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Sunday, February 20, 2011

"You shouldn't wear sandals in case we have to run."

Bahrain Protesters in Pearl Square

Egyptian Protesters in Tahrir Square

"You shouldn't wear sandals in case we have to run."

That's what my husband said the other day to me on our way to the mall to eat lunch and watch a movie. With all the protesting and revolutions going on in the region, that is one example of the things we have talked about lately. While I think democracy is good, I do not know if this part of the world is truly ready for it. This region has been run by the elite wasta bearing minority (royals and military) for so long that it will take time and re-education of all before they can put a legitimate democratic election into place. These big, important changes will not happen over night. Wasta, or connections, will continue to be the way things get done around here for a long time to come.

We're here until July unless something forces us out - like a revolution in Qatar. We already planned to leave Qatar at the end of this academic year, so I won't be sad if we have to leave sooner. However, I really do not think the people of Qatar will revolt. The people here have a lot more to lose than others in the region. I've blogged before about all the handouts, welfare, and subsidies that the Qatari nationals get. The expats or foreign workers with residency (some with generations of only residency although having been born and lived here all their lives) could revolt. However, if the residents (not citizens) of non-western nations revolt, they'll just be deported to their homelands for which they hold passports: India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc. And then more laborers will come to replace them. Everyone is replaceable especially when conditions in their home countries are far worse. As one co-worker put it, "You vote with your feet."
My husband, being the responsible man that he is, even suggested that we have a "bug out bag" in case we need to jump on a plane or go to our embassy. What would we take? We've decided that we'd take our passports, financial papers, laptops, and wedding album proofs. We haven't put together a bag just yet though. We'd also grab our two cats.

Besides having to plan for the worst case scenario, the thing that irritates me the most is all the rumors and lack of information because it spreads nothing but fear. I had to stop reading one person's Facebook status updates and comments because of the rumors and lack of valid information the person was sharing. This person stated that protests would happen here in Qatar according to the Arab speaking world, but this person did not state when or where the several thousand person protest would happen. What good does that do to broadcast half the information about something that has not yet been verified? It only made me want to stay inside, and ignore all other posts from the person, rather than sympathize with the cause. I think some people get off on being the bearer of bad news, or withholding powerful information from others. It doesn't help matters that there is no real news source here about national issues except for the lovely online source called The Penninsula. That website has mainly short articles about nice diplomatic meet-and-greets and family fun festivals (that may or may not have already passed.) Therefore, I check CNN International every morning and a few times throughout the day as well.
My dad posted this on my Facebook wall:

Bahrain riots are close to Qatar? Be safe . . .

A dear friend posted this on my Facebook wall as well:

The sands are shifting around you . . . democracy is in the water. What do you think is going to happen?

God bless them both for actually knowing where Qatar (and Bahrain) are. When I told my dad that I wanted to study abroad in Granada, Spain, he said, "Didn't we bomb the hell out of them?" He was thinking of Grenada. If anything, being over here makes all our families and friends more aware of international issues.

I'm still wearing sandals. We live in the desert and it is hot! We'll just be sending our hard earned Qatari riyals home on a more frequent basis in case we have to leave quickly. It would really stink being here for the money and in the end not getting our nest egg safely into our US bank accounts.

Until Next Time,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Taming the Lions

I start my final semester teaching tomorrow. For the past three semesters I've taught women (lionesses), or girls rather. At first, I wasn't too happy about being sent over to the men. Who loves change? I have come to realize that there could be some advantages to taming the lions though:
  • Boys won't disect and judge my non-name brand fashion choices.
  • Boys will care more about impressing me (an older auntie/sister figure) than the girls did.
  • Boys will not be so shy and will be eager to compete with each other, rather than with me as the girls did.
  • Boys will not be so vendictive like girls.
  • Boys will not be obsessed with checking their drag queen make up as the girls were.

Yes, these potential advantages are from stereotypes and anecdotal stories from other teachers, but it gives me hope that my last semester teaching here might possibly be a good one. After a lot of positive self talk I'm actually excited about tomorrow's first class. After all, this will be my first real exchange with Gulf Arab males outside of that one flat tire incident! One thing that I'll have to get used to is memorizing names with faces rather than handbags. (Many of us teachers started matching handbags to female student names if they wore full niqabs with their hijabs.)

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Big Move Home

I lived in the middle of this great city, Seoul of 10 million people, from January 2007-December 2008.

And then I moved back home to a small midwestern American city/town that has a population of about 200,000 people which includes the surrounding farming communities. Needless to say, I was making plans to leave again after just three months!

Here I am on the last official day of my mid-academic year break reading blogs about those who have taught in South Korea. What is it about living in a foreign country and the pull it has on your heart? When I lived in South Korea I down right hated it on occasion. Some days were difficult and lonely. Many unique and interesting things became annoying (i.e. conversations with complete strangers: "Hi! Hi! Hi! Do you speak Engrishee?! Why you not married? Where do you live?"). However, I think I really miss that time of little responsibility, complete selfishness, daydreaming about a future yet to be decided, and the foreign adventure of living in an amazing city like Seoul.

Here's another blog that I like to read about someone who has recently moved back to her small hometown in Canada with her husband. She's facing challenges with her new marriage, cultural differences, and living in her hometown as someone who has lived abroad. I totally get some of the things she's discussing. I understand what it is like to want to be somewhere else, only to feel yourself being pulled back to the place you just left - or lived before. I often fantasize about living in Seoul again.

I think everyone who has ever lived somewhere so different from where they grew up will forever feel that pull and tug to go back.

How do we expats and former expats soothe the urge to hop on an international flight to take a job in another country? We get busy with goals: build a home, make a family, further our education, and strengthen relationships with those who matter most. And if all that doesn't make you want to make your homeland your home, save up for international trips and live near an international airport to make travel easier. We can also search for work in our home countries that might have futures abroad.

Right now, I am looking for work at an American university that has foreign branch campuses, or who want to at least recruit internationl students. This could lead to me going abroad for a week to recruit students or it might mean my whole family (husband and two cats!) go abroad for a semester or more as American university employees.

until next time,

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