Monday, April 30, 2007

Off yet again

I'm off to Bahrain for two days to write my accounting exam and meet with some clients. These past few months I've just been Mr. Jet-Setter. Many of coworkers are starting to get annoyed "are you off somewhere AGAIN?". Many of them haven't been on a business trip for upwards of a year.

It's getting hot in the Gulf now so I'm not sure how much time I'm going to spend wandering around Bahrain - and taxis there are a ripoff. You have to haggle with them each time and they utterly overcharge but more times than not the drivers are pretty cool. They are always Bahraini and once you settle on the fare they are generally friendly and talkative. The last Bahraini cab driver I was with happily answered my friend David's questions about having more than one wife ("a real headache, don't do it") :)

Anyway, wish me luck (about the exam, not the taxis)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Getting a cold

Arrrrgh, I have to leave tomorrow for Bahrain for meetings and to write an exam and I'm coming down with a cold. I hate colds. I get colds fairly often, I figure that since there are 200+ viruses that cause them by now I'd have gone through over half of them. Just by process of elimination I should get colds half as frequent as before - but no. Thankfully I don't think that this will turn out to be a bad cold, a bad cold being one where you have to sit in bed all day feeling miserable, with the assistance of some d-rugs I should be allright for tomorrow. I hope.

In other news locals' driving skills continue to maintain their already poor standards. One coworker related a tale from the weekend where a guy took a roundabout way too fast and flipped his Land Cruiser, another mentioned how hanging out at certain roads at 3am is a great way to see rich and stupid teens taunt death by going 200km/hr+ in BMWs and Lambourginis. Yet another discussed almost getting wiped out by a car doing 130km/hr in an 80 zone and promptly changing 3 lanes. Without signalling. During the night. Without headlights. Traffic police generally won't touch locals and even if they did so something a fine like QR1000 (~$275) is nothing to a Qatari driving a Lambourghini. Jail time is the only serious deterrent that I can think of but it will be a while yet before the police and court system imposes something like that on a local.

I need to look up the stats on vehicle fatalities sometime, should be interesting.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Okay, I'm back

Back from my trip to the Dead Sea. It was for a 3-day seminar but it was still great to go somewhere different, and the resort where the seminar was held was very nice.

Went into the Dead Sea a couple of times and whattya-know, you really do float in the stuff. The Sea is about 10 times saltier than the ocean so not only can you not sink in it, you really have to be careful not to get any in your eyes or drink it. A little bit was near the corner of my mouth so I instictively brushed it with my tongue - and it caused a mild burning sensation. Ugh. If you swallowed a mouthful of it you'd probably be in great discomfort for days.

I watched a fly accidently land on the Sea and it was dead in 30 seconds. The Sea is aptly named.

I had a number of interesting chats with a seminar participant who was Palestinian. Needless to say life in Palestine is not a bowl of cherries. Is was interesting how he just accepted the stuff that happens with a sort of "that's just how life is" mentality. Spending hours at checkpoints, the inability to travel nearly anywhere, permit restrictions (his wife is Jordanian but her Palestinian visa expired, so if she leaves Palestine she wouldn't be let back in. She's stuck there until it's sorted out. It's been years.), economic collapse, and so forth. It was unnerving to hear just what life is like for your average Palestinian. And it also made me grateful for being who I am and where I am. He hopes for peace but doubts that it is coming.

I never asked why he doesn't try to leave. With his wife being Jordanian you'd think he could live in Jordan. Maybe he's not allowed to, I don't know.

So take a step back and look at your comfortable life, and note that even if you don't think things are great it could definately be worse.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Off on business

I'm away on business in Jordan until Friday. Plan to have a nice long float in the Dead Sea too.

As an aside: T-shirts that have "Ramones", "Sex Pistols", or that image of Che Guevera are completely and utterly past their time. Wearing them does not make you look rebellious in any way, it only makes you look like a sheep who thinks its cool to wear stuff 30 years later than actual rebellious people. Che Guevera must be rolling in his grave about how he's become little more than a capitalistic fashion icon for wannabe rebels who probably have never read anything he's ever written, or know anything about his life.

Another rant about the media

Well halfway across the world and however many days after the Virginia shooting I still can't turn on the TV news without seeing big reports about the shooter, his photos, his plays, his life. BBC World even was so low as to discuss the complaints by the police of NBC showing the videos/pictures, while showing the pictures and videos in a splitscreen. Al-Jazeera English, which claims to show a "different perspective", has been giving this as much focus as the other networks it pretends to be different from.

And yet at no point in time has BBC or Al-Jazeera provided that kind of coverage about the victims. Not their names, their dreams, their goals in life, nothing. Hey BBC, maybe some of the victims wrote plays too! Ever consider reading them to viewers?!

Oh, and thanks for the 15-second update on how 100,000 people died in Darfur. Feel free to go back to Virginia now to talk to your expert-of-the-day psychiatrist for 5 minutes about what the shooter had for lunch that day.

The shooter is dead and yet he won. He wanted fame and knew how to get it. Sent pictures to a network who happily gave him what he wanted. He not only killed dozens of innocent people, he used their deaths, and the grief and pain of their families, to propel himself into a sick form of immortality. Just like he wanted. And the media gave it to him - a parting gift from people who apparantly will walk over 30+ graves for ratings.

I hate the media sometimes. I just hate them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On fixing things and media attention

One of the nice things about living in a compound is that there are dedicated maintenance guys whose job is to fix whatever goes wrong in your apartment. If I have a problem I don’t need to grab a phone book to look up a plumber, electrician or whomever, I just have to call the main office and have the maintenance guys sent over.

What makes me even more fortunate is that the maintenance guys in my compound are a) competent and b) quick. Usually once or twice a month I hear horror stories from coworkers and other people living in other compounds about problems with maintenance staff. Guys who have to be shown how to do their jobs, or show up one to two weeks despite repeated calls about your washing machine being broken, or both – having guys who don’t know what they are doing show up after one or two weeks. And there is no choice in the matter, if you call someone else then you are paying the bill out of your own pocket, if the security staff even lets the repair guy in.

At my compound you call and they are there within an hour looking at the problem. I’ve only needed them a couple of times but both times everything was fixed promptly and I had no further problems since (which is a good thing since one of the things they had to fix was an air conditioner!). It’s like out of those 1950’s futuristic shows, just push a button and suddenly people show up to fix things!

The maintenance guys will be getting a nice bonus from me this Christmas.

As a side note I’ve been seeing all the media coverage of this university shooting in the States and have come to two conclusions:

1) similar disasters in non-Western countries would get about 1/5th the coverage;
2) the media have provided the shooter with what he wanted, attention and fame. He went from unrecognized nobody to having everything he did and wrote being scrutinized by millions;

Both of these issues indicate something wrong today with media. Now item #1 I don’t blame US media for, the shootings happened in the US so it is natural that they’d give it lots of coverage; but why were BBC and Al-Jazeera providing live feeds and tons of coverage? Repeated bombings taking out dozens in Baghdad get a news story of a few minutes on those networks, a US school shooting gets repeated and lengthy multi-day coverage. I don’t get it.

As for item #2, it wouldn’t surprise me if this trend increases the problem of these kinds of incidents occurring in the future. Now lonely suicidal nutcases know that taking a bunch of innocent people with them before they go will give them the attention they deludedly think they deserve. Just touch on the shooter’s name and move on, don’t dwell on them. I wonder if this nutcase was mentioning Columbine because he liked the attention those killers got?

Anyway, rant over, time for the weekend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The classics never die.

Sometimes the classics never die. Remember hearing about, when phones were first coming into widespread use, how people were worried that if they spoke with a sick person over the phone they could catch their disease? That somehow germs transmitted themselves over phone lines? I guess it wasn’t a big leap of logic if you didn’t know how a phone worked – you could hear the person, so why couldn’t germs travel with the voice as well.

Well, some classics never die. According to numerous press articles there was a panic in Pakistan and Afghanistan because some prankster sent messages around about a deadly “cell phone virus” that would kill you if you answered the phone when certain numbers were trying to contact you. The rumour spread like wildfire, some people actually went to hospital figuring they had caught the virus, and many religious leaders were fooled as well. Newspapers had to publish statements from the various Telecom companies stating that it was a hoax because the telecoms were receiving hundreds of phone calls from panicked customers.

If this happened in North America or the UK I’d be railing right now about how education needs to be better funded and critical thinking taught in schools before hoaxes like this do real damage. But in countries like Pakistan or Afghanistan where for many a good education is simply a dream and families have greater problems, like finding food, then picking out colleges for their kids, I’m not surprised that many people would be taken in by the hoax. I don’t blame them for not knowing that viruses do not travel through cell phones, nor that it could transmit frequencies that could cause instant-brain injury – how would they know? I just hope that one day things will settle enough that poor people in those countries have access to good education.

Of course, I still want more critical thinking to be taught in the West as well. We may laugh at the cell-phone hoax, but meanwhile Westerners watch Oprah talk about ‘the Secret’, buy the latest New Age self-help book, take homeopathic meds, and wonder what our horoscope is like today. Same difference.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I have joined the 21st century.

Okay I have now made the technological jump and got myself hooked up on Skype. It took me a while to get it figured out but my friend Knut had asked me to do it - if only because long-distance calls are a real burn $$$-wise. I tried it out today and it worked. No visual though, but I'll see what I can do to get that set up as well.

So between starting a blog and being on Skype I'm a 21st century man! (No, I consider this blog a reasonable cover for not having a MySpace account so I'm not planning to get one.)

Maybe I'll start a dot-com franchise next! :)

Anyway if you have a Skype account and want to talk let me know. Time zone differences can make this a bit of a challenge, but I'm sure we can work something out.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A trip to the nightclub

I rarely go to nightclubs, it just isn't my thing. Even in high school, university, my 20s, I just was not big on going to clubs. I'm not a big drinker either and when I go out with friends I prefer chatting with people, something that is difficult to do when there is music constantly blaring.

Last night a coworker asked if I wanted to head out for a few drinks, there was a new nightclub nearby so he suggested there. I figured what the hey, I haven't been out for a while and I'm always willing to see somewhere new.

So here it is - standard nightclub experience in Doha:

cover charge QR90 (about US$25), included two drinks though. Believe it or not door fees like this are pretty standard here, possibly to keep out the riff-raff (labourers) or so that the club can at least make some money off of those guys who have no intention of paying money for overpriced drinks. Speaking of which:

Overpriced drinks. A beer was something like QR24 (~US$7) and spirits at least that or more. My friend and I considered having Bushmills and coke and he asked the bartender how much for a double. The bartender said QR167 (~$45). We said that he could put the bottle back on the shelf. I think at the liquor store you could pay less than that for an entire bottle.

music: supplied by a, I think, Philippino band playing various cover tunes. I think there is some kind of industry in the Phillipines that creates cover bands so that they can find work in the Middle East, pretty much every bar I've been into in the Middle East that has live music has a Philippino band playing it. Maybe the clubs can bring them in cheaply? That said, they were an excellent band.

crowd: it was a big club and it was packed (>500 people I figure) by 10:30 so it was definately a happening place. Problem is that in Qatar the vast majority of the population are ex-pats, which means that they are mostly men working in construction, oil & gas, finance etc. And I think that Qatari women would, in general, never be seen in a nightclub. I could be wrong about that but I don't recall seeing any Arab women in the club that evening. So that means a severe gender imbalance occurs at almost any establishment. In this case I figure the man-woman ratio was around 8:1, maybe worse, which meant a lot of guys just hanging around. It is tough for a single guy to meet any ladies in this town.

By 12:00 my friend & I had had enough. "I feel like I'm in a gay bar" I recall him saying. If someone from the West just landed in Doha and walked into this club he'd probably think the same thing.

At least it reinforced why I generally don't go to clubs . . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The job

One thing you might have noticed about my blog is that I don’t discuss work. Well guess what – it is because I’m never going to blog about work.

One thing about being a regulator is that a lot of stuff that crosses my desk is confidential. I have access to private financial information on companies as well as other materials on their controls, pricing, etc. Keeping those things confidential is a big deal, in fact in my contract I’m required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Disclosing confidential information could land me in serious trouble with the law, including fines and jail time. In Bermuda disclosing confidential information held by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (where I last worked) could get you 10 years in prison. Not worth the risk as far as I'm concerned.

Also blogging about work is a surefire way to get in trouble. At least once a month you hear a story about some fool, usually in London or New York, who either emails people about something personal, or blogs about something at work that later comes back to haunt them. One I remember was while I was an auditor. Someone secretly videotaped a woman (an audit manager at a different firm) at a party in a compromising position. [No I wasn’t at the party and haven’t seen the vid so I’m not sure what it was about]. It circulated quickly around her office and someone accidentally forwarded it to a client. When the dust settled the guy who took the video and the person who emailed it around the office were both fired, and I believe the audit manager was transferred to a different office because she was so humiliated.

So the last thing I want to do is get in trouble blabbing about work via a blog. Just the other day one of my coworkers told me that he found my blog while Googling something about Qatar (cool!). If I started griping about coworkers or my job it wouldn’t take much for a coworker to figure out who I’m talking about – and probably start emailing my blog around the office.

So work is fine. It always will be. Thanks for asking.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Oh boy - the dentist!

So today was my dental appointment to get my teeth cleaned. Like most people I do not look forward to dental visits but I suppose it is a necessary evil. Rather than moaning about it I should be grateful that I have medical insurance that covers dental, it wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t. I remember during my student years when I went without seeing a dentist for at least 2 years – and the resulting problems from doing so (gingivitis).

Now I build up tartar at a rate faster than most people – I definitely need to have my teeth cleaned at least every six month or else tartar builds up under the gumline and irritates it. This was the main reason why I had the gingivitis problem. One dentist even recommended that I get my teeth cleaned every five months instead of six to keep on top of the problem.

Of course it’s been eight months since I had my teeth cleaned. Why I do this to myself I’ll never know.

So I went to the dentist’s office for my cleaning and warned her “I’m going to bleed a lot, but don’t worry”. I’ve been through this often enough now to know that tartar build up really causes my gums to bleed during cleaning. I didn’t warn the last hygienist who cleaned my teeth and she was really alarmed at the bleeding. I was that close to telling her “well maybe if you wouldn’t eviscerate my gums with that scraper they’ll stop bleeding!” Thankfully I didn’t but I was not a happy camper at the time. I figured I give this dentist a warning up front about the bleeding so she wouldn’t say anything. Commenting on it while I’ve had my teeth & gums chiseled with sharp hooks for a half-hour is not the time to bring up that I’m bleeding.

What proceeded next was the fastest cleaning I’ve had in my life! I got in the chair and she immediately went to work. Cleaning & polishing (no fluoride at the end though - odd) took all of 15 minutes – tops. I don’t know whether to be elated because it was so short and relatively painless – relatively, mind you – or that it was so fast I have a small suspicion that it wasn’t a great job. There was lots of bleeding, as promised by yours truly, and she immediately booked me for an appointment in three months for a re-clean before any tartar significantly builds up – maybe to prevent the gums getting irritated. Then that was it – no xrays, no “let’s take a look and see if there’s anything else”, no trying to plus-sell me on other dental work (something that annoyed me about the last place that I went to).

All-in-all I was happy with the experience, still have a nagging doubt about the quality of the cleaning though. At least I have my next appointment booked already so I won’t procrastinate and let this get out of hand like last time.

And, thankfully, it’s insured.

I'd also like to take this time to wish my sister Karen a Happy Birthday!!! Love ya, hope you have a great day. Have piece of cake for me (since I can't have one due to the diet)

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Today was a beautiful day out, sunny and not too dusty, so I figured I'd follow up on an invitation to an afternoon lunch to welcome Mark Evans as he approached the Doha Corniche. Mark kayaks around the coastlines of various countries to make money for charity. He recently kayaked around Oman and now he's going around Qatar. I wanted to attend his talk last Wednesday (I'm a member of the Qatar Natural History Group) but unfortunately couldn't make it. The photos of the Omani coastline were supposed to be spectacular.

I'm skeptical that the photos of the Qatar coastline will be as interesting. Oman has mountains and intesting valleys leading into the sea. Qatar is very flat. Seriously flat. Oh well, gotta go with what you're given I guess.

The kayak tour is getting a lot of local media attention. When he arrived at the restaurant on the Corniche there were 2 TV crews and about half-a-dozen photographers. He kayaked up, got out, did some interviews, then everyone there had lunch at the restaurant before he got back in the kayak to continue on his way.

All in all a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Good luck Mark!

Friday, April 06, 2007

An Important Public Service Announcement

Fridays are a very quiet day here. In case you didn't know, in Qatar the weekend is Friday and Saturday, which makes it odd because the first day of work in Sunday (something I have yet to get used to). Friday is the holy day in Islam so almost all stores and restaurants are closed until the evening, leaving little else to do but chill out and relax.

After sleeping in I went down to the clubhouse restaurant to have breakfast. The pool by the clubhouse was quite busy, most of the residents enjoying the day by lazing about the pool. It is from this that I must finally lay down the law about an important topic:

To all men in the world - you do not look good in Speedos!!

Honestly, who invented these things? And why do so many men think they look good? Those things seem to be designed to show the world how large your gut is, and are more revealing than underwear. Yeah, yeah I'm sure there's exceptions to the rule, I'm sure there are many ladies who think they look fine on guys like Brad Pitt but we are talking about 1 in 1000 here. A very slim margin. Rather than take the chance (cause how many guys delude themselves into thinking they look as good as Brad Pitt), how about we play it safe and just ban them altogether.

No more speedos - please. Think of the children, okay?

This important public service message brought to you by concerned citizens who have to eat breakfast near a pool.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Musings on the price of soda (and other things around here)

Qatar can be a nice place to live in that, if you take the time to look around, you can find really good prices for things. I mean really cheap. I’m talking I go back to Canada and find myself thinking “$15 for a T-shirt? Not a chance I’m paying that!”. Yet in Qatar there is also a large middle-upper class society so you can find price discrepancies for things that are mind-blowing.

Whenever I go to a restaurant I immediately look at the menu for the price of a soda. This to me is one of the best indicators of how expensive the restaurant is. Here’s a comparison of prices for Pepsi (all prices in $US)

Buy a can at a corner store: $0.40 (wow, cheaper than North America)
Restaurant at my compound: $0.81 (not bad)
Standard restaurant: $1.62 (comparable to Canada I guess)
Trendy café: $2.43 (um, getting pricey here)
Hotel: $4+ (What the heck?!)
Worst I’ve seen [this was in March, 2012]: $7.25! (forgetaboutit!!)

In some cases the markup is 15x-20x what it cost in the store! Imagine walking into a restaurant in North America, asking for a Coke, and getting a bill for $12! That’s pretty serious markup. What’s worse is that I know that the staff at the hotels get paid less than what they would in North America so that extra markup is just going right into the hotel’s profits. Gangsters. Prices for coffee is little better, most places charge for a cup of Nescafe the same price as an entire jar of the stuff.

It can work the same way for a lot of other items. I’ve bought dress shirts for work, during a sale, for about $5 each, but you can go to the mall (malls here are generally upscale) and see those Euro/US-brand shirts for $50-100. I can get nice ties for $3-4, yet at another store they sell ties for $25-35. I’ve had huge multi-item lunches of Indian or Sri Lankan food for $2-3, yet a nearby sushi place is selling one order of California rolls for $10. I just don’t get it sometimes.

One thing that is not cheap is DVDs, in most stores a new release is $40 – yet you pay on average $55 for a DVD player. There is a black market for pirated stuff of course but in the stores you pay serious money for DVDs. I have no idea why. CDs are about average, around $16. Books used to be a problem but now a Virgin Megastore has opened up and its prices are close to cover price. Having no sales tax helps a bit as well I think. When I went back to Canada on vacation all I really wanted to buy was books, DVDs, and CDs, everything else in Canada was generally more expensive.

One downside of the prices being so good here is that when you go on vacation everything suddenly becomes really expensive. I don’t even want to talk about the near-conniptions I went into when I stayed in London for a few days on my way back from Canada. Ack!

So if anyone is thinking of stopping by your experience can be as cheap or classy as you wish, just let me know.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Wikifun

I must admit Wikipedia is definately one of my favourite sites. Sometimes I just Wikisurf around the various links, and I figure I use it at least once a day to look up various trivia.

Sadly though, my searching has led me to discover that I have a serious genetic disorder: Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome! Many people have this disorder and don't even know it! Do you? My attacks happen at least once or twice a day!

I'm surprised BigPharma hasn't developed some kind of med for this.

On another note, there has been increasing health problems in people due to exposure to Dihydrogen Monoxide, a chemical used in many pesticides and even some nerve gases. You might want to check the FAQ and then determine how much you are exposed to DHMO. The exposure appears to be fairly low in the Middle East, but likely greater where you are living.

Islamic Finance

As a Chartered Accountant I have to make sure that I take courses to maintain a certain number of professional development (PD) hours every year. Working in a capacity as an accountant doesn’t count – it has to be courses or other training to keep you up to date. An easier task back in Canada where they hold courses specifically for PD purposes, around here it’s not as easy to do.

Luckily I found something both relevant and that meets the PD requirements, I’m currently studying to get my Certified Islamic Professional Accountant designation (CIPA). It entails studying the various differences between conventional accounting standards and the Islamic accounting standards used by Islamic Finance entities.

And what is Islamic Finance you ask? Well, it’s essentially financial transactions that are in compliance with Islamic Law. The Qur’an and related Islamic texts have prohibitions against certain things, the chief one being charging interest (usury), so Islamic Financial Institutions have to have different ways of financing transactions. So an Islamic bank can’t charge interest on a mortgage or loan. Think about that for a second. How does the bank profit? I won’t go into the details, but rest assured they find ways to turn a profit on loans. Islamic Financial Institutions also have to make sure they invest ethically and in accordance with Islamic rules, i.e. no investing in alcohol manufacturers, casinos, pork farms etc. Some even go so far as to not invest in institutions that earn interest on their investments, considering that to be little better than earning interest yourself. This does limit the investment opportunities for Islamic Financial entities but the market is steadily growing and more and more options are becoming available. I believe there are even some Islamic-acceptable investments being offered in the US and UK now.

There are some critics of certain types of transactions, charging that they are little more than semantic changes to get around the rules regarding interest. Say you want a $10,000 loan for a car. An Islamic Bank might agree to buy the car then loan it to you in exchange for regular monthly payments which over three years totals $13,000. The bank says that this isn't an interest loan, critics argue that this is little different then loaning the money at interest and having you buy the car yourself. Anyway, that's for Islamic scholars to sort out.

So I have to study all of these various methods of contracts and financing in Islamic Financing and how they are accounted for under Islamic Accounting standards. Not exactly the most thrilling thing that I could be doing, but if I’m going to be in the region for any length of time it would be a valuable designation to have. Just don’t ask me to finance a mudaraba contract, okay?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

So my good deed for this week is helping a Lebanese gentleman go through the online forms for applying for residence in New Zealand. Why New Zealand? I have no idea. For some reason the man has his heart set on going there. Could do worse I suppose, New Zealand is supposed to be a beautiful place.

Problem is he's a chef and his wife is a hairdresser. A quick tour through the website indicates that New Zealand is really interested in doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. but not so keen on having a chef and a hairdresser move over with their three children. We're going to spend some more time tonight looking over information to see what the options are. His best bet would be to find a job there first but a quick scan of NZ job listings seems to indicate that employers interested in chefs want them to have a work visa before they apply. Catch-22: No job without a work visa, no work visa because you don't have a job.

What prompted this is simple - Israel bombing the bejeezus out of Lebanon a while back. His wife in kids were living in an apartment in Beirut when it happened, and he could do nothing but watch Al-Jazeera night after night, watching Beirut going up in flames, and praying that his wife & kids don't get hit by a stray bomb. It took nearly three weeks and a good chunk of $$$ to get them to Damascus so that they could catch a flight here. The family is here now and after that harrowing experience his wife does not want to go back to Lebanon. It's just too unstable and potentially unsafe. I don't blame them.

Unfortunately working in Qatar is not the most secure place to be for Lebanese workers. He could be let go for any reason with little recourse. If that happens to him then what? He'd have no choice but to go back to Lebanon. That's why he wants to get somewhere where he won't just be deported on a whim. Somewhere where his kids can grow up safely. To him that's New Zealand.

I'll help him out but I'm not sure about his chances. I'll also push a bit for him to apply to Canada (he's reluctant due to the cold weather in the winter) but he speaks both English and French which is a big plus for applying to Canada.

Times like this I appreciate being Canadian, and not having to deal with things like how I'm going to move away from my bombed-out country.