Rye: Rye Says
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Doha, etc.
I am Ryan Jay Espinola. I have been called by a lot of nicknames – rj, espi, xych, u’jie – but I prefer how my ex-gf, now wife, calls me – Rye. I am a Filipino, for those unbeknownst: it means that I’m a citizen of the Philippines. I am a registered Architect and Master Plumber. I moved to Qatar close to five years ago through my brother-in-law’s incitement. He applied me to his company and luckily, I got hired. The rest, as they say, is history.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I always say that Architecture is my profession but Writing is my passion. Ever since I can remember, I have loved writing and the communication arts, in general. Back in high school though, I was more involved into acting so I didn’t realize earlier that writing would be my passion. If I did, I would have pursued journalism than architecture.
But I digress; I started blogging when Friendster – the Facebook a decade ago, offered the service. I remember my first post was when I turned 21. After Friendster, I blogged on different sites but I always failed to update regularly until I moved here to Qatar. Moving here opened up different occurrences and adventures I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced back home and since my memory is not that good, documenting those events is really important to me, that’s why I blog.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I can’t decide which entry is my favorite. I love all of them because it brings back memories I truly treasure. I know those are history and they often say not to dwell on the past but for me, the past is very important coz it is what made you who you are today.
Based on my blog’s stats, my reader’s favorite is my simple stand against a political issue on-going back then in my home country about my profession (Civil Engineers.. Respect Please).
If I really have to choose though, I’d choose my travelogue entries which, unfortunately, are still incomplete. I have only written Day 01 and Day 02 of my family’s HongKong Trip, I still owe 2 more days on that country. I also failed to write my Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand’s travel. Luckily, I wasn’t lazy to write about my latest trip to India which is very short but super special. I love these because it is my ultimate goal to travel the world.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Doha differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I love being here as much as I love being home. Whenever I go to the Philippines, I feel secure being with my family and long-time friends. There, I love the lack of restrictions and the freedom to do just about anything. On the other hand, being here in Qatar makes me feel a sense of fulfillment because of my work , what I’ve built and am currently building, which, I’d love to think, helps in developing Qatar in its goal to be a key player in the world.
It was easy for me to get used to Qatar but I did lose something when I moved here. It’s some sort of freedom – the chance to do whatever I want whenever I want it. The rules, lifestyle and culture here is very different from what I am used to, so, total adjustment had to be done. No alcohol and pork (you need a license to buy these), no public display of affection with a woman not your wife (I moved here unmarried so dating was hard), no packing up and travelling whenever I decide to (exit permit from company is required) – there’s too many to mention.
For the faint of heart, this new environment will break you but for people like me, who are flexible, all you have to do is understand their religion and with that, you’ll understand their culture. Being open to their way of thinking, their traditions and their customs will lessen or totally erase the shock. Always remember that you are in their country so you’d have to follow their rules. In a way I lost but truly, I gained more because I was able to practice great values.
To be brutally honest, discrimination and racism is prevalent here if you will let it. Being a Filipino, some expat nationalities tend to have more privileges while some even have lesser. These rights are all ours if we take it. I personally believe that you’ll only be discriminated if they notice that you feel inferior to them. Stand tall and treat them as equal, if you do this, they’ll respect you as well.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Doha? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Having a relative here, I believe I was briefed enough to be prepared for what I was getting into. If I could change something, I guess I would save more. I lived an easy breezy life here that it’s almost 5 years but my assets, though noticeably augmented than before, could have been better if spent wisely.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Be careful in pushing your limit! A week before my very first vacation, my friends and I decided to go to Sealine and ride an ATV. It was my very first time to try it. In Sealine, there are two sand dunes that you can ride ATV on. The lower sand dune is easy to traverse but be extra careful on the higher one coz there I fell. Luckily I only had scratches. Worst thing that could have happened is if the ATV fell on me. Anyhow, I went back to the Philippines with bruises and wounds on my body. What a last hurrah.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Doha?
- Choose your company wisely: research about the company you’d be working for because they will literally own you. Here, the company or your sponsor has the power over your every decision. The license to buy alcohol and pork, they’ll decide whether they’d give you a No Objection Letter or not. Your travel plans, they’ll decide whether they’ll give you an exit permit or not. Most companies tie you to them so that you can’t change companies without going back home. There are some companies who are lenient and indulgent but there are some companies who abuse their rights too. So be very wise in choosing… you wouldn’t want to be trapped.
- Have a fitness routine (i.e, sports, jogging, etc.): I don’t know whether it’s the food or the water or just the lack of discipline but really, most people who come here gain weight a week after they arrived. We call it Qatar Weight so if you want to keep your body the way it is, better be disciplined enough to exercise. Believe me, I gained a lot and can’t get it off.
- Don’t just pack clothes and stuff, bring lots of respect and understanding too: you will have a great deal of adjustment to make because the culture here isn’t the same as yours, although there are some who are already open-minded, rules here are still strict and religion-driven. As I mentioned earlier, the only way to eliminate bad circumstance is to accept things the way it is, to respect their way of life and to understand that you are here so you better follow their rules.
How is the expat community in Doha? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Filipinos, I believe, is the fourth biggest group of expats here in Qatar. There are a lot of Filipinos here so no, it’s not hard finding like-minded people. What’s even better is that some prominent architects here in Doha made a way for the United Architects of The Philippines to have a chapter here. I am glad to be part of this organization.
Aside from my “kababayans” (the term we use which means “from the same country”), I became friends with other nationalities mostly through work. Other means of finding future friends are by joining leisure groups, varying from sports to recreation. There surely is some sort of group here that will cater to whatever you like. Just be open to meeting new people and fresh experiences and you’ll discover a lot of interesting facets of life.
How would you summarize your expat life in Doha in a single, catchy sentence?
My expat life in Doha is a surreal chapter in my life’s book which is yet to be completed but has already affected what was and what is to come in the greater scheme of things.