Thursday, August 14, 2008

Marhaba Qatar!

I'm back in Qatar! The little push-pin that represents me on the world map has moved back to the Middle East for the next academic year. I'll be teaching both semesters, mainly because the students desperately want/need electives and they seem to think I did a good job. But my teaching position also covers my salary as the new Sustainability Coordinator for Carnegie Mellon Qatar. I hope to coordinator, promote, and encourage environmental and sustainability initiatives on campus. I'm still figuring out what that entails but I have some ideas.

It felt surreal packing to return- I couldn't believe it was time to leave already. I had made two lists before I left Qatar- one of things I left in my spare room and things I brought back to the States. The lists proved helpful in answering questions such as recalling if a jacket was here or there and did I really need that wide-brim hat? I packed significantly less than last time- I shipped two boxes and packed four suitcases (one suitcase even had another suitcase in it!). Last trip I had 3 boxes and 5 suitcases. I knew that I didn't need too many going-out clothes and that I should stock up on shoes before I left (shoe quality can be doubtful here). Logistics were easier this time as well, as I didn't need a visa, medical testing, or any new shots.

The emotional packing proved harder though. I found myself becoming very distraught about leaving my wonderful boyfriend James for another few months. We've been together for over two years now (having known each other for 8 years prior) and have done some version of a long-distance relationship for the entire time except summers together in Chicago. I've been in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and now Doha. He's been in Chicago and spent this summer's Mondays-Thursdays in Virginia, so we only saw each other on weekends. The 4 months we have until we see each other again really isn't so bad when you hear stories about the laborers/nannies/maids in Doha who don't see their families for years. That puts things in perspective but it doesn't make things hurt any less.

It now feels odd but also normal to be back. I know the roads, the stores, the apartment complex. It feels 'normal' and while in the States I often referred to Doha as 'home'. But Chicago felt familiar and 'home'-like as well. It felt as if I had hit pause on my Doha-life, lived a Chicago-summer, and then returned to Doha to hit 'play'. Since things feel more normal, I hope this means I've recovered from my culture shock of last semester and I'm now more acclimated to this world. Well- to the stores and the driving and the people, but not necessarily the heat. That's another story.

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