Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Terrible Wife, Great Running Partner

We are still training for the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 1/2 Marathon that is on August 1st. We've also been taking co-ed group fitness classes at Aspire. I also had a consultation with a personal trainer to get set up on using the weight room. I like using the weights because I can go down a list of nicely organized exercises that my trainer (a triathlete from New Zealand) made just for me. I also really like the co-ed classes more than the women's classes because they are more difficult. The Group Fitness class has each person moving every 2 minutes to different stations in groups of 3 or 4. In the Total Fat Loss class we stay at stations for 4 minutes. By the time we're half way around the room M and I both are dripping with sweat. I love it! However, after two weekends of not doing our long run, we made a fatal error the night before our run.

Last week we decided to go to the Thursday night Total Fat Loss class with the fantastic-sub-five-foot-no-bullshit-allowed-no-excuses-trainer named George. He is a like a muscle bound pit bull . . . from Romania. He was wearing a tank top instead of a t-shirt last week and M and I couldn't believe how stacked he was! M heard he was a former Olympic gymnast (Doha the Branson, Missouri, of the Gulf - where former Olympians go to retire . . . ) George also commands the room with his voice. We had already started at various stations around the room when an Arab guy poked his head in and asked to join the class. George shot a quick look at the Arab and barked "Yes, go, check in, and when you come back 20 push ups!" Like I mentioned before, George doesn't mess around. So why in the heck we thought it was a good idea to take his class the night before our long run is beyond me.

I have to stop this story here to add some personal background. In 2008 I ran 7 half marathons and 2 marathons. That was while I was living in Seoul, South Korea, with one race being in Hong Kong. In Seoul there is the most amazing support system of fellow crazy runners and plenty of races in Seoul and all over Korea to enjoy. I was in heaven to say the least. I was single, working, traveling, running, and racing a lot. In fact, there was one month when I ran two half marathons. A friend jokingly asked, "Why didn't you just run one marathon and get it over with?" I went to races out of town by bus or train. I went with some great friends and also alone. I went to the Cherwon DMZ Half Marathon alone and spent the whole day speaking Korean. I will never forget that experience of running past South Korea DMZ guard towers with soldiers standing up on top and of running through villages and having Korean ajummas waving at me and cheering me on while smiling. I loved traveling throughout Korea and running. However, simply put, I was addicted and wanted to spend all my free time either preparing or actually competing. I wasn't great at it, but I had some amazing life changing races. Training and racing became me. I was a bona fide finisher's medal hording, race t-shirt collecting, early weekend morning training, monthly racing "marathoner" while in Korea.

Now that we live in Qatar things have changed. I honestly thought the only obstacle to maintaining my previous running and racing lifestyle would be the weather, but I was wrong. There is a small group of people who meet each weekend to run along The Corniche, but M and I stopped going last fall because we hated getting up early to meet strangers for a run along a brick (ouch!) path. Perhaps equally upsetting is the fact that there are practically no races in Qatar. I hear about some sort of "Women's Mini-marathon" or something like that. What the heck is a "mini-marathon"? Call it what it is - a 5k fun run/walk! I didn't run that race. It made me angry just thinking about it. However, M and I found a proper half marathon in the UAE for a nice weekend in February. We had a great time, but with less intense training I felt like it was just a training run rather than a race.

I miss racing like I used to do in Seoul. I miss feeling like I am good at running. I miss being known as "a runner" or better yet, "a marathoner" to others, but mostly to myself. I miss training hard and feeling good even though it kind of kills my social life. And I've let my husband (a marathoner and triathlete as well) know this in more than a few conversations since we moved here. I just hope we can visit Seoul and run a race there so he can experience it all.

So we recommitted ourselves to training. We've run a little more in the heat than was probably wise, and decided that we just can't change the weather. However, we can get up earlier when it isn't so darn hot. We decided this before George's Total Fat Loss class last week. We had been getting up at 5:00AM to run, but by the time we got out the door it was 5:20AM and the sun was glaring down on us.

Therefore, last Thursday night I set the alarm for 4:00AM. We would run 7 miles - the most we'd run since our February half marathon. For a half marathon we should run at least one 12 mile run about two weeks before the race. We've got time, but not much considering we've only ran 5-6 miles each time we've ran since our last half marathon and we skipped two weekends in a row. As soon as the alarm went off at 4:00AM I jumped up excited and ready to run. The cats were confused and looked a little perturbed. I know Frankie said to Sophia, "Hey, isn't it our job to wake them up?!" M wasn't trilled but I found a way to get him out of bed. I have to bluff and pretend like I'm going to run on the mean streets of Doha alone and then he's up!

Just for the record it was a nice cool 93F at 4:00AM on that Friday, June 25th. I was immediately in love with the idea of getting up every weekend in Doha at 4:00AM. I cannot tell you how incredibly refreshing it was to run at that time in that cool of weather. Right now it is a hot 95F but the "realfeel" temperature is 100F. In the past few weeks the "realfeel" temperature got up near 120F. What does that feel like? Basically, imagine putting your body into an oven, or turning a thousand hot hair dryers onto your body.

Until Next Time,


Photo credit: Seoul Flyer's Running Club President, Jae Kim and me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gulf Fashion Observations

Amy Winehouse keeps popping into my head when I see my students. Read more to find out why!

Like in South Korea I was not accustomed to what I saw when I first arrived in Qatar. I saw a sea of sameness at first. Now I can see some differences. There are some subtle differences and some big differences.

First of all, there are many types of covering for women in the Arab world. BBC online has a good slide show of these. There is the hijab which is a veil and the word for "veil" in Arabic. You can still see the face and eyes when a Muslim woman wears this. They come in different colors and patterns. And like in this photograph, I see SE Asian women wearing these too here in Qatar.

Most of my students wear the shayla which is a bigger scarf that wraps around one's head and hangs a bit further down. Almost all of my students wear a black shayla with a matching abaya. Some students wear a matching shayla and abaya that have embroidery on the edges. This blog sells them and has some good photographs. Some abayas and shaylas are fairly modest with only black threaded embroidery on black fabric. Some are much more colorful like the one below. In fact, one of my students wore a black abaya with part of the sleeves made from zebra print fabric which had hot pink bobby sock puffs stitched along the cuffs. I immediately thought "Wow! Cat toy!" when I first saw her abaya. Despite her sassy choice of fabric she was quiet and diligent in class.

Another type of head covering is called niqab and it covers everything but the woman's eyes.

In a class of about 20 females from all over the Arabian Gulf, the Middle East, and Northern Africa, I have had only 2 or 3 who wore the niqab. Furthermore, only 1 of my students out of my total 40 from 2009-2010 never unveiled her face to me. She even wore long, black gloves outside the classroom. I only know that one student by her voice and her eyes. She was from Sudan. She was also one of my most respectful and serious students here in Qatar. I've found it interesting that in general my students who wear niqab seem to make a extra effort to express themselves with their eyes. Students wearing the niqab have crinkled up their eyes when I suppose they were smiling underneath their niqabs. They have also given me cold stares when frustrated during a class lesson. They also seem to speak their minds more than the others - perhaps because of the freedom associated with the niqab's anonymity or because they were simply outspoken individuals (I'm still not sure which is the cause).

The one accessory that interests me the most is the "flower puff" which some Gulf Arab women put under their head scarves (i.e. a bustle for your head). It goes to show that curves are in style everywhere. One online forum explains that some women add this extra Va Va Voom! under their head scarves to make it look as if their hair is fuller than it really is. The forum also points out that the reason for wearing the hijab, or head scarf, is to show modesty by covering one's hair. Furthermore, the forum goes on to argue that feigning fuller hair than what you have naturally is deceitful and against Islam. Hm . . . I guess women in all corners of the world use all sorts of trickery when it comes to beautifying themselves. I just cannot get Amy Winehouse out of my head when I see some of my students with a head bustle or flower puff.

Until Next Time,

PS It was 50C or 122F here in Doha, Qatar, today so I cannot imagine ever wearing any of the above fashions. Thank goodness I don't have to wear any of them.

Photo credits:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Schools Out for Summer!

Photo: Sophia & Frankie bathe and then wrestle on their Cat Canopy

My classes have finished, exams have been graded and entered into the online system, and I have been to my office to wait for students to complain in person. (Not one student came.) Now, what to do?

My husband's teaching will finish the 3rd week of July, so that leaves me with about 45 days of time to kill. Here are some things that could fill my time:

1. Cook more delicious meals (I only know how to make 3 - maybe)
2. Clean more of the house
3. Run more (on the treadmill in A/C) because August 1st will be here soon!
4. Morning spinning class (on days I have the car)
5. Read more (I have 6 books on my nightstand currently!)
6. Blog more
7. Get Frankie (our little boy kitten) "fixed"
8. Get both kittens de-clawed - the poor things often get hung up on the curtains, sheets, and furniture upholstery
9. Get a haircut
10. Watch a list of recommended movies that I've never seen
11. Watch the entire series of "Lost" - I never got addicted to it
12. Plan next 3 vacations (mid-late August, mid-September Eid, mid-November)
13. Get car inspection (I've heard this is a big pain in the neck, so I'm not looking forward to this.)
14. Swim lessons (I emailed, stopped by in person, and facebooked the Doha Dolphins, but still haven't heard back from them - hiss boo)
15. Start saying goodbye to some teachers who are not returning in the fall :(
16. Start packing for July 23rd trip home :)
17. Continue taking a gazillion photos of our adorable kitties that I am already sad about leaving during vacation . . .

Until Next Time,