Thursday, December 21, 2017

One Fog to Another

The morning started with fog, the thick, white, billowy stuff of dreams, and lingered through the morning. Fog is not unusual here in Doha and not nearly as unusual as rain, but it is certainly not very common. I didn't know if it was a good omen or just another sign of the continued combustion, confusion and obfuscation of this year, but I looked at it positively. What other defense is there?

I can't divulge all of the difficulties of this year, but 2017 was hard on Marcacci & Co. My social media has not revealed much, and much was too sensitive for you run-of-the-mill e-stalkers, but this is about all you're going to get as a summation. Many of you (any of you?) know one part or another of the story anyway, but both Angela and I are glad the year is coming to a close. The one saving grace in this trying year is that Vito has done well at his endeavors despite the difficulties that his parents faced. I hope y'all had better memories. At least, we've all lived through them so far.

At night, the fog returned. It was nice to walk out in it. What's in store for the rest of this year? What's in store for the next one?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In Some Small Moment

Fanar, Qatar's Islamic Cultural Center
Today was the last day of work before the winter break. I dressed and arrived at the office as usual. The ABP Student Services sponsored a Qatar National Day breakfast for the staff and we assembled at the appointed hour. I ate a chapati (a sort of thick Indian tortilla) breakfast burrito and drank two cups of karak (black tea with cardamom, milk and sugar). There were also National Day souvenirs to gather and I came home with a Fanar magnet. The Emir blockade t-shirts were too small or I would have grabbed one for Vito.

After breaking our fast, we milled about and visited with one another until grades were verified. It was the last day for one of my colleagues, Christine, who will not be returning in January so it wasn't an entirely festive occasion. Then we trickled out, most of us looking toward holiday travel plans. I had my own travel plans in mind, but the three of us will remain in Doha for another week before departing for Kerala, India next Friday.

After leaving the office, I went to get Angela and then we went to Vito's school to help with the National Day / Holiday party that was planned for his classroom. I put napkins on the table and served cake and juice. It was fun and we spoke with Vito's teachers and met a few of the parents of some of his classmates. We felt lucky that we had a chance to get involved with Vito at school.

Our day didn't end there: we ran some errands, picked up Vito when school ended, ran into some friends, spoke with all our parents and watched a double-session of Survivor before retiring to our bedtime rituals and sleep. These may not seem like incredibly memorable experiences, but I am always surprised at how much I forget. The more I write, the more I realize what I am leaving out, what will be forgotten. This is a small way to capture some of those memories. Perhaps you were there is some small moment.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Home Sick

I'm doing things today that I haven't done in agesor I haven't done them here. It would be great to stay at home and pursue whatever suits my fancy on a more regular basis, such as drafting this little blog ramble, but that is simply unrealistic. How did I find such time? I called in sick today with an actual evil cold.

Colds are evil. Last Thursday, Vito showed some symptoms of one, but it was mostly cleared up by Friday morning. I told him it was a kind of 24-hour bug. There were some coughing and sniffling side effects, but he didn't feel or look as whipped as he had on Thursday. Saturday night after dinner, I started feeling something creeping up on me in the form of an unpleasant sensation in my throat, and I assumed it would be similar to what Vito had contracted, but I was mistaken. My version is well-mired in its second day and looking at more. See? Evil.

When I woke up yesterday, my throat was scratchy and it was hard to swallow. I popped in a lozenge, grabbed a box of cold capsules and hopped off to work, as usual, but I should have stayed home. What started as mildly irritating only worsened as the day lengthened. In an effort to suppress my symptoms, I doled out additional doses of medicine, swilled ginger and lemon tea and nursed my tender nostrils with tissue after tissue, but nothing improved my condition. By the time I went to bed, I was a mess. When I woke up this morning, I simply moved from bed to couch, not feeling much better. I knew I would have to stay at home today. So that's where I am, standing at my upright desk contemplating evil.

After making coffee and eating a bowl of granola with blueberries, I swallowed a couple of smooth orange cold capsules, but the effects are wearing offtime to re-medicate. Angela went out to buy groceries and the house is quiet, but she'll be back.

Am I happy about sending an alternate lesson plan to work today instead of what I had planned? Something akin to busy work. Should I be sleeping instead of facing off against the computer. Should I be grading papers instead of blogging about my bug?

I really hate missing work—it's really more work to miss workand hope to be back at it tomorrow. My symptoms seem to be subsiding. A good night's rest should set me straight.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Abu Dhabi, Etc.

Let the fun begin!
Last weekend, before the unusual cold arrived that has settled on this region over the past week, both Vito and I did not have to go to work on Sunday, so the three of us left Doha and spent three days in Abu Dhabi for a little UAE getaway. We left on Thursday night and returned Sunday afternoon. Our flight departed at 7:30PM, but there was a one-hour time difference. All told, we were seated at the Brauhaus at the Beach Rotana by 10:30PM, tired but happily waiting for our brews and platters of boiled and grilled sausages, something we couldn't get in Doha.

Friday was reserved for a visit to Ferrari World, which was one of the main reasons for choosing to go to Abu Dhabi. Hanging red lanterns and a large dragon greeted us at the entrance of the theme park decorated in celebration for Chinese New Year. Highlights of the day included the three of us riding the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which was breathtaking, and then only me riding the world's highest loop rollercoaster on the Flying Aces ride. Aside from the rollercoasters that venture out-of-doors, Ferrari World is the largest indoor theme park in the world! The park wasn't terribly crowded, but it is still developing and people were working on three of four projects simultaneously while we were there. Despite the fact that work was on-going, there were plenty of other things to keep us occupied.

The inner courtyard of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Notice the unusual chandeliers inside the
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Another reason to go to Abu Dhabi was to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque there, which may, perhaps, be considered among the most beautiful mosques in the world. It looks particularly stunning at night, the white marble bright with colored lights and its high minarets and domes welcoming people as they enter the city. We spent Saturday morning wandering around an Abu Dhabi neighborhood near the corniche, and then we walked along part of the corniche which followed a long sandy beach. We were impressed that there was such a huge public beach in the center of the city.

The weather was great--surprisingly warm for mid-winter--and after walking in the sun for a while, we started to really feel the heat. We hailed a cab and drove to the Jumeriah Hotel at Etihad Towers and took the elevator up to the observation deck, which gave us a fantastic 360° view of the city. When we were finished with our refreshments, we drove to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before going back to our hotel for the evening. Vito and I went for the swim in the infinity pool which overlooked the sea--there were quite a few people around the pool, the last of the weekend revelers. When we were done with our swim and after the sunlight had all but disappeared, we went up to our room to change before heading out to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner.

Inside the Abu Dhabi International Airport departures terminal.
We didn't have much of an agenda for Sunday morning and we had to leave for the airport after lunch, so we just sat in the sun resting on lounge chairs by the sea. Most of the weekend guests had left so we felt like we had the beach to ourselves. Abu Dhabi was a slower and quieter place, and it was almost a disgrace to barge in for a three-day whirlwind weekend. It felt like we were surrounded by water and we crossed numerous bridges in our short visit. When asking about the mild traffic and the quaint atmosphere of the city, a taxi driver mentioned that many people went to Dubai on the weekend and, in fact, a former colleague of mine that had moved there a few years ago was doing just that so we didn't get to see him and his wife.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

FYI

if i name the new president it's too much
it's a power thing

i have all of it

you know who i'm talking about
i'll probably end up on someone's list for this

how many of us on the head of a pin

naming or not naming to our heart's content
a rose is a rose is a rose

by any other name

POTUS
if you move the letters around you get SPOUT

the implications won't warm you any

consider this
an early Valentine's gift

for the run-a-mouth

run amok
Americans

ASAP

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Myanmar, Day 9: Christmas

We all woke up about the same time, but Vito was certain that Santa had stopped by in the night, and so he spent thirty minutes looking around the room for presents that Santa may have hidden, even though we explained that the Easter Bunny was the one that hid things, not Santa. Moreover, we had strongly hinted that, because Vito had not informed Santa ahead of time that we would be in Mandalay at Christmas (although, he had mentioned the fact in a scroll that he left for Santa rolled up under our tree in Doha), the likelihood of receiving anything here was quite low. Nevertheless, that didn't stop him from looking, including within our zipped luggage and backpacks.

Shweinbin Kyaung, an old Buddhist Monastery. 
Still tired from the adventure of the previous day, with no real itinerary for the day, and after a lazy morning and a breakfast of white bread, chicken sausage, bacon, eggs and coffee (Vito had juice), we headed out to visit the jade market. It took a while to hail a cab, but eventually we found one. We didn't want to buy any jade, but we were interested in seeing the place. The parking area outside the entrance was crammed with motorbikes and a truck with large blaring speakers was advertising what looked like a soccer match for later in the day, so there was an excitement in the air. After paying a nominal entrance fee, we entered and started looking around. Rows of vendors, jade polishers and engravers were in their stalls and many people were crowded around various tables piled with plastic bags of jade. The sound of jade bracelets clinking could be heard all around us, and on either side men and women examined jade in various forms, looking at pieces with discerning eyes, others shining penlights through the translucent stone to look for imperfections, still more were looking at uncut jade stones or sorting polished stones in little cupped steel dishes or on scales. As always, men standing around chewing betel nut and spitting the red juice into spittoons. Garbage cans  and sewage drains were overflowing. We browsed the jade wares, looked more closely at some black jade, which we had never seen before, examined a few pendants, and then made our way back toward the entrance to leave. The guidebook we were using mentioned a renowned tea house nearby and a notable attraction in the area and we went in search of those places.

The tea house, Unison Teahouse, was full and lively. We ordered two house teas and Vito ordered a dragonfruit smoothie. The tea barista had an unusual way of mixing the tea with sweetened condensed milkholding the teapot high over his head when pouring—before slinging the hot glasses of tea to the window. The tea was delicious and, after finishing, we walked to the nearby Shweinbin Kyaung, an old teak Buddhist monastery. It was quiet and there were only a few other foreigners snooping around. When we were ready to leave, it was hard to find a taxi on the quiet side street, but we managed to hire two motorbike drivers (Vito and myself on one and Angela on the other) to take us to King Galon's gold leaf workshop.

The drivers waited for us to finish and then took us to lunch. We returned to Mingalabar (an establishment that we had eaten at on our first night in Mandalay), because the food was divine—pickled tea leaf salad and shan noodles. The desert, a brown-sugar covered puffed rice, which resembled popcorn, was spectacular. Following lunch, we found another tea house, starting to really enjoy people-watching from such locations, and then caught a cab back to our hotel to rest before going out for Christmas dinner at Bistro 82.

When we arrived at our hotel, many people seemed to be boarding. There hadn't appeared to be so many guests staying in the hotel so we asked the porter what was happening, and he explained that there was going to be a buffet cruise at 3PM, just a few minutes from our arrival. Vito was thrilled as he hadn't really been able to understand why we were staying on a boat if it didn't go anywhere. Sure enough, however, the anchor lifted and we headed out into the wide brown, silty river. We had a balcony room on the port side of the vessel and nice teak chairs to sit on, and we sat in the sun and enjoyed the two-hour cruise with frosty Myanmar beers from our mini refrigerator. If we had been any later, we probably would have missed the cruise completely!


Christmas dinner was fancy: red beet carpaccio with grilled scallops to start. For the main courses, Angela ordered grilled red snapper with basil risotto, Vito took a roasted lamb leg with bean cassoulet, and, going a more traditional route, I tried the stuffed turkey with cranberry jus. The restaurant was festively brimming with guests, bubbling with conversation and holiday music and appropriately decorated for the occasion. The food was not exceptional and, sadly, five times more than any meal we'd eaten since we'd been in Myanmar, but, I suppose, that's the price for trying to celebrate our traditions in a foreign land.