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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Doha Arrival

Now, I've been in Doha, Qatar for eleven days. The first few days were a little rough because many of us new teachers were left to our own devices - in a city with no real public transportation and such hot weather than no one in their right mind would venture out, and also perhaps more frustrating without internet or phone service. I am now happily renting a small Honda Jazz (google it, they do not sell it in US), bumming WIFI off the housing complex's Club House.

Here is the beginning of my time in Doha, Qatar:

Luckily the flight was arranged by the school well in advance. In addition, the flight was a direct connection to Doha via Houston, Texas. Qatar Airways is a very nice airline and I look forward to flying on it again. My arrival was fairly uneventful. Even though I reached Doha at at about 9:30pm at night, the heat hit me as soon as the airplane door opened. I was in the desert! I looked all around and saw many shades of the only color I would see for a long time - beige. The airport was simple and quickly became crowded with all the passengers from my flight. The school must have arranged what happened next.

A person from Qatar Airlines found me as soon as I left entered the airport, took my passport and visa, and directed me to a private waiting room. There, I waited with my carry-on luggage and several other passengers, who all looked to be expats (expatriates - foreigners working and living abroad). The room was well equiped with plush furniture, bottled water, and books about Qatar. After about ten minutes the same person came to get me. She then took me to the arrival area to meet my driver. Following us was a man from Qatar Airways who had already found my luggage and was wheeling it behind us. The woman then asked me if I had someone picking me up. I told her that the school should have already sent a driver, but she insisted on calling the contact to ensure that I did not have to wait. Apparently, my flight was about one hour early, so in the end I had to wait about forty minutes for the driver.

The driver was from India and tried his best to make pleasant conversation, but I was really tired and could not understand him very well. It was late at night by the time we started driving to the housing compound. When we arrived at the compound, a man was waiting inside the Club House to sign me and give me the keys to my new "home."

When someone uses the word "compound" I immediately think of either ridiculously rich family homes like "The Kennedy Compound" or where most Americans live while in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - a mini-America with extremely high security. However, here in Qatar most apartments and villas (two story townhouses) are also inside what is called a "compound" or "complex". These complexes are surrounded by high walls, a security watchperson, and a gated entrance. Our complex also has a maintenance staff, a fitness center and small pool at the Club House, covered parking, and a small store. I have not walked around too much inside the complex (or at all for that matter - it is hot), but there seems to be at least two long streets running the length of the area, with the Club House and small park in between those two streets. Besides those two longer streets, there are several blocks of apartments as well. Along the perimeter of the complex are the villas. These "villas" are usually reserved for teachers with families. I have not been inside a villa yet, so I cannot describe them. Honestly though, these apartments are plenty big for just a single person or person soon-to-be happily married without children. In each apartment unit there are two floors and each floor has four apartments. Therefore, there are basically eight teachers per apartment unit. Each apartment shares only one wall with a neighbor, has three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and all furniture and major appliances. There are also some nicer touches like tile floors, airconditioning units in every room, area rugs, table lamps, heavy drapes, and granite counter tops in the kitchen. Yes, there are some problems with the housing. While most of the furniture seems to be brand new, the style of furniture in the living room is not my style. In fact, if we stay here for a long time then I might talk my soon-to-be husband into getting a new sofa set and storing these hideous things in one of the spare bedrooms. The drapes are also very...tacky and feel dirty. A more serious concern is the electricity. I have already called the maintenance staff to replace two fuses. In addition, my neighbor told me that she was nearly electrocuted (more than once!) trying to use the dishwasher and almost caught herself fire while using the stove. I am handwashing all my dishes because I do not generate a lot of dirty dishes and really do not want to be electrocuted. Also, the general construction seems to be very much like South Korea's construction - built way too quickly with little quality control and therefore all around shoddy.

All in all the housing is not too bad. Nothing is cheaper than free!

Until next time!