Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Deepavali!

The view from my landing of my downstairs neighbor's apartment last night.

The carefully laid colored powder and the fresh flowers made me smile. I was extra careful not to mess it up on my way up and down.

Happy Deepavali!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Bachelor Ban

Even though Qatar is a very Westernized country, there are occasional moments where I am distinctly reminded that Qatar is not like the suburbs of Chicago. Take shopping at the local malls. Being a female, I'm never restricted access and can enter anytime I wish (provided I'm not scandalously dressed of course!) However, it's a different case for males, particularly single males, and even more so for single laboring immigrant males (who currently make up about 1M out of Qatar's 1.7M people). Malls and even public places frequently institute 'family only' hours or days, restricting the access of single-males. Some apply this mandate to all males, regardless of race or appearance, but others seem to employ it only against " bad-smelling, poorly-dressed adult men".

A recent newspaper inquiry tested the basis for denying admittance to single males. The paper found that generally, well-dressed and proper single males were allowed in while those in worker clothes or with scruffy appearances were denied. Also, some reports have found that Western and Arab males would be let in, but Asians were not. Two single professors at Carnegie Mellon expressed concern over this ban, as they are Pakistani and Bangladeshi and could be mistaken for being part of the laboring class.

While 'family only' time has been a practice here for several years, it recently made headlines over the Eid holiday, where workers had time off but were prevented from gathering in the malls, the souqs, or even the Corniche (waterfront area). Where should they go? What happens when you don't give 1M people something to do during their off hours? In the States, this situation could breed resentment and problems but Qatar has a unique solution: deport 'em. Since only Qataris are citizens, anyone else is an expat (even if born here) and could be duly deported to their home country if they act up. That certainly has a way of quelling unrest...

And unlike the States, there really is no effective way to protest or counter this 'bachelor ban' situation. Write a petition? To whom? Boycott the spots with the ban? Where are you going to go? Organize a protest? Fine- how soon that you pack your things for your deportation flight back home? :/

Friday, October 17, 2008

My commute

Before I move to my new apartment at the Education City Housing Compounds less than 5 minutes from Education City, I thought I'd share my current commute home from EC to my apartment at Al Samrya Gardens. The ride home is usually significantly shorter than the ride to work, mainly because in the morning traffic backs up due to a short light that only lets traffic in one direction at a time. Each cycle takes four minutes, so sometimes it takes 20-30 minutes just to get through the light, meaning my 10 km drive could take 30-40 minutes! Crazy. In order to lessen my impact on the environment and recapture about an hour of my day, I'm moving to EC housing (inshallah) next week.

Items of potential interest in this video:
-You'll perhaps notice a large white building with 'holes' in the facade on the right- the LAS Building at EC was the most recent former home of CM-Q.
-After that, the large white towers and space on the right is the EC Ceremonial Courtyard, where EC senior celebration was held.
-This video was shot before I received my vehicle permit pass, which now saves me the trouble of dropping off and picking up my international driver's license at EC Security each day.
-Where I pause before I turn onto the main road was the site of my March accident (which ending up costing me about $1K). I'm a lot more cautious in my driving now.
-Note the roundabouts- once the bane of my driving existence, I know generally embrace them for speeding up traffic. Some roundabouts in Doha have traffic lights, which does slow things down somewhat but probably reduces accidents.
-The huge billboards at the final main intersection are the site of my usual morning long-light. This time I got lucky and zipped right through.
-Since one can't make left turns throughout most of Doha unless using a roundabout or making a U-turn at an intersection, I take the back way to my compound to avoid the crowded roundabout I would need to use to get to my compound.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Before my students complete their next assignment in a week (the infamous LAS Faculty Film Poster), I thought I'd share the most recent designs: 'Opposites'.

The students were randomly assigned two relatively opposite words. Their challenge was to visualize the meaning of each word, with each composition succeeding individually and together as a pair. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the solutions this semester. Remember- these are non-design students and for many, this is their first foray into the mean world of the Adobe Creative Suite (mainly Illustrator).


Maryam Alsemaitt

Nada Mohsin

Noora Al-Mannai

Shaereen Vencilao

Amna Al-Hitmi

Asma Al-Kuwari

Aysha Siddique

James Harrell

Lawrence Tan

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ein Prosit! Oktoberfest in Doha

Wait- Oktoberfest? In a Muslim country? Come again?

Yep- you read right. As far as I can gather, there are two major expat entertainment events here in Doha- Dunestock (an open air music festival and party) and Oktoberfest at the Intercontinetal Hotel. I didn't attend Dunestock last April because of a sand storm and I hadn't arrived in Doha yet for Oktoberfest last year, so I jumped at the chance to attend Oktoberfest this year. Darbi managed to snag the last two tickets for last night's festival. And what a party.

600 expats, crammed into the tent that the Intercontinetal had used for their Ramadan events (little ironic), complete with Bavarian blue and white, an Oompah band, and lots of beer. There was plenty of good German food (all beef sausage of course) to be enjoyed on long communal tables. And when the band and crowd wasn't cheering 'Tony' along to drink 12 litres of beer (we think it was water/beer or apple juice), there was dancing on the benches. And there was a lot of dancing. We partied from 8 pm to around 12:30 am. And for Doha- that's huge. The evening would be considered a lot of fun anywhere in the world, but for it to happen in Doha, where all this was certainly 'haraam' (forbidden), it somehow made it even more fun. Happy October everyone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eco-Conference Call

In addition to teaching at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, I'm also the new Sustainability Coordinator and the faculty adviser for the student environmental group LiveGreen. The group was founded a year ago in collaboration with some Pittsburgh campus students who were doing an exchange in Qatar. The Pittsburgh campus has always been keen to have the two groups work together, although we have been a little less optimistic about what that collaboration could yield, given our situations are very different. (There is no recycling here, we're not an autonomous campus, we don't have a democratic system, most students don't live in dorms, etc....)

One step towards that fabled collaboration was to finally arrange a conference call between the two groups. Conference calls are easy on our end- every conference room and practically every classroom is set up for distance meetings and teaching. Not as easy for Pittsburgh- which needs to book one of a few special rooms. Then we get into the issue of timing- Doha is currently 7 hours ahead of Pittsburgh, meaning meetings have to be a little late or early for each party. We scheduled a 4 pm meeting for us, 9 am meeting for Pittsburgh- pretty decent timing considering most simulcasts from the States hit us at 8pm to 2 am...

The meeting was beneficial in that it gave the Pittsburgh campus a better sense of the difficulties we're having setting up recycling and developing sustainable habits here. We also discussed idea sharing and the idea of having a book/reading discussion each month during our conference calls. Then- we mentioned the idea of a huge big joint project: instead of us traveling there and creating little change during a week visit (and likewise if they visited Doha), we could meet somewhere in the middle, in Africa, and participate in an eco-service trip. I think it could be a fantastic global experience for the students (but would require planting quite a few trees for all that carbon offsetting...). So I'm in the process of looking for eco-service opportunities in Africa and convincing others that yes, we could do this. Ah- the curse of travel. It only makes me want to travel more. :)