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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Buying Booze in Qatar - a Muslim Country

Even though I have lived in Qatar since the end of August, 2009, I just today got my Liquor Permit so that I can buy alcohol. The reason for the delay in getting this permit was just my own laziness and lack of desire to drink alcohol. Honestly, I am not much of a drinker. I tried to be a party girl when I was in college, but that just never was me. I have always had enough fun just being with the people that I love. In addition, after living in South Korea for 3 years and witnessing a plethora of dangerous/ridiculous/unprofessional/reckless stuff happen because of drunkenness not by college students but grown ass adults in suits, I am the straight and narrow semi-teetotaler I am today. And I do not like hangovers, beer bellies, or distractions from marathoning.

On the contrary, now that I live in a very conservative Muslim country . . . I kind of want to drink. I could blame this on the fact that we cannot drink legally without a Liquor Permit (and Muslims cannot drink alcohol at all), or the daily frustration that comes from teaching incredibly unmotivated and spoiled students, or that there is little to do for active people who like the outdoors. I don't want to binge drink or "party" with colleagues or students like some teachers do in Korea (never mind that I never wanted to do that in Korea). However, I find myself wanting to have a glass of wine or a margarita with Mexican food these days - plain and simple.

So I went through the procedure to apply for my Liquor Permit at the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC). Here's what I had to do:

1. Get a letter from my employer stating these things: basic salary (not including transportation and housing allowances), marital status, job position, and whether the employer provides me with housing or a housing allowance.

2. Fill out the application, which included this question field: Religion: _________ . I wrote CHRISTIAN in case you were wondering partly because I think anything but that would have given the QDC a reason to deny my permit.

3. Pay a 1,000.00 Qatari Riyal deposit (For what? I have no earthly idea!)

After I got my permit I walked into what looked like a little 1,000 square foot Brown Derby liquor store. Everything was nicely arranged. It was tiny considering that everyone in Qatar buys their alcohol there - even the hotels and restaurants. The store was arranged by liquors (whiskeys, whiskys, vodkas, etc.) with the beers and wines separate. The wines were arranged by country of origin. At the entrance there was a card swipe machine so you could check your balance. I was given only 1,600 QR because my employer did not write in my letter that they provided my housing, which would increase my salary. The alcohol permit customer spending is based on salary. Therefore, the next time I go into the QDC the permit office man said to bring my contract that shows I get housing from my employer, and they will increase my spending to 2,500 QR, which I am sure we will never spend.

Here was what I bought and their rough price estimates in the US dollar amount:

  • Wolf Blass Eagle Hawk Merlot (75cl) 59.00 QR = approximately $16 USD
  • Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (75cl) 99.00 QR = approximately $27 USD
  • Jose Cuervo Silver (75cl) 105.00QR = approximately $28 USD
  • Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix (1litre) 54.00 QR = approximately $14 USD
  • Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (75cl) Baron Philippe 66.00 QR = approximately $18 USD
  • Corona Bottles (33cl) 6 pack 42.00 QR = approximately $11 USD

I spent only 425.00 QR of my 1,600.00 QR allotment.

Here are the very specific and seriouly followed rules pertaining to buying alcohol in Qatar as stated on the QDC Alcohol Permit application and their nice hand out they gave us at the permit office:

1. Permits are for personal use only.

2. Purchases must be taken directly to the permit holder's residence and should be concealed from view in transit.

3. The permit holder and goods must be in the same vehicle.

4. Consumption must be at the permit holder's residence only.

5. It is strictly forbidden to give alcohol to others whether by sale or gift.

6. You cannot purchase without your card.

7. Only permit holders are allowed in the shop.

8. Management reserves the right to refuse or cancel any membership.

So, there you have it. I feel like a 20 year old American again . . . make that newly 21 year old! Sadly, I had the flu this past weekend so I did not get to actually drink any alcohol yet. Well, there's always next weekend and I am on vacation for two weeks. I guess I could have a Corona will doing laundry and cat sitting!

Until Next Time,


Friday, January 22, 2010

Running in Qatar

I started to write this blog because I wanted to give (my own) information about Qatar, but I cannot help but compare Qatar to my experiences in the US and South Korea.

Running is my hobby, but also a way of life. I started running seriously in the summer of 2005 and by the fall I had run my first half marathon and marathon. I was hooked. In February of 2006 I moved to the countryside of Daegu, South Korea. I was too far outside the city to get into a running club. Nevertheless I ran the trails around Daegu University and loved it! I even took the slow train to Gyeongju and ran a half marathon all by my self. During my training runs and during that one race locals stared, but I got used to it. They were incredulous looks of amazement, not perverted lingering eyes that followed me. In 2007 I moved to Seoul and hit the motherload of all running clubs. Running really took over my life and I was grateful. In Seoul there were races every weekend! I met some of the best people through running. We became not just running partners, but traveling partners. Because South Korea is fairly small, we would just choose a region to visit, find a race, and hop on a train. Hotels or "love motels" and transportation were ridiculously cheap and safe. From spring 2008 to fall 2009 I had the time of my life running all over South Korea. And because it was rare to see a foreigner in a sea of Koreans at a marathon (and a woman especially!) some people started to recognize me. This recognition inside such a welcoming community of runners provided a perfect situation to practice my Korean. At one of the DMZ half marathons I found myself completely without English for the day and really enjoyed it. When I met other runners at races or running along the Han River I felt the most connected to Koreans.

Running in Qatar has been quite different. There are no races. I take that back. There was a 5km race put on by Doha Bank, but we did not go. The culture is less forgiving of women in athletic apparel here, not to mention women running around outside the home. Nobody has yet dared to say anything to me, or my husband but their cold stares say enough. The climate and terrain are harsh as well. Running in the evening or early morning is best - even in the dead of winter. I figure the only foreigners crazy enough to run here are lone runners - not likely to join a running club. In fact, we went to meet a haphazard group of runners for a few weeks. They met at 6:00AM to run along the Corniche, but after rising at 5:00AM every day during the work week, the last thing we wanted to do was wake up at 5:30AM to go run. In addition, the group just ran and went home, so we were not getting any of the social brunch type activities that I so looked forward to every weekend in Korea and the US. However, one of those runners and I spoke about starting an official running club to draw more people into it, but I just don't know if I want all that responsibility. Maybe my US and Korean running clubs were just too good to ever top.

Therefore, my husband I run together. He is a lot faster than I, but we make it work. Like a lot of things we miss living here - we will be even more grateful to have them once we return home. And this summer when we go home for a visit we'll be sure to load up on racing. We've already registered for the Rock & Roll Chicago Half Marathon for August 1st!

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living in Qatar is a Lot Like . . .

Living in Qatar is a lot like the comedy Groundhog Day starring the hilarious Bill Murray. Let me explain. If you have seen the movie you know that Bill Murray is a TV weather man who suddenly wakes up one morning to re-live the same day all over again. At first, he is confused, later completely frustrated, and then he learns to deal with the sameness of it all - anticipating each character's action before they even know what they will do.

Qatar has been like Groundhog Day in that the weather and geography do not change. Okay, it was hotter than hell in August, ranging from 84F to 105F, and now it is only warm in January, ranging from 55F to 71F, but it will never get cold here. We did not see any clouds until the end of November, and there was no rain until December. Had we not bought a Christmas tree I never would have known it was that time of year. Living in Qatar is like the film Groundhog Day: the same again and again.

The geography is the same shade of beige with the occasional tuft of green shrub. We drove all the way out to the NW coast to see Fort Al Zubara, but it was the same. We also drove out to the Inland Sea and Al Khor just north of Doha. They all look the same. Some places just have more people and cars than others. Living in Qatar is like the film Groundhog Day: the same again and again.

The Ozarks are gorgeous and we say, "If you don't like the weather - wait because it will change tomorrow." South Korea also had four seasons and the most beautiful trees, mountains and rivers. I never knew that I would miss weather and geography diversity so much.

Bill Murray photo credit:
Fort Al Zubara photo credit:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Censorship or Harmless Film Splice

Everyone has been talking about James Cameron's Avatar so we finally went to see it. While I loved the movie for all the action and message(s), I did not appreciate the censorship of certain scenes. However, I am not the only resident of Doha, Qatar, wondering what happened to select scenes. Some commentators suggest that the movie theaters cut random scenes out for time, while others hint at some avatar sex scenes that went missing. The characters were not even human! How can anyone be offended by what might have been giant blue cat-people alien things kissing? I guess I will not know what scenes were deleted at the movie theater until we get a copy of the DVD. I still wonder to what extent is the theater obligated to tell their customers about scenes being deleted? And if theaters are deleting scenes must they give a reason? Furthermore, who would still go see the film knowing that scenes were deleted? I do not think I would have.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Whirl Wind Romance

I love this story and I hope you enjoy it too. (Warning - I just realized how ridiculously long this is.)

Here's a little background on me before I met my other half: I had just gone back home after living for three years in South Korea in the middle of December, 2008. While I know some western (white) women love to date the male Asian persuasion, I did not for various reasons. There was the language barrier, the culture barrier, and the "okay, I'm not your English teacher right now, so please don't ask me questions about the TOEFL or how to immigrate to the US for the rest of our date, okay?" situations that usually occurred. There were also some ridiculous stereotypes that I faced as a single, white, western woman in South Korea: No, I'm not a whore like the Hollywood movies portray, and no I do not like to drink like a fish or do any other crazy, unprofessional things like certain Korean media portrays westerners doing.

Needless to say, I was often misunderstood and on my part anyhow no real romantic relationships blossomed in South Korea. My time there was very much surreal, and living in a fantasy world makes it difficult to see any "relationship" as more than just that - unreal. I did not settle, I did not make but only a few good female friends that are still very dear to me. Men were for the most part completely off my radar while in Korea. Those I did date were just that a date and nothing more. And so after three years "teaching" Koreans, traveling around much of SE Asia, and running distance races like it was my job, I went home blissfully unattached.

I stayed in the US for longer than I thought I would from mid-December 2008, until August 2009. Knowing that the ESL job market was (and still is) rough in the US. Therefore, I started looking at jobs abroad quite soon after moving back home. Being that I wanted to move pretty much as soon as I landed in the US, I never really put down any roots. I unpacked, got a job that had me teaching over full time hours at my old institute, and met up with my old running buddies. I did not make any real attempts to get "settled" by any means. In fact, I was even hesitant to socialize, which to those of you who know me - I never have really been a social butterfly. I am a bit of a hermit. I love having my close, small groups of friends, rather than a horde of acquaintances. Anyway, I I spent all of the spring and most of the summer just working and running while I lived in my parents' house. I had a great time, but in all honesty I was not really there.

After attending the Denver TESOL Convention in late March 2009, I knew that I would move abroad again to teach English. People often talk about moving home and how it is never the same - they are right. People who have lived and/or studied abroad talk about "reverse culture shock" that makes it difficult to feel truly comfortable in one's original home country. Because of those two things and my still very single status, and me not getting any younger (I hit the big 30!) I figured if I was going to live abroad again that 2009 was the year to continue my foreign adventures.

I hit a rather large 6'4" snag in my grand plan on July 18, 2009. As the quote from Woody Allen goes, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

At some point in late spring a dear college friend of mine, and fellow runner, invited me down to the Too Hot To Handle 15Km race in Dallas, Texas, to be held on Saturday, July 18th, 2009. I immediately got a cheap flight from Missouri to Texas and started training for the race. I had no idea that I would meet my husband just by going to that race!

My friend and I decided to carpool to the race with another runner that she knew because around White Rock Lake there is very little parking space. So, early in the morning (after eating a breakfast of champions - poptarts from the gas station!) we met up at one of the gyms. There, we saw one of our carpool buddies waiting outside in the dark morning. We said hello, and went inside to wait on the other guy who would drive all four of us to the lake.

We all got into a truck with the driver and M (my husband) in front and my friend and I in the back. Honestly, this time is a bit of a blur because I was feeling pre-race adrenaline. However, since then I have tried to remember what all I said, all of which is completely embarrassing because I had no filter for what I said with all the pre-race energy (and I was about to move to Qatar so I did not care what anyone thought of me in Texas). I do remember that we drove past some sort of strip club along the road and I immediately offered up my unfiltered opinion: "Why don't they call places like that "Deadbeat Daddy Club" instead of a "gentleman's club"? Obnoxious, I know, but I was not there to impress anyone. We all started talking about women runners who wear running skirts. I have always hated it when female athletes pander to men even in their selection of apparel while playing sports. I mean, really? Practicing or competing in your sport is YOUR time. So here we were riding along to the race and I clearly stated that I hated it when women wore running skirts. I also remember adding that I hated athletic apparel designers who dress female athletes up like damn Easter eggs - pastels are not good for sweat! When are they going to learn this? I cannot remember exactly what else I said, but I cringe every time I think of the first impression that I had on my now husband. Eeek!

M must have already noticed me before we got into the truck because I mentioned my hometown in Missouri to which he immediately turned around and asked me if I knew his sister. He told me afterwards that he was about to call his sister in a rage of fury if she had known me and not introduced us. As it turned out I did not know his sister, but having part of his family living my hometown made it very easy for us a bit later on.

So, we got to the race and I was just doing my pre-race thing. I was blissfully ignorant to any eyes that M may or may not have been making at me. I was just a new runner and he was also just another runner. We both ran our races and had a good time. I was really in my own element after the race with even more adrenaline flowing, which means I really did not care what anyone thought of me. I do not think I said anything cringe worthy, but I know that I did not pick up on any vibes that M may or may not have been sending my way.

After the race the guys suggested that we all go eat brunch at the most wonderful texmex restaurants in Dallas. I loved this place called Ozona's! Just about everyone there had either cycled or ran that morning and you could tell! Now, at this point I started feeling a little self conscious because I had just ran 15km in the heat. I was not looking too hot, and I know that I smelled. I had nothing to change into because I did not know we would be eating out after the race, but I went and nobody else changed either.

I sat down next to my friend and M sat next to me. Hm . . . well, he told me later he only sat there because the Tour de France was on the TV just above my head. So we started talking just M and I. We found out that we both shared a love of traveling abroad. He was thoroughly interested in my career teaching in different countries and said he really wanted to live abroad as well, but hadn't worked out how exactly. In fact, he was trying to find a way back into school to get his MS in either Math or Computer Sciences. I thought, 'wow, this guy travels, runs, and is smart . . .' and then I felt like I had been just having a conversation with him the whole morning so I stopped talking to him. It was starting to become awkward - what did this guy want? What were the other people at the table talking about? So I joined the other ladies and talked about men and women. M was all ears and succinctly heard all of us women groan about men who text, but never call.

My friend and I left brunch and I said my goodbyes knowing that most people simply didn't visit The Gulf. I got into the car and immediately said, "He was nice. Is this what nice guys are like? Maybe I should get out more often instead of just working and running." Almost as soon as we arrived at my friend's house she got a text from our carpool driver stating that M wanted to continue talking to me, but wasn't sure if he had better call (as we all adamantly lamented at brunch) or text? I said "Sure, text." because although M was very polite and well spoken, I really did know what he wanted from little ole me - a date? a fling until I skipped out of the country? a running buddy in Missouri? someone to stay with for free in Qatar?

Well, as it turns out this whole texting and calling business was the driver-friend's idea. I later found out that as soon as the guys got into the truck after brunch the driver-friend asked M, "So did you get her number?" to which M replied, "She's moving to Qatar." The driver-friend was dumbfounded, "Geeze, do I have to do everything for you?" And then the matchmaking began of the driver-friend contacting my friend, who ultimately put us in contact, but not without some technical difficulties . . .

I soon received a very lengthy and polite text message from M on my rarely used new cell phone. He wanted to go out that night if we did not have any other plans, but we did and I didn't want to bail on my girl friend for a guy that I barely knew. So I texted back that I was leaving town the next day and that he should email or facebook me . . . and then I hit "send" or so I thought. Strangely enough I did not get a polite reply. In fact I did not get anything. How strange I thought. Was it rude to say no to a date because I wanted to hang out with my friend? I thought about it for a few more minutes and then forgot about it until the next day - the day I was supposed to leave. I was so embarrassed and out of practice that I decided to handle the situation junior high style. My friend called her friend (who was on a 60 mile bike ride with M) and asked if M had received my reply. No, he had not. I quickly checked my cell phone and saw that the outbox had nothing in it. Oh my goodness! I never replied! He must have surely thought I was rude. I was mortified and quickly sent a message and tried to explain that I was retarded when it came to technology, it was a new phone, and yes I wanted to talk to him again, but was leaving that very day in a few hours.

M called me as soon as he got finished cycling and we talked. I cannot remember exactly what we talked about, but I do recall nervously asking about his travels and him going on and on about castles in Germany. Awww. After I got home later that night the facebook stalking ensued. We both read everything we could about each other. We both looked at all each other's photos. M started hinting at coming up to Missouri to "visit family." We planned on running the very next weekend in my hometown.

I'll be honest. I was not messing around. I had had my hopes dashed more times than I care to admit. And so I started to protect my little black heart of ice by referring to M as a new "running buddy." My mother will have you know that she asked me, with a very anxious look on her face, the night before he came up to Missouri, "So what is going on with this new friend? Are you two going on a date?" to which I almost angrily shouted, "Mother, he is just a runner, I know nothing about this kid!" What can I say? I saw, read, and heard something different about him and it scared the hell out of me. This was absolutely no time, no time at all, to be falling in love or whatever. I was (and still am) very much a cynic. I never believe anything until I have it in my hand. Talk is cheap. People make other plans, but I was sticking to mine of moving to Qatar.

At 6:00 AM under very stormy conditions we met for a hill workout. It was a bit much for M because if you know Dallas at all then you know that there are no hills to speak of. However, this was all part of my plan - if he truly was a friend then he would run with me, and I did not want to miss out on my training for some guy I barely even knew. So, we charged hills and tried to talk as it started drizzling, thundering, and lightening.

We finished running and decided to go for breakfast. We sat outside and ate under a covering while it poured rain, lightning and thundered something awful! M asked if I wanted to hang out later that day, to which I said yes. I had nothing better to do and he was interesting. And I had not met any runners who were just very genuine, around my age, attractive, talkative, and who truly seemed interested in getting to know me. It was the week before final exams in my summer teaching so I had absolutely no class prep - I was free! I went home right after to shower and change for geocaching. My father was sitting in the kitchen and asked how the run was. I was in a hurry to meet M in about an hour so I just ran past him and said, "Good. We're going to Arkansas for geocaching - its like a hike for treasure or something. . . " as I ran to get a quick shower. My dad's face was incredulous and he shouted at my mother, "They're crossing state lines to go hiking!" I think they both new (having met and been engaged after only two weeks themselves) what I was trying to deny at this point - M was it. I was going to marry him.

We went down to Arkansas and got lost something awful considering M grew up in Arkansas and the fact that we had two GPS devices with us. I enjoyed the day, but the day quickly became night and I was not ready to leave him. He was stalling as well. We had already eaten breakfast and lunch together, so we decided to have dinner as well. It was late, but we were both in our 30s with no real obligations at home. We drove out of our way to find food late at night and eventually drove back to Missouri. I now believe that the best date anyone can have is a road trip.

We said goodnight around 12 AM after a long and very telling talk about our values and our goals. We promised to meet again the next day. The next morning I woke up around 7 AM and called M. I debriefed my parents about the previous day's events because I really had not talked to them except to tell them we were going to Arkansas. They knew and I knew that day was the one day to meet M. My parents had already planned to go to the lake so they suggested that I invite M. So, I did. He was still asleep when I called him, but agreed whole heatedly to come along. It was a great day. This time I drove us because M had driven so much the day before. There was a lot more talking and getting to know each other. At the end of the weekend I confessed that I was suddenly confused. I had just spent so much time as a very independent woman who travels and now at the tail end of my time home I had finally met someone worthy of dating. I said a bit frustrated, "What do I do? Do I hang up my backpack and stop this globe trotting?" to which M replied with the most perfect answer ever, "No, we take two backpacks."

The rest is history, but I will just say that after that second weekend we both knew we wanted to be together. The next week I gave final exams, so we did not see each other. The following week I went to Florida for a week with my sister. After two weeks apart (and many 4+ hour phone calls each day apart) I flew down to M in Dallas on August 10th. Because he was finished with a programming contract he was free to be with me until my August 20th departure for Qatar. We lived in the moment - road tripping from Texas to Missouri, stopping to meet various friends and family of M along the way. M helped me pack for Qatar, which was a sad scene. I wanted desperately to flee and not deal with the emotions of having to leave and yet also leaving someone behind for the first time.

It is funny because I moved to Qatar after only 10 days of us physically being together, M moved up to Missouri while contemplating when/how he would come to Qatar, and in the end M actually spent more time with my parents than we me before we got married!

Honestly, I would not change anything about our story. I love that we met doing what we love doing - running. I love that we were both truly not looking to start a relationship, but were simply interested in getting to know one another as people. I love that we have similar hobbies and most importantly the same core values, which we discussed in great detail the week after we met. Who does that? Most couples are afraid to be honest for fear that they will find out that they are actually incompatible. I had nothing to lose. Honestly, if M did not like me for me (or vice versa) I was going to wedge the Atlantic Ocean, all of Europe and Africa in between us anyhow with my move to Qatar. I love that we have a very similar view of our life now and share the same dream for our future. We will continue to run marathons, travel to other countries, and hopefully one day have children. This is exactly the life that I wanted, but did not know existed. I am simply grateful.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2009 Fun Facts

Since I have some time off I'm going to try to update this blog more regularly. Because the landscape and seasons do not change much here, I barely feel it is 2010 already. So, just to recap here are some fun facts about my 2009 when compared to 2008.

1. Did not run any marathons, but in 2008 I ran 2 marathons. This makes me really sad to have not competed in a marathon in 2009. I will have to do one in 2010!

2. Ran 3 half marathons, but in 2008 I ran 7 half marathons. What can I say? South Korea - especially Seoul was a runner's paradise!

3. Did not date anyone in 2008 (and that was actually a good thing for me), but got married in September 2009 after only 2 months and 1 day of meeting my Super Husband! :)

4. Moved home from South Korea in December 2008, but then moved to Qatar in August 2009.

5. Got a cat in October 2009 after being without a cat for 3 years. We love her dearly. She holds the current record of most uploaded photos on my facebook.

6. Turned 30 in 2009 - all I can say is now I'm officially not taking anyone's crap. I'm "old" and it feels damn good!

7. Finally let my naturally curly hair come back to life after having it chemically straightened in November 2007 while living in Seoul, South Korea. Side note: "Magic Straight" can really ruin one's hair so be careful!

8. In 2009 I lived with my parents again after 3 years of living abroad and on my own. Yes, I was living with my parents as a 30 year old. It was okay because they know me and let me be . . . me.

9. After about one month at home in 2009 I comptemplated moving to the following countries: the UAE, Turkey, and Chile. However, I now know that Qatar is the place for us . . . for now.

10. The United States finally elected a decent president. I swore I would burn my passport and never return home if anyone but Obama were elected. You might think that the American president has little effect on one's personal journey abroad, but this is really the first time I've ever been proud to be an America while living abroad. Thank you, President Obama for injecting some common sense into US international relations.

11. My first semester teaching in Qatar allowed me to meet for the first time and teach students from these countries: Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, and of course Qatar. Before 2009, I had only taught students from these countries: Spain, South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Holland, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.

12. In 2008 I traveled from South Korea to the US, Cambodia, and Hong Kong. However, in 2009 I only traveled domestically to Dallas/Fort Worth, Tulsa (to catch a flight), St. Louis, Denver, and Kansas City. I also am very greatful for the epic, life changing road trip from Texas to Missouri. ;)

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1st Fall Semester in Review

So, here I am lounging on our hideous Elizabethan style sofa while watching FoxMovies channel's "E True Hollywood Story" about Jennifer Lopez. After getting up to fix M his birthday breakfast at 5:00 AM, I cleaned the house a litte, and thought I should write a blog entry.

It is January already. Final exams were given, graded, and emailed to students. I am greatful for "non-teaching" hours until the end of January. I've had some time to think about the semester and here's what I've decided about the experience of English teaching in Qatar thus far:

1. Why did I think this teaching gig would be in any way similar to South Korea? There are only some minor similarities between my Qatari students and South Korean students. Both Qatari and South Korean students seem to be less mature than Western students. I state this because of the lack of responsibilities that they have. In Korea very few drove or had jobs because of public transportation and their parents desire to give everything to them. In Qatar none of my students have jobs and or drive - they import Filipinos to do much of the work and have professional, private drivers. Because of this lack of responsiblitiy and dependence on family, both groups act a bit immature in comparison to American students. However, there are some very stark differences between my Qatari students and South Korean students. My South Korean students watched US movies, bought and wore somewhat scandalous clothing, (this is relative of course) and drank like fish any night of the week. The male Koreans also participated in compulsory military duty for nearly two years, which (thankfully) matured the majority of them. However, here in Qatar the female students tend to be sheltered by family, cultural and religious expectations, all of which make them unique to any other group of students that I have taught in the past.

2. Why do you even come to school? There is a revolution going on, but strangely enough nobody here wants the revolution. Yep, I thought I'd have a classroom full women pioneers like Rosie the Riveter and Annie Okley ready to kick butt in the workplace, get married and have children (if they wished) after their undergraduate degrees were earned, and take on the world. Boy was I wrong! In fact, the statistics about Qatari female students is quite misleading. Some say that 2/3 of the high education population are female, which I took to mean that women wanted to be educated more than men. However, now I realize that going to campus for the day is really their only good option. Otherwise, because of the restrictions placed upon them by family and society, they would simply be sitting at home. Coming to campus to hang out with friends, talk, and have coffee seems like a much better option. Seeing some of the things that my students do (or do not do) reminds me of a couple very well off college classmates, who never worked a day in their lives before graduation. Honestly, I cannot blame this younger generation of Qataris for lack of motivation. They are cared for by family and in the past by way of monthly government stipends. In other words, they are not paying for their education so in my opinion they cannot truly appreciate it. And what you do not appreciate, you do not want. Furthermore, the women especially really do not need to earn a living from a job and so they do not need an education degree to put on their CVs. This is a huge contrast between Qatar and South Korea, where many large companies like LG and Samsung, as well as cushy government positions (the kind you cannot be fired from, but occupy until you die), require a certain score from a standardized English proficiency exam like TOEFL or TOEIC.

3. Why the serious face? Korean students were usually game for some fun speaking activities, but in Qatar I've found that the ladies do NOT do something that they do NOT want to do. Hence, Listening & Speaking class becomes a little heavy on the Listening. Finding culturally appropriate and fun speaking activities for my Arab ladies is one of my resolutions for 2010.

4. Same, same, but different. My current program has striking similarities to the another intensive English program that I previously worked for: professionally published textbooks, various levels based on Accuplacer, classes are kept to a minimum of 20 students (in Korea there was no limit and I once "taught" English Conversation to 50 students - a gosh darn nightmare!), and a lot of standardization within levels and throughout the entire program. That being said, there are virtually no comparisons between my experience in Korea and here in Qatar in regards to curriculm or staff.

Even though there are some challenging aspects of teaching in Qatar, I know that like most challenges they become easier to deal with after more experience. That's why I truly enjoy teaching - you find new solutions to problems and are constantly challenged.

Until next time!,