Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sporting Week(end)- Part 2

I thought I'd wrap up my tales of last weekend's/week's sporting events before I embarked on another equally busy weekend (Fitness Festival, Anime Film Show/Demonstration/Lecture, Faculty Lunch, 2 Parties...etc).

On Saturday of last week, I finished up some chores around the house before deciding later in the afternoon to swing by the Qatar Masters tournament at the Doha Golf Club. The event was free and didn't require a ticket, and having never been to that part of town or Doha's golf course (heck, any golf course other than the course my boyfriend's parents live on), or a golf tournament, I thought I'd drop by. Before heading into the club, I snapped a picture of the club gate, marveling that this course existed in the desert at all (Remember, I've never been to Vegas). However, the fact that a police SUV was in front of the sign and the policeman saw me take my photo, prompted him to stop me and very politely tell me that I couldn't take photos of the police. I obliged by deleting the image and showing him so. I won't go into much detail about the tournament itself, as I have no experience with with which to compare it. Let's just say- yes, there was a lot of money walking around (some expat, some Qatari); it was very green; there was alcohol; there were famous players (don't ask, I don't know); I ran into a fellow CM-Q faculty member cheering for his fellow Swedes; I received 5 Doha2016 Applicant City shirts (2 of them polos); and I arrived about 15 minutes before they wrapped up for the day. Ah-well. I was more excited about the shirts than anything. :)




Next day-Sunday- continued my sporting 'firsts' and played my first game of squash with a fellow CM-Q colleague and compound neighbor Greg (the same one who shares an SUV with Darbi). Our compound community center has 1 squash court in the basement (with only one door in/out- we'd be so screwed in a fire). He was kind enough to loan me the better of the 2 racquets, explain the game, and put up my muscle memory blunderings, as I tried to comprehend how this was not tennis or racquetball. We volleyed and traded shots for about an hour. We'll maybe keep score next time.

The following evening-Monday- continuing the sporting variety- as I played 2 hours of friendly competition co-ed volleyball with CM-Q faculty, staff, and students. This was the first time I've played volleyball in years (minus the pool volleyball games last summer with a few drinks and against former-collegiate volleyball scholarship girls and professional hockey players at a reality tv personality's wedding in St. Thomas... but that doesn't count). My forearms and shins were quite sore after all those games but I enjoyed waking up forgotten muscles. At one point we had about 22 people playing volleyball, with at least 6 women (all staff). We had a few Qatari males and they removed their thobes to join the game in normal t-shirts, jeans, or athletic shorts. I plan to continue playing with the group every Monday, guaranteeing me at least one workout a week.

I saw my first bike race the next day-Tuesday- as Stage 3 of Tour of Qatar finished right outside of Gate 3 of Education City (an 8 minute walk from our building). I was in the middle of an environmental chat with CM-Q's Dean Chuck Thorpe when we remembered the race was nearing and we dashed out. We arrived well ahead of the cyclists, and milled around, chatting with fellow cycling enthusiast colleagues, having a free drink from a bottled water supplier or McDonald's with 'orange drink' and chicken sandwiches. (haven't had either of those in years either) We also kept busy watching the hired BMX bike exhibitionists show off their tricks on the mini ramp and trick park they set up- complete with massive tires and balance beams. The blaring hip-hop, the food, the bikers, and three girls with the event walking around in short shorts were in glaring contrast to the nearby Bedouin black tent with Arab men in white thobes enjoying tea and coffee service. After half an hour of waiting- the pace SUV finally appeared and the first pack whizzed by- faster than I've ever seen anyone on a bike. Darbi nearly got clipped by the leader in capturing this picture (my camera was out of battery). It was certainly something to see; make me wish I had my bike here. The Tour wraps up at tomorrow's 'Wheels and Heels' event, a Fitness event on the Corniche sponsored by Reach Out to Asia, another Qatar Foundation organization. How this event reaches out to Asia, I'm not sure...

مع السلام

Connection Interrupted...

So I was wrapping up another sports experience or two before planning to continue my Sports Weekend (Week)-Part 2 when 1) I forgot my laptop at school and couldn't blog and 2) the internet suddenly became very, very, very slow. Early-dial up days slow. Hit 'Next' on Amazon, walk away, brush teeth, wash face, return, and it's still not up slow. I thought it was my normally decent but sometime sporadic home wireless.

Today at school, where I use an Ethernet cable, it was still a little spotty. Then we received an e-mail, stating:"UNSCHEDULED EVENT:Computing Services would like to inform you that Internet access has beenslow since yesterday for all Q-Tel, Home-ADSL, and Business users. This is caused due to a major Fiber cable cut near Egypt."

Ok, that explains it, I thought. No biggie. Internet seemed to be working ok and I had no real reason to watch videos or stream audio anytime soon. Then another email:"Computing Services would like to keep you updated regards this incident.

Two cables were cut in the Mediterranean yesterday which bought down our Atlantic link. Traffic is currently routed via a second link (through the Pacific).

We are measuring 150ms latencies over this second link. Hence, some congestion may occur causing delays and backlog. Computing Services recommends that you plan tele-conference backups for your video-conferences as the service could face high delay under the circumstances. [CM-Q faculty and staff regularly teleconference with the 8-hours behind us Pittsburgh campus. It's not unusual to walk by a conference room and see folks chatting with someone on screen in a recognizable room in Pittsburgh. The classroom I use is wired for video-conferencing; our lecture halls are designed for distance teaching; and all of our faculty/staff laptops/computers have webcams].

As we understand, it is anticipated that new fiber will be laid down within
approximately 2 weeks. [Not too shocking- I've come to expect that things take time here]."Thus I wasn't too surprised to go home after work and find my internet didn't work at all- at least for 6 hours. It was a welcome break-absolving me from checking email and forcing me to read some prior-downloaded recycling reports, listen to Anthony Bourdain read his 'Kitchen Confidential' on iTunes, and sketch a typeface.

With the internet back on, I saw an email from my mom discussing my Uncle's communication with his employer Aramco in KSA(Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) was interrupted and then I just noticed the Internet outage is one of the top stories on CNN.com. Yep. That's us folks. Far as I can tell- not quite the chaos here they describe in Dubai in the article but bothersome nonetheless. We'll see what sort of effect it has here in Qatar.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Food Notes

For all you folks who thought living in the Middle East meant months of hummus & tabouli- I bring you the following news : Krispy Kreme Donuts opens in Villagio Mall this Friday at 5 pm! You know you're experiencing globalization when you see banners advertising the newest location of the State-side donut chain featuring a man in a thobe holding up two donuts forming the the two 'o's' of 'SOON'. I haven't eaten one of these donuts in years but I might have to stop by if nothing else for the novelty of seeing the motley throngs crowd around for their free hot donut.

I recently made lentil soup from 101cookbooks.com, another recipe that called for 'dark leafy greens'. I made my way to the frozen section, where I was told one could find frozen spinach (fresh spinach apparently is not to be found-I will investigate further). I did find the spinach-which I plan to use in another recipe, but I also discovered frozen 'Molokhia Leaves', a dark green leaf the package said to treat as a fresh vegetable. (Turns out it's Egyptian Spinach-often used in soup for its thickening properties).

I had trouble tracking down the lentils- as I made the mistake of shopping on a Friday evening (after the camel races). This meant the store was PACKED and sections of shelves were cleared out of items. Including the 3 spots for lentils. There were countless other bean offerings but with names I had never heard. I eventually grabbed a pack of 'Green Masoor' and discovered at home that it was indeed a type of lentil. The soup turned out quite tasty and nicely enhanced by the saffron yogurt spooned on top (Saffron being one of the 2 spices I brought with me- the other being chili powder :)

Before I left for Doha, folks wondered if the food would be any good. I responded that it's probably as good as I made it- as I would be cooking for myself. (Others might contend that my cooking is also only as good as the quality of the ingredients but I haven't explored the ingredient options enough yet to speak to that aspect). And until last week- that was the case- I made various rice and chicken and cooked vegetable dishes but had not dined on anything amounting to 'local'.

That changed last week when the visiting architecture professors and myself decided to take our post-school day dinner at the local cheap eats spot- Turkey Central. The name makes it sound like a horrible local take on fast-food but that's not the case. Sidenote: the Turkey in the name refers to the country, not the bird. This hole-in-wall cafeteria is on a busy street across from Thai massage parlors and in the midst of stores and barber shops. The dining rooms are upstairs in this two-story cafeteria-style eatery. The drinks (other than the fantastic hand-made juices) are self-serve. The napkins are from a box of tissues on each table. The tabletops are sticky. The food is cheap. And it's good.

My knowledge of regional food is still lacking but as far as I can tell it's a mix of Turkish-Lebanese-Arabic fusion. We had some fantastic soft flat bread with a meza plate of hummus, tabouli, chili salad, carrot salad, and some other dips. We also shared a plate of some sort of BBQ chicken with pickled vegetables and flavorful kebab-looking logs of spiced mutton. It was good. Others seemed to agree- we saw large groups of Westerners, Asian workers, and Arabs (but no Qataris). Another plus about this place- it was cheap. It was 70QR for all that food for the 3 of us- about $20 US. Woah. I'll be back. (I also prescribe to Anthony Bourdain's philosophy that it's the crummiest looking places with the longest line of locals that make the best places to eat). (Note: after posting this entry, my mother and I, in our telepathic witch-like fashion, both made the same realization: how can I say locals eat there if Qataris aren't present? Well- when Qataris make up less than 20% of the population and only 10-15% of the workforce, they no longer serve as the standard definition of 'local'. Also- I have seen the most Qataris at places like T.G.I.Fridays and Applebees. So much for local flavor).

Last of my food notes for now: The tins of 'Americana Quality' Chocolate Chip cookies found in my apartment when I arrived left a lot to be desired, and I quickly began to obsess on making some real chocolate chip cookies. My simple craving turned into a long process of scouting and securing of materials and supplies: I couldn't find chocolate chips (or they were out) so I used a chopped up hazelnut chocolate bar. You can buy regular liquor with a permit here but you can't find vanilla extract in the stores or even at the liquor depot- only vanilla flavoring. (I might have to secure some bourbon and vanilla beans and make my own). And the package I grabbed labeled 'Brown Sugar' turned out to be turbino sugar- a fact I only discovered half-way through my recipe. I went ahead and made them anyhow so they turned out to be more like crunchy-chewy sugar cookies with chocolate/hazelnut bits. Not bad. Not bad at all. Next on the cooking-list: a grain pie, homemade olive oil crackers and masala chai. I'll keep you updated.

مع السلام

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Sporting Weekend-Part 1

In case you didn't know- Doha hosted the 2006 Asian Games back in December 2006. It was a big to-do here and prompted a large amount of new construction and general enthusiasm for sports. It was also the city's test to show had the potential to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Much like Chicago's hosting of the 2006 Gay Games to prove its worthiness as a 2016 applicant city. ....pause... Ok, may be a little different...) So you see brand new stadiums, the large 'Aspire Tower' which was the centerpiece of the Asian Games, banners showcasing the 'sportiness' of the city and so on.

However, if you want to see real Qatari sporting enthusiasm- head to the camel, I mean, Land Cruiser, I mean, camel race track. About 45 km outside the city are the oval race tracks and the facilities that house the camels, their handlers and trainers. The camels use to be raced by exploited and often orphaned child jockeys (sometimes as young as age four) but the law changed only a few years ago outlawing the use of child jockeys. Today they use remote controlled robots with robotic whips on top of the camels. The owners then drive alongside the 5, 8, or 10 km long track in their SUVs (mainly Land Cruisers), pressing the remote to whip and urge their camel along.

Friday I joined up with a group of Carnegie Mellon faculty and staff to go on a guided trip to the camel races (100 QR, ~$27.5US), where our bus would have permission to drive along side the race track. We arrive at the course and we're told our bus could not enter, because the Prince (well, one of them) was going to arrive and perhaps after he arrived we could enter. We milled about for a while- annoyed that we had paid for what we could have done for free. Thankfully we had some Arabic speakers in the group and they convinced the officials to let us in. We drove in and piled out amongst the Land Cruisers and camel owners and found ourselves a few meters away from the Prince himself!

We crowded along the track, snapping pictures, and watching the handler's struggle to push the camels into place. Then we were told we better move as 1) the camels could bolt over the fence and 2) we were about to be run over by frantic Land Cruisers. No horn, no siren-- the large gate went up- the camels bolted, the handlers all scrabbled out of the way and the SUVs screeched after them. We didn't see much except for the start and anti-climatic endings of 2 races but then another official said our bus had permission to follow behind the SUVs along the track (I think the Prince had left). Next race began and we sped off after the vehicles. A well-trained camel runs at about 35 km/h and many of them eventually slowed to be more evenly spread out along the track. The SUVS were another story- they were the real pack and proved more entertaining than the camels with colorful robotic whipping humps. We drove right with them, jostling and honking and bumping along the road next to the course, dust flying in through our open windows. The races were all 8 km female camel races that took about ~7 minutes for the fastest camel. We drove around the track 2 times and watched another race from the ground before we headed back to town.

The environmental standards in me say I shouldn't have liked camel racing- it manages to combine tedious animal racing with emissions spewing vehicle racing. And yes, I'll admit I'm not crazy about the need to drive cars/vans around the track. But- it was thrilling- and yes, it is certainly a bit of culture you won't find in the States. It also proved to be valuable bonding time with fellow-CMU-Q employees. And for that, I enjoyed it.
مع السلام
video

Monday, January 21, 2008

Course Updates

I now have a week and half of school under my belt. I still mentally prep for my classes and make a rough outline of notes, jot down to phrases I'd like to use, etc. It helps to have a freeze-up back-up. That being said, I find that I probably have about 5-10 minutes worth of content beyond my time limit. One hour and twenty minutes is not a long time for a design studio/lecture course. Especially when you have ~20 students. Did I mention that? I had 18 students on my roster today, 3 didn't show, 2 additional students showed and 1 more asked to join the class just this afternoon. I don't even recall what the cut-off limit if for the class, but it will have to be 20. Any more and we won't be able to cover everyone during our critique classes. We have only 3 boys in the class (reminds me of Carnegie Mellon design- especially communication design. Side story- CMU designers visited Chicago one winter and the offices of SkinnyCorp, the folks behind Threadless. A SkinnyCorp guy saw all these females waltzing in and asked in complete seriousness, 'Is Carnegie Mellon an all-girl school?' Gotta love Midwest ignorance of the school). Thus far the students are willing to speak up and I hope to keep that enthusiasm and participation going throughout the semester. Critiques can quickly become quiet as the semester wears on.

Originally I was signed up to teach 2 courses here at Carnegie Mellon's Qatar Campus- the second one was titled 'Designing Sustainable Systems' (although they goofed up the name in the registrar). Problem is- no one signed up for it and only 2 students approached me about it in the days before class started. It later hit me like a ton of bricks why: they thought it was an Information Systems or Computer Science course. Every other course offered at CM-Q with the word 'systems' in the title is a CS course. CM-Q students certainly don't want to do programming in an elective course. The description was also somewhat vague- partially because I was still figuring out course details when they needed the description. In the context of a design curriculum, the description might have made more sense. However, here- with no other design exposure or smack-dab in the middle of Biz/CS courses, it sounded technical. Chalk that one up as a learning experience.... I also think the topic might have been a little advanced even for the Pittsburgh campus.

The plan now is to rework the class and offer it as mini-course for the second half of the semester, essentially seeking to answer the question, 'What does sustainability mean in the Middle East?' One can't simply plunk down sustainable concepts from the US (ex. increase access to public transit) and expect it to work here (non-laboring natives and expats wouldn't use it). I also made some contacts yesterday and today regarding environmental initiatives and opportunities here. More on those later-

Sunday, January 20, 2008

2nd Week Discoveries

So I feel I owe an update; last week I discovered:

-my roof leaks (a little leak but it was very surprising for the desert- but then I've been told it's not that uncommon given the level of craftsmanship here)
-my washing machine doesn't work (at first I thought I couldn't decipher the non-labeled symbols-nope, it simply won't spin)
-my class has swelled; from 10 to 17 (two other students added today- so I'm expecting 19 tomorrow)
-never go to the mall on a Friday night (Americans in general have no true concept by the phrase 'sea of humanity')
-the car has no windshield fluid and I haven't found any (only distilled water; I've since been told that I have to get refilled at the car shops next to the petrol station)
-the best bread in town is from 2 cafe/bakery places in the Villagio mall
-this is maxi-pad country, with tiny stocks of OB for the expats (Grr. Note: ladies traveling/living abroad- make sure to get correct information about the female necessities availability before you travel...)
-this air/climate/humidity/something really dries out your skin
-electric stoves make excellent makeshift heaters
-halogen space heaters are better than the other space heaters because they are less of a fire hazard but- ha- they're very, very bright- I feel like I'm in the movie 'Sunshine' or something.
-my apartment gets very dusty, very quickly
-take the left (inner) lane of the roundabout; that way you have the right of way and only have to worry about one set of cars to your right
-this town (especially if you only seem to see expats) is really quite small and you run into the same crowd at similar functions
-apparently Darbi and I are heading to Jordan in February
-it's true- you don't need Arabic to live here

Thursday, January 17, 2008

T.G.I. ...T?

Yes- it's Thursday night- that means the start of the weekend here folks (weekends are Friday/Saturday- with Friday being the holy day). Takes a little getting use but hey- weekends are weekends no matter when they occur. Last weekend, Denny Roberts (my friend and fellow Fifth Year Scholar Darbi's father- both their blogs are linked here), Qatar Foundation Assistant Vice President for Faculty and Student Services, invited me to join him at a dinner with some of the organizer's from Education City's LeaderShape retreat. We had some great Indian food and it was nice to meet folks from around EC and ease my cultural awkwardness.

Afterwards I found myself at a house party of my downstairs neighbor, Meredith from Cornell's Qatar campus. She had a birthday party for a friend and invited me to come. Thank goodness she did, because the party certainly wasn't a quiet affair- had everything from blasting music to jell-o shots. So you might be wondering about the liquor and jell-o. Yes, both alcohol and pork are prohibited in this country- you cannot import either, even for personal consumption. That being said- there are government controlled shops and hotel bars that permit the sale of alcohol to expats. To purchase at the shop you need a liquor permit and can only purchase so much at a time. (I won't get one because I'm not applying for a residency permit). [I found out later, that the liquor allowance is quite generous- you can purchase up to 10% of your monthly salary. That's a lot of hooch.] Drunk driving is a horrible idea and can get you deported- even appearing intoxicated publicly will be severely punished. So- yes, you can get it. Now for the jell-o...perhaps it's halal gelatin? (halal is food permissible by Islam). I don't know the answer to that one.

As I mentioned- the other place to purchase alcohol is in Western hotels- but for a pretty penny. I'm about to head out the door to meet two professors from school at the Cigar Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel on the Corniche. I'll see for myself about the price of the drinks- perhaps I'll just stick with the mixed juice. :)

Update: The bill was QR 50 [US$13.75] (QR 60 [US$16.50] with the 17% service fee) for my one Caipirinha. So...basically chic urban prices? À la NYC or Chicago? Still doesn't encourage me to run out and drink- which probably isn't a bad thing. Related note: even though the drivers are crazy here- it is somewhat comforting to know that odds are very slim that the guy swerving next to you is drunk. A small comfort, I know.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I just taught my first class!

Call me a little excitable- but I just taught a full 1 hour and 20 minutes of the first class for 'Communication Design Fundamentals'. And I think it went really well- I didn't clam up- I commanded my tiny classroom and thank goodness- students responded and spoke up. I have to thank Dan Boyarski of Carnegie Mellon's School of Design for 2 reasons: 1) Turning to me last spring and saying 'Have you ever thought of teaching?' and 2) Exciting three of my students last spring when he taught a mini workshop on communication design. These students with design exposure in the mini were by far the most outspoken and knowledgeable about the topic. I think their talk encouraged other students to speak up as well. I was heartened to see students throughout the room chime in and even ask me questions after class.

I had roughly 10 students show up today, 13 were registered, 2 were not registered and 2 were out of the country. All but 2 were female. Many were Qatari but there were also students from Egypt, Palestine, Syria, & Bangladesh. We actually went for the full class time, which surprised me- I even had to rush to give out an assignment for Wednesday. (I'm cruel- I know). The assignment is aimed to get their creative juices flowing and introduce them to the idea of typeface personalities. It will also begin to introduce other design elements such as page layout, materials, intention, and critiques and lead the way for an introductory lecture on type history and typefaces options.

Assignment: 'Visualizing Your Personality : How to convey your personality in the writing of your name?' Make a list of 10 personality attributes, pick 3. For each of those 3, make 10 thumbnail sketches of how to convey that personality attribute in the writing/drawing of your name. Take your best from each set and reproduce full size on A4. (I am quickly becoming smitten with the Metric paper sizes) No computer or photocopiers allowed. We'll see what they come up with Wednesday. I think the creativity bug is ripe in them- I gave them space to do a quick small self-portrait on their questionnaire form. One portrait was of landscape shot of a stick figure dunning (dune bashing- aka driving crazily over dunes). I love it.

Side note: My package of warmer clothing arrived from home (before the 2 boxes of texbooks)! The textbooks were shipped Jan. 5th and the clothing was sent Jan. 9th. Those textbooks might be held up in customs. We'll see. Thanks for the warmer duds Mom & Dad!

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's raining!

It's almost 7 am here- and I was just greeted to a pounding on my roof (I'm on the third and top floor of the apartment) and it took me a split second to realize that it's raining! And hard! I knew it rained here but it's one of those things that you don't quite fathom until it happens. Supposedly this is the first rain of the season- they've had none for the month of December or to date this year. My Qatar Living notes from CM-Q recommend that you use Friday morning (holy day morning) to practice driving and explore the city. Considering streets here don't have drainage, I think I'm staying put in my apartment this am. (And now I don't have to get my car washed for a while either ;)

From what I've seen so far- this whole landscape could present an interesting permaculture opportunity. During my semester 'inbroad' studying sustainable design and architecture at Ecosa Institute in Arizona, we visited Brad Lancaster in Tucson to see how in an area where the annual rainfall is 12", Brad uses permaculture to harvest 30" of rain. It's remarkable. I'd be curious to see what Brad could do with Doha's annual 100 mm (~4") of rain. (check out his book 'Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond').

After marveling at the rain, I resume my cooking. Based on what ingredients were in my apartment when I arrived and a few provisions I picked up at the local Carrefour (French Mega-Grocery chain) at the Villagio Mall, I'm making a version of 101cookbooks.com's Poached Egg over Rice recipe. Turns out my apartment has crummy knives and no salt/pepper, but I'm making do. The recipe calls for dark leafy greens and the only ones I could find were in the 'Herb' section and had no label. After cooking with them I think they are mustard greens. My rice bowl dish turned out decent but could have benefited from some salt, non-white rice, and more finely chopped greens.

Sidenote: the Villagio Mall is supposedly modeled after the casino in Las Vegas complete with canals and gondolas. However, having never been to Vegas, I was corrected by both my boyfriend and my father that the Venetian is the one with canals and not the Bellagio. Perhaps the name is a combination of the two casinos.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Car Stories- Part 1

My rental car arrived my second night here- a little white 07 or 08 Chevy Optra (apparently it's equivalent in Mexico was the Chevy Cavalier). 8,700 km on it- I'm suppose to turn it in for a check-up at 10,000 km. (I could have sprung for the SUV for an extra $500 US a month but my principles and pocket-book didn't like that). It was windy and cold the night they delivered it to my apartment steps (an hour late) and we were recovering from a cold dust-storm. Think windy (but not hurricane windy) and foggy- but that fog coats your car in dust and seeps into your apartment (because windows aren't water-tight; there is no need for them to be). A layer of dust is on most everything- everywhere. And this isn't sand-dust like in Saudi Arabia- this is more brown-soil style dust. I joked with the rental delivery guy that I should have requested a gray or tan car, because this one will be that the next day. (It's a good idea to keep a dust brush in your car to brush off the dust before driving. I'll get into car washing in a shopping post).

Back to driving- admittedly, I was worried that they trusted me to drive so soon. I had heard about the atrocious driving habits of Doha drivers and lots of talk of what to do when (not if, when) I had an accident. Being driven to my apartment and experiencing the roundabouts for the first time wasn't as scary as I feared; but then again, I wasn't driving. Being driven to campus the next day in the dust storm- things began to look alike and I mistakenly fixated on every-round about, trying to remember if I went straight ahead or turned. In reality, I should just count and remember the turns- not the straight-throughs. Having never experienced British or European roudabouts- I am no expert on how these compare- but I will say folks will not hesitate to cut you off. Driving for these first few times, I become a little nervous each time I approached a round-about (similar to when I was learning to drive and dreaded left turns- because they forced you to merge into the next lane). It's gotten better and I've only been honked at twice- but I still need to be careful and respect the dangers of the road (recent Peninsula article on the road situation in Doha).

They recently changed road laws here (as in Nov or so) and installed numerous cameras to catch speeding and red-light running. You probably won't be pulled over- rather the camera will catch your vehicle, record the license plate # and charge you. You can view your violations and pay online. Oh- and guess what? Supposedly you can't leave the country if you have any violations- so add that to a list of travel to-dos. I don't really speed much in America and tend to be one of the slower drivers here. However- I think the cameras and fines (I've heard in the thousands of riyals) have scared some other drivers into being law-abiding.

It's late again- I'll continue with my car adventures in another post.
مَعَ الّسَلامَ
-Rosemary

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Start of an Adventure

Hello! This is simply a quick introduction to start the blog chronicling my time here in Doha, Qatar. I tend to be a perfectionist and procrastinate starting on things, so I thought it best to bite the bullet and start writing! This blog is meant to document my semester teaching and living at Carnegie Mellon University in Doha, part of Qatar Foundation's Education City. The other purpose of this blog is to share my experience with family, friends, colleagues and others who wish to hear updates and are curious about this part of the world. Through this blog I hope to shed some light on misconceptions, stereotypes, fears, and beliefs I heard from others prior to my departure to Doha.

I'll recap my travel and initial impressions at a later time but I first I just want to share some of my 'firsts':

This is my first time to Doha and to the Middle East.
My flight from Chicago to Dulles was my first time flying business class (United)
I received a surprise upgrade to First class on Qatar Airways, flying in style from Dulles to Doha.
I moved into my first (solo) apartment my first night and received my first rental car the second night.
I drove to and from campus today, marking my first time driving outside of the States.
I'm an Adjunct Professor at CMU-Q, marking my first time teaching (more on my classes later).

My jet lag has been touch and go these past 2 days. I goofed up my schedule by crashing this evening from 6 to 10 pm. It's 2 am now and I'll going to attempt to force myself to sleep. (It's also time to turn off the TV- one can only hear 'Fashion TV Arabia' say so many times in its seductive voice to 'get exposed'. I'm still feeling out the dress code here . It's quite a contrast from the abayas seen around town to what is seen in stores, ads, and tv).