Friday, March 7, 2008

My Brother's Visit to Qatar- the abridged version

Feb. 29- Lunch with Dan Boyarski at the City Center Mall. My brother Henry arrives that evening in Doha. We unsuccessfully try to find a BBQ at Qatar Foundation Housing and then pass out.

Mar. 1- Bill Brown Memorial Ride early AM. I bike 46 km in total from Doha Golf Club to Simaisma Bridge. My brother- on the small loaner bike, rides 26 km to Lusail. See some pics from the event. Henry passes out and then goes to see 'Vantage Point' at the City Center Mall. I help LiveGreen (CMU-Q's student environmental group) prepare for the next day. I stay up too late preparing for my own speech.

Mar. 2- I give a ~20 minute presentation ('The Opportunities of Sustainability") 2 times at Qatar University's " Go Green. Change Our Future" كن صديقاً للبيئة. غير مستقبلنا Conference (Women only). I'm in at least 2 English papers and apparently some Arabic papers the next day (See The Gulf Times & The Peninsula). My brother heads back to City Center Mall with a student of mine, only to accidentally have my car keys in his pocket. We sort it out, do some food shopping, cook a veggie dinner and call it another early night.

Mar. 3- I give my presentation twice again (Males Only), teach my communication design class, teach my first section of 'Examining Sustainability in the Gulf', add another section of it, discover CMU-Q accidentally sent my textbooks back and we've now ordered them to arrive with the Pittsburgh students this Saturday. Henry and I play volleyball with the students, faculty, & staff. We then head to the souqs, Henry purchases souvenirs, and we have Iraqi food.

Mar. 4- I go to Arabic class, do some work at school, & swap my sedan with Darbi/Greg's SUV so my brother and I can go find the 'Singing Dunes'. I tell Henry I'm on my way home (we communicated via email, 2 American cell phones, 1 Qatari cell phone with mixed results). I leave Education City and pull into traffic too soon, getting slammed in the back, smashing up a little blue car driven by two Egyptians that don't speak English. We wait ~3 hours for the police to come to file a report. One tank of gas, one traffic department, 2 reports, 12 riyals, and 1.5 hours later and I'm finally back home to my stranded (and ill-informed) brother. In the fading light we attempt to find the Singing Dunes but no luck. Henry and I go with Greg and his visiting girlfriend Sophie to pick up Turkey Central. We eat at Greg's and then they watch movies at Greg's place. I work.

Mar. 5- We plan to get my brother to the Qatar National Museum for the morning and have him join me in the afternoon (after my classes). We have conflicting reports of whether the museum is open, closed, partially-open and can't confirm any details. We find the place deserted and later learn it won't be open to the public until November. After some phone calls- we learn the Weapons Museum is now open to the public and will be open until noon. We call, confirm, and then unsuccessfully try to find the place. Back at campus, we're given exact directions of how to get there- we head back out again and Henry books a cab for the ride back. We arrive- it looks nice- clean- legit. I bid Henry farewell and then he runs back, saying it's closed. I throw my hands up. At this point Henry begins to truly realize what it means to live in Doha and that while a decent place to live, Doha is not primed for tourists yet. I teach 3 classes (my sustainability course now has 20 students in two sections)- Henry relaxes. I secure a GPS from Justin & Marjorie and in the fading light Henry and I set out for the Singing Dunes again. 45 km from the city, we find the dunes and by flashlight we hike towards them on foot (as I have my sedan again and it would have not been happy on the rocks). It was eerie to make the dunes hum and vibrate at our footsteps and even eerier that we only had a flash-light at this point. We did see some fantastic stars.

Mar. 6- I skip out on Arabic class and Henry and I do tourist shopping. We purchase a photo book for Grammy and Henry picks up some foodstuffs at the Carrefour (as well as some helpful new sandals). We head back to City Center and pick up some carmel and stuffed dates at Bateel. We find time running short and Henry cheerfully suggests trying the 'McArabian' chicken pita-sandwich at McDonald's. I agreed because yes- technically it's a cultural experience. Like many McDonald's products- while initially tasty, the meal leaves us feeling disgusting. I'm done with McDonald's in Qatar. We're signed up with 5 others for an 8-hour desert cruise with QIA. Two others not from CMU-Q would also join us. We set up the night before for them to pick the CMU-Q folks up a little later due to other's time conflicts. The driver calls us up 45 minutes early demanding to know where we were. After some semi-heated phone calls and calls to the company, we clear it up and the 2 other tourists don't appear mad at us. We drive off, ride camels (20QAR each), bash dunes, feel like we're about to tip the car (it was our driver's first time- greeeeeeeeeaaat), collect sea shells, attempt to sand board (sounds like a better idea than it actually is) , hear a helicopter air-lifting someone who flipped their quad-bike on the dunes, have a BBQ on the beach, and then drive back in the dark.

Mar. 7- We got Henry to the airport (almost the wrong airport- Qatar is building a new airport and they already have signs up for it. Thanks Qatar.) by 6:30 am. I see him checked in, bid him farewell, drive home, and sleep for another couple hours. I think I plan to use this weekend to recover from his vacation.

Lessons learned:
-Very few of the students have environmental exposure.
-Give your expat host more than a week to plan.
-The tourist experience here leaves something to be desired.
-GPS in the desert is good.
-Wear sunscreen.
-Avoid McDonald's (my stomach still isn't very happy).
-Call. Confirm. But don't be surprised if things change.
-Always check your pockets.
-If you have to teach a difficult/boring/unpopular subject, offer it as a 4th quarter mini course so that students who fail other courses, drop those classes and then desperately need units pack your course.

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