Saturday, September 15, 2018

Reading Glasses

It was getting difficult to read small text. I noticed a few months ago but didn't do anything about it, relegating a solution to after the summer. When I returned to Doha after summer vacation, someone else noticed when, at a social engagement, I looked at a bottle in an unusual manner. I tipped the bottle at a particular angle to read something printed on the label, holding it at arm's length, and my friend, whoever it was, said that's when you know you need glasses--when you have to look at things like that. I was a little chaffed to be outed, but took it as a sign to take action.

The next day, I went to the hospital to have an eye test. After scrolling through fuzzy letters in an eye gadget that seemed like an incredibly old slide-projector, the doctor said it was simply a result of aging; the lenses in the eyes lose their flexibility at a certain point. He wrote a spectacle prescription for me that I took home and slipped under a magnet on our refrigerator.

Last week, I went to a shop in a mall here and tried on some frames. Angela and Vito were with me so it was a kind of family outing, and I found some frames that I liked, which, by themselves, were over 500 QAR (approximately $137). Not incredibly expensive, but nothing to jump at. Surely, they would be much more expensive with the prescribed lenses. In any case, we thought we should sleep on it and do some price shopping at different locations, and left the store. Then, things started moving much more quickly.

Another friend of ours mentioned that I could find some cheap reading glasses at Daiso, a kind of Japanese tchotchke shop that has stores in a few of the malls here, which, Angela assured me, would suffice. So, a few days ago, I went there to look and returned home with a pair that set me back 9 QAR (approximately $2). When I got home, Angela said that I should have bought two pairs: one for work and one for home. So, this afternoon, I picked up not one, but two more pairs! I bought another cheapy from Daiso, but came across some fancier reading glasses at a pharmacy and purchased those, too.

Anyway, I'm getting used to them. I haven't used the glasses in the classroom, yet, but I'm sure the time will come. I carry a pair with me, in any event. I was wondering, tho: Will my eyes continue to deteriorate? Will they just get worse and worse until I can't see anymore? Will I lose my ability to read? The thought was disturbing.

Friday, September 07, 2018

A Window into the World

Wearing yellow hard hats and uniform blue overalls, two compound window washers arrived to clean our apartment's windows yesterday. Such cleanings seemed to be scheduled twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. I can't remember the last time anyone came to clearn them. Streaked with little dry rivers of dust, caked on when moisture condensed and perspired on the glass day after day in the humid conditions outside, the windows had been long overdue for cleaning.

We were preparing dinner when they hoisted the ladder up to our second story apartment: one held the ladder down below and one climbed up and applied the squeegee. When they were nearly finished, a processs which lasted no more than one or two minutes, I passed them two Magnum Mini ice-creams, the only momentary reprieve and thanks that Angela and I could think to offer them from the extreme conditions of the job. It was around 6PM and the sky was darkening as the sun set so, while the windows certainly looked cleaner, we hadn't really noticed the whole effect of the improvement. 

When I walked into the kitchen this morning, it was noticeably brighter! The world outside looked crisper, the air appeared less dust-clotted, the sky bluer, even. And while the temperatures were essentially the same as the day before104° in the shade with 71% humidity—the impression had improved. I wondered how much, in previous days, my outlook had been skewed by the dirty windows, coloring everything on the other side with the dingier, diffused and drabber hues of the former residue. Had it altered my mood on all those prior mornings, waiting for my coffee to percolate? Had it set my mind in a disparaging direction before I had even headed out of the apartment for another day of teaching? It's hard to say.

Monday, May 21, 2018

More Time to Play

I'm done with another school year in Doha—the end of my seventh. I finished a couple weeks ago, more or less. The ABP Graduation ceremony was held last Monday. I never imagined that I would have lived here in the desert so long, but here I am biding my time before another summer escape that will precede the eighth year that I am committed to serving. At least the weather has not been very hot or humid this season, although I haven't had many occasions to go out much.

Outside, there are little green orbs scattered on the sidewalk bricks, unripe dates that were pruned from the palm trees near our building and left behind in the cleanup afterwards. Groundskeepers in the compound used to encase the hanging green bunches in little net sacks, but I guess they just cut them off now.

In the meanwhile, both Angela and I are waiting for Vito to finish the end of fifth grade, which is earmarked for the next three weeks. Actually, Angela's in Italy right now attending to the Confirmation ceremony of our two Italian nieces, so I am a full-time househusband. Angela left a variety of prepared and/or unassembled ingredients in the freezer and fridge that I could combine so that I might provide healthy meals for our son in her absence. Her worry is that we'll dine on chips every night. Anyway, she left four days ago and she'll return after four more have passed, but who's counting?

Lastly, if you are uninformed, it is Ramadan. One of my neighbors strung Ramadan lights along the front of his villa. They look like what I would call Christmas lights. Anyway, Ramadan is approximately ten days earlier each year, and this year it encroached upon the end of the school year. Hours of operation are modified here to accommodate Ramadanians who are fasting and many shops and businesses are not even open, or, if they are closed during the day, open late into the night. The timings adjustments even affect school hours by shaving an hour off the beginning and the end of the day. Vito likes it because it gives him more time to play.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brew Qrew Baseball Comes to an End

Great way to end the season, Brew Qrew.
Baseball season in Qatar is finished. At the start of the season, I was asked to fill-in as Head Coach at the last minute as no one else had volunteered to coach the second of two teams in the Qatar Little League (QLL) Minor League Devision. I had some experience coaching, having assisted with Vito's previous teams for the past three seasons, but I had never really tried to handle my own squad. Anyway, I took the reins of the Milwauqee Brewers against my better judgment.

It was not the most culturally sensitive choice of team names, perhaps, but I didn't have anything to do with choosing it. The first one that I was offered was the Qleveland Indians (equally awkward for different reasons), but due to the blockade in Qatar or some other ordering snafu, those uniforms were replaced by Brewers uniforms so there you have it.

I took my job seriously, researching activities and drills each week before practice and spending hours crafting lineups and various rotations, but I decided from the very beginning to move all of the kids around every inning every week so that everyone would get an opportunity to play every position; no one would be able to play any particular position every week.  I'm not sure where I came across this idea or if it was my own, but I thought it would build more awareness of the game and instill a greater sense of teamwork. I think it did, although, not everyone (parents) considered my decision so noble.

Anyway, we played our last game today, closing out the year on a high with a two-game win streak. I stuck by my method all season and its success was quite apparent in the last two weeks as both games featured inning-ending or game-ending plays that cleared our bench in jubilation!

There were many challenges throughout the season and I don't know if I handled everything as gracefully as I could have, but I learned a tremendous amount and really enjoyed myself. I have to say that I really looked forward to both practices and games, even though it meant driving across Doha during rush hour or getting up early on Friday morning. More importantly, however, I believe the kids had a great time learning about the game and learning about how to get along with each other.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sports Anyone?

Almost everyone had the day off today to observe National Sport Day in Qatar, part of an ongoing movement here to emphasize physical activity. A day off for almost any reason is always welcome and this occasion was no different. After waking up and breakfasting, Vito and I played some Wii Resort Sports on the television, occupying ourselves until Angela emerged from the bedroom. You can see that our holiday was already in full swing.

While we were waiting, I took a break and signed up for beIN Connect, the local sports media provider, which would allow us to watch olympic events on the computer. I was feeling left out of the olympic action without a way to watch any of the games, so I caved and subscribed for one month of online service for $18 (approximately 67 QAR). Signing up was quite easy and, within minutes, Vito and I were watching men's halfpipe qualifying in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It seems like we will also be able to watch NBA basketball games and tennis matches from the tournament in Doha, otherwise unavailable.

People enjoying Oxygen Park on Sports Day.
Eventually, we motivated enough to get out of the apartment, loaded Vito's bicycle into the back of the CR-V and drove to Education City where a number of activities were scheduled throughout the campus. The weather was fantastic with clear skies and a light breeze, and really couldn't have been any better. Vito ran into a friend and pedaled around Oxygen Park while Angela and I walked. I wanted to win a t-shirt by participating in one of the hosted events, but I ended up socializing with friends instead.

We ended our day by driving out the the Education City Golf Club, which looked deserted, and then returned home to while away the afternoon...

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Poof! Pif!

Thrilled to have my poem, "what song follows," published in Pif Magazine. Thanks for supporting my writing!