Search This Blog

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recommended Reading

I love going and seeing culture in a different country. Almost more than that I love researching and studying about that country before the trip or move abroad. I find each country's culture and history fascinating - especially when I know I am on the verge of seeing it with my own eyes soon!

To prepare for my time in The Gulf I bought Margaret K. Nydell's book Understanding Arabs A Guide of Modern Times. I absolutely love it! There are many facts and personal stories that give me an idea of how my life might be in Qatar. Like some formerly very traditional countries that did not have much global interaction, these days The Gulf is facing a challenge of how to maintain their traditional culture in a globally influenced environment. To better understand The Gulf as it is today, Nydell cites many statistics about life there not too long ago. Here are some of the more shocking statistics:

Life Expectancy 1955 versus 2005 ("Statistics and Indicators on Men and Women," U.N. Statistics Division, Demographic, 2005,

Morocco = 43 versus 69
Egypt = 42 versus 69
Kuwait = 55 versus 77
Saudi Arabia = 34 versus 73

After reading about those statistics, I began to wonder about other countries. On the CDC website we can see that the US had quite different data.

1950 = 68.2
2005 = 77.8

Nydell also cites information about regional women's modern participation in politics. I was surprised to see that many countries reserve a percentage of Parliament seats specifically for women only. Here is more information about that:

Arab Women in Government in 2004 (Julia Choucair, "Women in Parliament in the Arab World," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2004

Algeria = 5 ministers, 52 Parliament
Bahrain = 1 minister, 6 Parliament
Egypt = 2 ministers, 23 Parliament
Iraq = 6 ministers, 86 Parliament
Jordan = 3 ministers, 13 Parliament
Kuwait = 0, 0
Lebanon = 2 ministers, 3 Parliament
Libya = 0, 0
Morocco = 2 ministers, 38 Parliament
Oman = 1 minister, 10 Parliament
Qatar = 1 minister
Saudi Arabia = 0, 0
Syria = 2 ministers, 30 Parliament
Tunisia = 1 minister, 21 Parliament
UAE = 0, 0
Yemen = 1 minister, 4 Parliament

I guess we all have preconceived notions of women in The Gulf and The Middle East. That is why I assumed (incorrectly) that the women simply did not participate in much outside the home. We can see from this information that not only do they participate in politics, but they are guaranteed participation in some countries. Nydell points this out, "Algeria, for example, reserves a minimum of 20 percent of its parliamentary seats for women; the Iraq interim government reserves 25 percent, Morocco, 10 percent, and Tunisia, 20 percent." (Nydell 2006)

Nydell also retells many situations where there was a cultural clash between western foreigners and locals in The Gulf. I already experienced first hand that traditional cultural norms do not always apply to foreigners. For all that I tried to hurriedly learn about Korean culture before I moved there in 2006, I did not realize that there would be another subculture for me as a foreigner. I do however, vividly remember my co-worker and friend, who'd spent 2 years in Korea, telling me "You will not be seen as a woman, but just a foreigner in Korea." That statement could not have been truer for me in Korea and I wonder if the same will be true in Qatar.

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Big "To Do" List

I have a big "to do list" because I'll be moving to the other side of the world in less than three months. I accepted my new position teaching in Qatar in April, but I will not start teaching until September. I should be leaving for Qatar at the end of August, but until then I'll teach a summer session and get ready.

I like to research, prepare, and study before a big move, which is why I was thrilled that the school set me up with a mentor. I like my mentor because I always get answers to specific questions that I have asked her in emails. My mentor is also great because she has already taught in Qatar for four years. This means something very important: She liked it so much that she renewed her three year contract!

I asked my mentor in what was probably my sixteenth email the other day, "What is something that you did not bring with you, but that you wish you had brought with you to Qatar?" She almost immediately replied after polling her friends and came back with this list in no particular order:
  1. Contact solution (I do not wear contact lenses, so this is not for me.)

  2. Nice kitchenware - I am not sure if I'll buy it there or pack from here. - Dishes have been bought, so now the hunt is on for good pots and pans.

  3. Vonage device - I am not sure I will need this. Skype is free and worked fine in Korea.
  4. GPS - I have one for running, but this must be for a vehicle.

  5. Grammar and other supplemental books - I have some and will ship some of them. I was allowed to scavenge through my current employer's library and found some keepers!

  6. Personal reading books - I will ship some of these.

  7. Comfortable shoes - I will buy some more of these and pack to bring with me.

  8. Light cardigans - I will buy more of these and pack to bring with me.

  9. Nice sunglasses - I have a crappy pair that I've worn for at least five years, but I'll buy a backup

  10. Shower curtains, liners, and rings - I'll buy and pack these - done

  11. Two sets of king size sheets - I'll definitely buy and pack these because I am a bedding snob. I love at least 500 thread count sheets.

Besides the ever growing shopping list, I've got a few other things to do as well.

  1. Have about 20 passport photos made - I'll need these once I arrive for various things

  2. Send photocopies of my MA diploma - done

  3. Send photocopies of my passport - done

  4. Get a "Certificate of Good Conduct" from the police - done

  5. Get an International Driver's Permit - done

  6. Apply for a visa - the school is working on this right now

  7. Meet with my financial advisor - new job -> new salary -> new budget -> new savings plan

  8. Train like it is my life so when I go to Doha I'll be 100% hooked on running again and not lose it while working in the desert (This is my #1 fear of working in The Gulf.) - in process

One of my biggest worries about moving to The Gulf is that I'll quit running. In Korea I ran a lot after finding a super running club called Seoul Flyers. We often planned our spring and fall running season based on what part of Korea we wanted to visit. I ran in Seoul dozes of times, Jeju Island, Chuncheon, Paju - near the DMZ, Cherwon - near the DMZ, Taean Beach, and even Disney Land in Hong Kong on a weekend trip. It was great fun. We'd all register for races, take the train, stay in cheap little hotels, and make a weekend out of it. It was runner's paradise!

I know The Gulf is HOT, but I also ran in Vietnam and Cambodia during the summer months while training for fall marathons. Southeast Asia has the hottest weather I've ever experienced. I remember in Vietnam waking up, going outside for a nice breakfast in the shade and sweating, sweating, sweating. It was a wet heat. It was humid all the time. The Gulf should be different - a dry heat I think, but if not I'll be prepared.

In my endless research on The Gulf I've already spent weeks scouring the Internet for an established running club. Yes, a couple of chapters of The Hash House Harriers did come up, but I've never been interested in their clubs. The United Arab Emirates has a couple of well established clubs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so I was really hoping to find a good club in Doha. After all, they did host the 2006 Asian Games.

My mentor came to my rescue again. She gave me the email of a friend who "runs everyday." I was ecstatic! I emailed him and found out that he and some other men run about 5-10km each day. The friend, S., said he is hoping for a 16 minute 5K. That is a lot faster than me! I gathered from the emails that the group of men are not marathoners, but rather shorter distance runners who run consistantly. Consistancy is what I need most, so I will definitely join them for runs. They mostly run outside on The Corniche and the track at The Aspire Dome. My main goal is to meet with those guys for weekly runs, and later register for The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. The date for that is Friday, January 22, 2010. I think I can do it!

Until next time,