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Friday, April 30, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin!

As of the end of this week, I have only (*only*) 25 more days of teaching before my non-teaching work days begin. I would be lying if I said I wasn't extremely happy about this. In fact, I find myself happily plowing through lesson planning just because of that faint light at the end of the tunnel - the spring semester tunnel which leads to SUMMER VACATION!

So other than happily marking off each calender day I also mentally plan milestones and activities to take my focus off the countdown. Only marking off days is like watching a pot boil - it just cannot go fast enough!

What are those milestones and activities you ask? Well, we've got these fun events coming up:

1. Soon - buy our airfare home for summer vacation
2. May 14th - Diamond IAAF Track & Field event here in Doha
3. August 1st - continuous training for the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon

I am also busying myself with nesting a bit more. I recently bought some colorful pillow cushions for our living room sofas. A teacher and friend who is leaving has said she'll give us her bookshelf. And we are in the process of fixing our bed. Our bed needs either plywood criss-cross reinforcement or two twin box springs underneath it. (It is a fake, hollow platform bed esssentially.)

I am counting down the days, trying to stay busy, and preparing for the end of the semester and the beginning of glorious summer vacation.

Until next time,

Got a Flat?

I got a flat. I was driving at neck break speed (as I've learned to do here) on the way home from work. It was about 12:00 noon. I had just turned right onto a 80km/h road when I had (HAD TO) blow my nose. I reached for a kleenex when all of a sudden I felt a bump. That bump was the right side of the road - a bit closer to me than a few seconds before the nose blowing.

Now, I have never driven on a flat before. I have had a flat before, but parked without realizing it, returned some time later to see the flat tire. After the bump I could feel a slight pulling of the steering wheel to the right. Honestly, I wanted to get as close to home as possible (I would be scolded a bit for this later on).

As I drove the pulling to the right and a strange noise got louder and louder. I thought "Oh crap..." There were a few more round-a-bouts to navigate before arriving home. I decided to pull off before one of them and assess the situation.

Sure enough I had a flat on the front right tire. I did not freak out. I calmly called just about everyone in my cellphone address book - nobody answered. My husband was at work, so I just texted him a message.

As I waited outside my car, calling people and looking at the completely flat tire a white SUV pulled up. Two Arab men in thobes were inside the SUV. The one in the passenger seat said, "You have a flat?" to which I replied, "Yes, could you help? I have the spare in the trunk..." The one who spoke said they would call for help and both motioned for me to get in the SUV with them, but I smiled and said, "No thank you. I'll wait with my car."

I waited for about 5 minutes and began to think that they had forgotten about me. However, I was relieved that the SUV pulled up again. They said, "We will fix it." I was glad that I could stop calling people (who didn't answer their phones and/or didn't have their phones turned on).

I watched as they worked together and skillfully changed the flat. The one who spoke explained that I should not drive on the spare for too long. I nodded that I understood. I also threw in for good measure that my husband would figure things out when I got home. (I seem more inclined to say, "I'M MARRIED!" here than anywhere else....)

After they were finished I said probably three times, "Thank you!" to which the one who spoke English said, "It is no problem. It is out duty."

Really, I wanted to tell them that after EIGHT MONTHS in Qatar they were not only the first Arabs that I had spoken with outside of work and my classes, but also the first to show any of the hospitality that this region is so known for..... However, I simply said, "Thank you!" again and was on my way.

That whole experience gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling because I had actually had an exchange with "locals" but on the other hand it made me realize just how walled up it is here. I say walled up because the way the people live in compounds with walls all around their homes is very much symbolic and representative of the relationships that I have not been able to make with the people here.

Maybe I'm not trying enough to meet and be friends with Qataris. Or maybe (this could be the biggest reason) I am the on who wants to build a wall between me and Qataris because I'm so incredibly frustrated and exhausted after trying to teach my students......

Until next time,


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interesting Article about Qatar

A few days ago I read this New York Times article after a few co-teachers posted it on their Facebook walls. Basically, Qatar is headed for a lot of problems because of: fast food leading to obesity and diabetes, sudden mass wealth leading to laziness, extreme heat making exercise outside nearly impossible, and the time honored tradition and popularity of marrying first cousins.

The article states that when people marry first cousins and have children there are genetic disorders like blindness and mental disabilities. This of course set off an alarm in my head when I tought of my class. (I cannot stop thinking of my class because they've been a particularly rough bunch.) In fact, out of 18 ladies I have 2 that have noticeable eye problems. One wears glasses and one does not. The one with glasses has one clouded eye turned inward towards her nose. The one with no glasses has one eye that catches my attention. I cannot figure out if the one eye is stuck in the same position or if it wanders. Either way, the one without glasses has a pair of eyes that act as separately darting around the room.

The article went on to explain that "Qatar ranks sixth globally for prevalence of obesity and has the highest rate of obesity among boys in the Middle East and North African region." I did notice a big difference in bodies when I moved from South Korea to Qatar. In South Korea I was looked upon as "big" even though I am 5'5" and about 125 pounds. Here, women cover their curvy (obese?) bodies with the long, black abaya. My students do not seem to have any insecurities about their bodies. It was refreshing at first, but now I see their habits as described in the New York Times article as clearly unhealthy.

Perhaps the most shocking (and predictable to me having lived here for several months) is the private life of the Qatari man running a government program to decrease these issues. That man is a 25 year old, overweight man who does not exercise and married his first cousin.

I do not know if the people here are in denial, do not understand/believe the medical research, or just do not care about these health issues. I guess only time will tell...

Until next time,


Abaya photo credit:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Qatar CBS News Story Videos

Part I

Part II

My students are using some video clips from this special CBS news story about Qatar.

You can see the growth (from 2003) in Doha. You can also hear and watch the Emir and his consort speak English while describing their dream for Qatar. It is inspiring.



Saturday, April 10, 2010

IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championship - in Doha!

Well, here I am again on vacation from teaching and looking at this blog again. I need to be more consistent with my posting . . . . .

In March M and I went to the IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships in Doha, just 3/4 of a mile from our house. It was exciting!

There were athletes from a lot of countries. In fact, we saw some Ethiopian professional runners (Meseret Defar, Sentayehu Ejigu Kalkidan Gezhegn) who had an amazing cheering section from local Ethiopians and/or Ethiopians who had made the trip to Doha. One of the most amazing races was the women's 3K race. One runner actually fell down near the middle of the 1500K race, but managed to get back up and finish first! That runner was Ethiopian runner Kalkidan Gezhegn.

We also saw American male heptatlon athletes Bryan Clay and Trey Hardee, who won the gold and silver medals for the event. We were very excited to see American hurdler Lolo Jones race and defend her title in the 60meter hurdles.

It was an exciting day and seeing so many different people cheering on their own was fun. I hope we get to see more world class events like this in the future. In fact, in May Doha will host another IAAF track and field event - outdoors through the IAAF's Diamond League.

We left thinking that we needed to run more, but after the RAK 1/2 Marathon in February we've been taking it easy....maybe too easy. It is time to run again!

Until next time,