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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Best Christmas Cookies Ever

Today was finally the day that I made the best Christmas cookies ever - Peanut Butter Blossoms. I think you can click on the title of this blog posting and you will be lead to the actual Hershey's recipe.

My mom has made these cookies ever since I can remember. And while I was raised on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I took to school every day even through high school, I have never quite tired of eating these peanut butter heavy cookies. The best part is they are topped off with a Hershey's kiss!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fire Hazard Bars

About three weeks ago in our compound some workers started welding metal bars onto the first floor apartment windows. I was surprised and could not understand why this was happening with no notice, no explanation, and absolutely no form of communication from anyone in charge - university housing, compound maintenance/security manager, nor the compound owner. We later found out that these bars are to make our housing more secure and eliminate theft.

To ask that bars not be put on our windows I did two things: I sent one emails to the appropriate people, who said they would forward my concerns to others. I sent one email that was very well thought out and respectful to the university housing director and carbon copied a few people. He never replied. In fact, he told our university housing liaison that he does not check his email. Next, I tried calling the housing director. I dialed five of the numbers that I had for the man and finally reached him. I told him our concern and he said it was not a university housing problem, but rather the compound owner's problem. This was the beginning of finger pointing for me. The university housing director then told me that he was having a meeting with said compound owner the very next day and would tell him about our concerns, asking me again for my apartment number and my name, and in the end telling me that he would call me back. He did not. I sent him another email, as it was the weekend again. Just to complicate things a bit more ... the university housing director is only in his office on Sunday and Wednesday, so I will be paying him a visit on Sunday.

When I think of bars like these on windows I think of two things: death traps and crime ridden inner cities. Besides the obvious degradation of our compound, the installation of bars on our windows because of crime makes little sense for these reasons:
1. We live in a gated compound.

2. We actually do have a security team (The quality of their skills and motivation to actually perform their jobs is arguable).

3. The alleged break-in that happened last year occurred via the kitchen window, over which they have not installed bars (yet)

4. The alleged break-in that happened last year was made possible because there were no locks on the kitchen window (My husband and I have installed secure locks on all our windows.)

5. The workers have only installed bars on the first floor apartments, and not the villas which do have floor windows. (Are they 100% immune to the threat of theft?)

6. Making our apartments fire traps does not combat the real issue of why one (group of) individual(s) committed the crime of robbery in the first place.

The crazy thing is that some people in our compound actually want the bars on our windows. Again, these are bars that have no way of opening and therefore limit entrance and exits of the home to one - the front door. Apparently, in the Arab world (and other places) bars that promise security are more important than the possibility of death from a fire. I simply do not understand it.

In fact, my husband went to the compound maintenance/security manager to ask that our apartment be left with no bars. The manager said if there was a fire we should just go out the front door. Again, I simply do not understand some people's thinking.

Many English instructors say that critical thinking skills are lacking here in the Arab world, but I am beginning to wonder if common sense is also lacking.

Needless to say, if the workers, who are simply following orders from their bosses, put bars on our windows I will request a second floor apartment (hey at least we could jump to our death onto the pavement below), or try to find other accommodation nearby.
UPDATE...After a petition, some meetings, another email, another telephone call, and a written letter stating I did not want bars on our windows, we have succeeded!...(for now) in avoiding the installation of bars on our windows. I will keep the signs up on our windows throughout the next few months just so the workers do not get any ideas though. Whew!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Camel Racing & Mini-Robotic Jockeys

We had the best time at the camel races. A co-teacher texted several of us to go watch some camel racing a couple of weekends ago. I was not sure what to expect, but had been told by my former Saudi Arabian students in the US that (and I quote), "because of the US and other countries we now use robot jockeys instead of small children on the camels." Wow! I thought this was hilarious and was about to see it with my own eyes!

We arrived two hours early, but had a great time anyway. We watched the various handlers ride their camels into the racing area and took many photos of real camels like tourists. (We even took our Christmas card photo with some camels!)
When the race started we all went to the track. The track setup was one of the unique things about this sport. Unlike other track sports, the audience/fans actually follow the race which made it very exciting! The track was made up of three lanes and was 3km long. The inner lane was for our shuttle bus and camel owners in their SUVs, the fenced middle lane was for the camels, and the outer lane was for more camel owners and their SUVs.

Camels were lined up and waiting in what looked like heats for a swimming meet. The handlers pull their camels up to the starting line. There is a tarp in front of the camels that covers their sight. Once the tarpt is removed, the handlers let go of their leashes and the race is on! All the SUVs are equipted with radios and remotes for the mechanical jockeys. Some jockeys not only whip their camels, but also yell out comands to the camels. An announcer over a radio station was also yelling out commentary. We all kept hearing "Al Thani" over and over, which is the last name of the ruling family here.

We saw only two heats, but had a blast. I hope we go again this winter.
I have tried twice to upload a video, but it did not work. I will try again later.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

And Then We Got A Cat...

After a few weeks here in Doha, Qatar, my husband and I started talking about getting our first cat. I had a cat of my own for 17 years and he had his own cat for several years as well. We first decided to "rescue" a cat rather than pay a ridiculous amount of money for one of the pure bred cats at Souq Waqif.

The cat hunt was on! We went to the store to gather supplies. We had to be ready in case we got lucky and brought a stray home one night. In the car we also were prepared. We stashed a baggie of Whiska's kitten chow and a nice towel to wrap up the little kitty.

One night we decided "This is it!" and drove along The Corniche where many kitties hang out. We saw three cats that night, but none wanted to be held or taken from The Corniche. Next, we decided to stay local, so we looked around our compound. Sure enough we found cats that were wandering around. One cat in particular had us thinking he was our new cat, but we were wrong. After M tried to coax, and finally attempted to wrangle him, we gave up. That cat was just too wild to give up his street ways.

One of my co-workers had told me about a cute, approachable kitten that he and his wife had seen along The Corniche. He asked if we wanted the kitten. I finally told him after many failed attempts at cat kidnapping cat rescuing that we would definitely take her if they caught her. Well, according to him there was no trickery needed. This little cat just walked right up to them and that was it. She was soon in their cat carrier and riding along with them in their car. So, there we were with our little kitty about to arrive at our house!

The cat storks arrived shortly after and I just fell in love with her. She is white with some black and orange spots, with huge ears, and a tiny little face. She was (and continues to be) very that active for that first meeting.

After we got her checked out at the vet we found out she had ringworm, diarrhea, and worms, and that she was malnourished. Since then we have eradicated all those problems and she has gained quite a bit of weight.

After a few nameless days we finally decided on the name Sophia. She is so cute that the name just fit. She is doing so well that we are now looking for a little brother or sister. We hope to name a boy kitten Francis or Frankie, but have not thought of a girl kitty name.

Enjoy the photos!