that Doha News ran its first piece about ‘illegal birth’ in Qatar, an interview in August 2013 with another Filipina woman, who had given birth in secret, as she was also unmarried. We included a short quote from Catherine’s email in the story.

Catherine’s year-long jail sentence was due to end in December 2013, but the date passed, and I didn’t hear from her. I hoped that this meant that she had left Qatar and put everything behind her, her contact with me included.

In February 2014, however, I got another unexpected email.

This time, it was from a friend of Catherine’s, Maya. She told me that they’d been in jail together, and that Catherine had asked her to make contact with me so that she could ask me to visit her.

Despite having finished her sentence for ‘illegal birth’, Catherine was still incarcerated. The authorities had sent her and her son to the country’s deportation center for a while, before finally realising – after Catherine repeatedly urged them to check her files – that she had outstanding debt cases to answer in court.

A visit

I agreed to go to visit Catherine at the Capital Security building in central Doha, where prisoners awaiting trial are held.

Capital Security doesn’t look like a jail. It’s a large, modern complex with attractive architecture and mirrored windows, and it’s flanked by palm trees. There is no barbed wire – just a man in a booth who checks visitor IDs as they pass by.

Beyond here is a courtyard full of parked cars, and two flights of steps leading up to separate reception areas – one for men and one for women.

I was greeted by friendly female guards, who looked me up and down quizzically. Catherine’s friend was with me, and she took the lead. I was relieved about that, as I was nervous. I was visiting as a journalist rather than as a friend, and I didn’t know if the authorities would permit that if they knew.

My name and residence permit number were listed in the register, and I was asked to leave all of my belongings, including my notebook, with the guards. We were then asked to sit down briefly on the majlis style seating in the reception area before being ushered into a side room.

Here was a single row of plastic chairs, all facing segregated booths mounted on a counter, topped with inch-thick glass. There were grills beneath each window through which prisoners and visitors strained to communicate with each other.

Catherine came to sit down on the other side of the glass, cradling Adam. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and had her hair tied back neatly. Adam was more than a year old now, and walking. He was wearing a Hugo Boss t-shirt, a gift from the jail’s governor, and he was smiling broadly.

As we talked – a difficult task as the room filled up and visitors all began shouting into the grills, each struggling to be heard in the hubbub – Adam waved and made smeary hand trails across the glass.

The story I wrote after this meeting – with quotes from memory, hastily scribbled down after I’d left the jail – detailed her story thus far. Known in the piece by the alias “Mary,” I explained that she now faced a series of “cheque cases”, court cases due to unpaid debts. Some were for her loans, and others were for rent she had been unable to pay while in jail.

Somewhat incredibly, the authorities had not told her how many charges she was facing, so she had no idea how long her future jail term might be.

A friend was helping her gain access to her legal file so she could defend herself in court, but aside from that, she was on her own. Several scheduled court dates had already been cancelled, a symptom of Qatar’s incredibly congested legal system. She told me she hoped that the court might order her release so that she could work to pay off the debts, and so that Adam could grow up outside of jail.

As our meeting came to an end, Catherine signaled to security staff, asking them to bring her son to the other side of the divide.

They handed Adam to me beyond the security arch, through which we smiled and waved at his Mummy.

A bus in Doha. Jabiz Raisdana / Flickr

A bus in Doha. Jabiz Raisdana / Flickr

I took him through to the reception area, where we both looked out through the double doors at the car park outside and the road beyond.

“Dar,” he said, pointing to the cars parked outside. “Buuus” he said, delighted at the sight of a real bus.

I asked if I could take him for a walk outside, but the staff said it wasn’t allowed. Instead, Adam held his hand to the window, staring at the traffic passing by in the distance, eventually being persuaded to return to his mother inside.

Catherine asked me if I’d visit her again, and I agreed.

A return visit

I went back two months later. On the previous visit I’d asked what she needed, and she told me she was short of clothes, and that she loved to read, but had read most of the English language novels in the prison library.

I arrived loaded with shopping. A friend had bought her a selection of brand new children’s books and some novels, and I’d also bought toiletries for them both, as well as clothes and toddler snacks. The guards told me I would need to ask permission from the “Captain” – the policeman in charge of the jail – so I duly walked outside and entered through the men’s entrance on the other side.

The Captain’s office was on the left as we walked in. He was on the phone, but ushered us into his office and gesticulated at two chairs, separated by a table, upon which sat a box of tissues and some sweets.

Salem (MA) Public Library / Flickr

Salem (MA) Public Library / Flickr

When he ended his phone conversation, he asked us, in a pleasant but slightly exasperated way, why we were there. I garbled something about gifts for Catherine and her baby, and he nodded. He asked to see what was in my bag. I watched him take each item out and examine it. He opened the brand new box of children’s books and checked each book, presumably for drugs or some other contraband.

He initially refused the toddler snacks until I explained that they were for Adam. Then, with the same lack of ceremony with which we’d been received, he dispatched us back to the women’s section with his approval.

The female guards took the bag, and then we walked once again into the room with the plastic chairs and the glass screens. Catherine appeared, bearing the bag, and a huge smile. I watched as she removed each item from the bag, examining the books, the toiletries and the clothes in turn.

I’d given Adam some of my son’s old clothes, and she held them up to him to check the size. After a long chat about her legal situation – still no clearer than before – we prepared to say goodbye. This time, though, she had something for me – a little knitted pouch, along with a home-made envelope and note. Catherine had been learning to knit in jail.

Back to main jail

In July, I heard from her friend that she’d been sent back to the main jail to serve a sentence for debt. Neither she nor I knew what her real legal situation was. We kept in contact as Catherine tried to get her court documents translated.

Then that October, I had an email out of the blue from Catherine’s cousin, Kristina. She’d read the story Doha News had run and wanted to ask if I was writing about the same woman. She said Catherine had been calling her Mum every fortnight from Qatar, but that apart from that, the family had no idea how things were, or how to help her.

“We’re in a desperate situation, both Catherine and our family. Your article somehow gave us a glimpse of hope that we will be able to finally make progress with her case” she wrote.

She added that the family were trying to raise funds for a family member to fly to Qatar to try to help.

I confirmed that I was indeed writing about Catherine, and I told her I’d recently visited her. We exchanged further emails over the following months, trying to make sense of Catherine’s court appearances and sentences.

Time dragged on; my husband got a new job in the UK, and we left Qatar for good in April 2015. Despite my new surroundings, though, I hadn’t forgotten Catherine and Adam.

A surprise tweet

Then in late October 2015 – more than a year since I’d last seen Catherine, I received another unexpected message, this time via Twitter.

“Hello, it’s me :)” it said.

Catherine and Adam were out of jail in Doha. She’d been woken early that morning, unexpectedly, and told to pack their things.

The pair had initially been placed in the country’s deportation centre, but Catherine had complained that the overcrowded, unhealthy atmosphere was bad for Adam’s asthma, and the authorities had agreed. She was released into the care of distant family members in Doha, and aged nearly three, Adam now had his first taste of life beyond prison walls.

Adam in Doha after their release

Adam in Doha after their release

Catherine hoped she would be home in the Philippines by Christmas. Her father had died while she was in jail, and she hoped to be reunited with her mother as soon as possible.

It was not to be. It turned out – after a great amount of digging and multiple fruitless visits made by Catherine to various government offices – that she still had several civil debt cases hanging over her.

This meant a travel ban. She and Adam could not leave Qatar until they were resolved, and as she was supposed to have been deported, she couldn’t work either. She had no income and no way of paying back the loans.

I wrote another story for Doha News explaining her new predicament, and it was after this that I received an email from a lawyer who was interested in helping out. Kristen Johnson, then of law firm Squire Patton Boggs, successfully persuaded her colleagues to work pro bono on the case.

Travel bans lifted

Catherine and the SPB team met regularly and in April this year, she messaged me with great excitement. The Ministry of Interior had removed her travel bans – effectively forgiving the civil cases – and she and Adam were free to leave.

Catherine and Adam in the offices of law firm Squire Patton Boggs

Catherine and Adam in the offices of law firm Squire Patton Boggs

Thousands of miles away in London, I cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted their freedom.

Her family wasted no time in booking her flights, and on April 25th 2016, Catherine and Adam flew out of Doha’s Hamad International Airport bound for the Philippines.

When they walked out of arrivals in Manila, a whole crowd of Catherine’s family were there to meet them – cousins, aunts, her niece – and her mother, who she hadn’t seen in over four years.

Her return home is bitter-sweet, however. Her mother has kidney failure, and requires weekly dialysis.

“She looks okay though, but still it scares me,” Catherine told me after her return. “But I’m glad I am finally here with her and I want Adam to have memories with her and my family.”

Despite all this, she remains upbeat. She has plans to apply for an Australian work visa, and hopes to take Adam with her.

A life lesson

adam3

Adam, photographed after his return to the Philippines

What strikes me most about Catherine is her resilience and her lack of anger.

She told me that she initially felt anger towards Adam’s father for leaving them, but that she has forgiven him, and that she is now focusing on moving on. She says she has no anger towards the Qatari authorities, as she knew she was breaking the law, and she knew that there would be consequences.

Just after she was released, she told me that her ordeal had given her a new appreciation for life’s opportunities.

“Every single thing – every little thing that you can do today – do it, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she said.

I learned many valuable lessons during my years as an expat, but this particular lesson from Catherine is one that will stay with me forever.

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After years in Qatar jail, Filipina mother and son finally head home

Catherine and Adam in the offices of law firm Squire Patton Boggs

Catherine and Adam in the offices of law firm Squire Patton Boggs

Earlier this week, a long and painful saga came to an end. Catherine and Adam – previously known by pseudonyms Mary and William in a series of  Doha News stories – were finally able to leave Qatar, more than three years after Catherine was first arrested in hospital for the crime of giving birth outside of wedlock.

I wrote a story for Doha News yesterday about how her departure came about; about the efforts of a legal team who, after reading about her plight in DN, fought for the lifting of her travel ban. The story has been shared more than four thousand times in 24 hours. Click here to read it.

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A cautionary tale: Laid-off expats stuck in Qatar scramble to pay off debts

Kenneth Paton (left) and Tim Reeber

Kenneth Paton (left) and Tim Reeber

Earlier this week, I wrote an article for Doha News about the plight of two American paramedics who had been made redundant by Qatar’s Hamad Medical Corporation, but couldn’t leave the country as they had debts to pay. Even worse, they weren’t sure they’d be allowed to get another job to help pay them off. The possibility of jail – a normal punishment for unpaid debts in Qatar – beckoned.

If you’re an expat and you’re contemplating taking out a large loan in Qatar, read on… 

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A letter to all expectant mums: Five things I wish I’d been told before giving birth

 

Photo: Teilhard Scott

Photo: Teilhard Scott

As the birth of my first child approached, I knew I had it.

I had it nailed, motherhood. I had read every pregnancy and childbirth book I could find. I’m a journalist – I read constantly and research things for a living, and this was no different.

I’d researched my birth plan (gas and air first please, epidural a last resort, try to avoid an episiotomy); the right equipment (the bouncer, the play mat, the Baby Bjorn and the buggy I didn’t yet know how to fold); and the strategies (at all costs, avoid rocking your baby to sleep – shush, pat, shush, pat in the cot ad infinitum instead.)  I was clearly onto a winner.

And yet, twenty four hours after my son had been delivered by caesarian  – that section in the back of What To Expect on breech deliveries had come in handy – I felt like I was on the losing team.

Despite my detailed examination of breastfeeding diagrams, I had completely failed to get my son to latch. He lay in a cot next to me crying, and the nurses said he’d probably need to be given a bottle.

All of the depictions of childbirth I’d read about and watched were a million miles away from an operation I’d found frightening, and post-operative pain worse than any I’d previously experienced. I’d almost fainted trying to sit up, and my husband and a nurse had pretty much had to carry me to the toilet. After which, they’d fanned my face as waves of nausea gripped me and refused to let go.

When friends visited in hospital I pasted on a smile and I look reasonable in the photos of the event, but I know the truth. I was drowning in what I perceived to be my failure. I was not ecstatic and full of the joys of my new-found motherhood; I was petrified, out of my depth, and finally facing up to an unavoidable truth – my life had just changed absolutely, and there was no way back.

I remember feeling very angry with the mothers I was close to. Why had no-one told me this was how I would feel? The books I’d read focused largely on the pregnancy and the birth, but stopped abruptly after the delivery. I realised I knew loads about growing a baby, but pretty much nothing about how to keep one alive. Or, when it came to it, how my life was going to change, and how best to deal with it.

Recently, a close friend in her 40s told me she was expecting her first baby. I was delighted for her, of course; almost six years on from the mind-fog surrounding my son’s birth, I know that motherhood is a glorious gift, one I’m incredibly lucky to be experiencing.

But I also decided to tell her the truth. As she sat opposite me in a restaurant, eyes sparkling with delight, I made a choice to be honest. And she’s still talking to me, luckily.

So, here it is. Here’s what I wish someone else had said to me before I became a mother. If they had, I’d have realised that I wasn’t alone, and that’s a powerful thing.

It’s ok to be a bit crap

Some mothers just look amazing. There’s a woman who drops her child off at my son’s school every day, whilst carrying another one in a baby carrier, and pushing two more in a buggy. Four kids, and she still wears nice clothes and manages to look like she hasn’t got dressed in the 60 seconds between nappy changes and cleaning breakfast from the floor.

Meanwhile, I know my clothes are often covered in child-detritus, our buggy is covered in mud, and my brain is so addled that I regularly forget things and have to return home to get my son’s gym kit, despite the fact that he needs it on the same day every week.

Letters from school asking for costumes for assemblies and plays make me come out in a rash (I feel sufficiently guilty to still attempt to make things rather than buy them, but I’m not sure how long my son will continue to tolerate this – my last attempt at a beard was an airline eye blind with cotton wool buds stuck on it.)  And then there are birthday cakes. I try to make these too, and I have cried Every.Single.Time. Mostly with laughter.

The thing is, most mums feel like this most of the time. That mum with four kids probably feels the same, and Lord knows, she definitely has an excuse. Be gentle with yourself. Love your kids with all your heart and they’ll forgive you most things (hopefully.)

Breastfeeding is very hard for some people

Both my mother and mother-in-law were breastfeeding advocates, so I felt an enormous pressure to feed my baby myself. And of course I’d read the books and knew the significant benefits. But Lord, I found it so hard.

I know women who’ve sailed through the whole thing.  I guess they have nipples that point out perfectly to help the baby latch, a baby without a tongue-tie and a lot of support in the beginning stages.

It turned out that my journey was a hell of a lot more complicated, though. It was only with the help of a dedicated midwife, silicone nipple shields and a breast pump that I managed to keep it up for nine months. I also turned to mix-feeding – supplementing with formula twice a day – and it worked for us. Sometimes it’s reassuring to see the milk disappear from a bottle – either formula or pumped – and absolutely know that your baby is getting the nutrition it needs. They don’t say that in the books, but there you have it.

Your career will probably to take a knock

I remember thinking that having a baby would be a great break from my career. I know! How bonkers is that. I had a very demanding job working shifts, and I was tired and stressed. I believed that having a baby might give me a new calling, and a reason to step off the treadmill. Little did I know that I’d actually miss it. I discovered that my job had defined me far more than I thought; I’d worked hard for years to get where I’d got to, and it really meant something.

By contrast, I realised my new job was motherhood, and that I really wasn’t very good at it.  It’s a 24 hour job, seven days a week, which you can never resign or take a sick day from. It’s poorly paid and it’s pretty thankless until your little one begins to interact with you, so that’s quite a few months of mopping up sick, poo and wee without so much as a giggle.

The realisation of all of this made me want to return to my old job quickly, but I also realised that motherhood had made that tricky. If you earn less than your partner (and of course individual situations differ), it’s natural that you will probably be the one who has to find a job that works around childcare.

One of you has to, at any rate, and in my case, it was me. You’ll need to find a job that allows you flexibility for kids’ sick days and school holidays, and that works around childcare options. Often, those jobs are not as well paid as your previous one, or as high-ranking.  On the plus side, stepping off the career treadmill can turn into a blessing – you get an opportunity to reinvent yourself, and that can be lots of fun.

Great expectations, March 2010

Great expectations, March 2010

Your night life is dead for the foreseeable

When my son was a few months’ old, I ventured out to a mums’ coffee morning. Everyone else seemed to know each other and they were densely packed together in tight groups, but I managed to perch on the end of a table and the two mums nearest to me gaily asked if we were planning to have another baby. I looked aghast. One of them laughed and said “Well, my life was ruined already, so the second one was easy”. She and her friend roared with laughter. I didn’t find it funny.

Now of course I wouldn’t say my life has been ruined (reader, we had a second baby, and I still have friends and a job) but golly, my social life is unrecognisable.  

To give you an idea – we just went to the cinema for the first time in FOUR YEARS.  In order to go out after dark, we now need to kid our five year old son that we’re staying in (he has the ears of a bat – he can detect a babysitter from miles away) AND justify the cost of someone coming. Plus we can’t leave until the children are in bed, because they are very fussy about who does their bedtime routines. So anything that starts before 8pm like, you know, concerts and plays – they’re out. For years.

Anti-depressants are not an admission of failure Motherhood is the biggest adventure of your life, but like all adventures, it’s full of highs and lows, and for some, those lows are intense. The muddy cocktail of hormones you experience immediately post-birth causes many women to weep, but if it lasts longer, seek help. Several months after my son was born, it became clear that my baby blues were something of a permanent feature. A doctor put me on a low dose of an anti-depressant, and while admitting I was struggling made me feel like a failure, the pills themselves made me feel hugely better, very quickly. I was a better mother because of it, and I now strongly advocate more provision for mental health support for young mothers. Post-natal (and ante-natal) depression are both very real, for many women. Don’t feel embarrassed. Please.

So there you have it. That’s what I’d have like to have known before I embarked on motherhood. It’s certainly true that some women, the lucky ones, find only joy in motherhood, and that is a wonderful thing. But this is for the others, the ones who stumble a bit, who trip and fall before finding their feet.

Two very important things I’ve learned: Motherhood is a constantly evolving skill that cannot be learned from a book, however much you read. 

And it’s also an incredible gift – but one that may just take a little longer to unwrap than you imagined.

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Woman jailed for drug smuggling in Qatar blames system for plight

The National Crime Agency / Flickr

The National Crime Agency / Flickr

Recently, I co-wrote a story for Doha News about Martha Castellano, a Colombian woman who is in jail in Qatar for drug smuggling. Her story is complex and views on her predicament were mixed, but it certainly gives an interesting insight into the workings of the Qatari legal system.

Click here to read it.

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Filipina expat: Being jailed with baby in Qatar ‘blessing in disguise’

Mary's son, William

Mary’s son, William

Earlier this month, I wrote an update for Doha News about ‘Mary’, the Filipina expat jailed in Qatar for giving birth out of wedlock and her son, William. They both ended up spending a total of three years in jail together in Doha, and Mary gave me a very honest and insightful interview about life behind bars in Qatar.

The conversation we had about her arrest in her hospital room four days after her son’s birth will stay with me forever, I think.

Click here to read the story on Doha News, and here if you’d like to contribute to a family fund raising money for Mary to hire a lawyer.

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‘I lost most of my savings’ – The cost of risky financial advice in Qatar

Images Money / Flickr

Images Money / Flickr

Last month, I spent several weeks researching and writing this story for Doha News about the financial advice industry in Qatar, and the bad experiences some investors have had with advisers in the region, both regulated and unregulated. It sparked a lot of interest, with many people sharing their experiences – both good and bad – in the comments section below.

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Qatar Airways 777 sees ‘substantial’ damage after takeoff incident

Peter Russell / Flickr

Peter Russell / Flickr

Earlier this month, a Qatar Airways 777 hit the Approach Lighting System at Miami’s airport on take off, causing “substantial damage” to the aircraft. Despite this, the crew continued the flight as normal and the aircraft landed safely in Doha. Significant damage to the aircraft’s belly was discovered by ground crew afterwards, and the accident was reported to the USA’s FAA, which is investigating.

My resulting story for Doha News was incredibly popular. Click here to read it.

(Although I’ve now left Qatar, I’m still working for Doha News as Editor-at-Large, which means I’m still contributing stories, particularly those in which I have a special interest.)

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