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...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Year in the Making

The previous week was very dusty. In fact, the dust was so bad that baseball practice was cancelled on Monday.

Anyway, I finally posted the final entry about our trip to Myanmar last winter. It took me more than a year to finish—obviously, I put off completing it for whatever reasons—but an overview of our trip is finally ready for mass consumption. Now, to start writing about our trip to India in December...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Back in the Swing

The spring semester started a couple weeks ago, and so far, so good. Vito's schedule keeps us busy: swimming on Sunday, baseball practice on Monday, trombone and wind ensemble lessons on Tuesday, theory and piano lessons on Wednesday, swimming again on Thursday, and a baseball game on Friday morning. I am the head coach of his baseball team this year so I'm more involved in those activities, as well. Also, Sunday through Wednesday, Angela teaches in the evenings, which complicates matters, but it doesn't pose an insurmountable challenge. Our only day without scheduled  activities is Saturday, but it often means we have to catch up with everything that we put off during the week, such as buying groceries. One good thing that you probably know about such a busy schedule is that it makes time pass quickly.

In any case, the new year is a natural time for renewal. Looking through my social media footprint from the past year and upon further non-technological reflection, it seems that my previous post about the difficulties of 2017 was not entirely accurate. I guess the foggy weather had clouded my ability to weigh the various elements accurately. Anyway, the tempest that reared its head at the end of last year has quieted for the time being and, to mark the transition to a new period, I have implemented a name change for the blog. I may update the blog just as infrequently, but I have always simply used my own name as the blog's title, and I thought I would try something new.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

India - Day 1: Arrival at Fort Cochin

Upon waking, we looked for a place in the airport to have lunch before boarding our re-scheduled flight to Kochi, and settled for something akin to Indian fast food in the food court. We were tired, but in relatively OK spirits. It was just a few days before Christmas and we were finally on vacation, and after our documentation debacle and our failed connecting flight, we were so close to our final destination that nothing could bring us down.

We boarded on time and, after approximately two hours in the air, we were back on the ground in Kochi. We disembarked and waited for our luggage with the rest of the people from our flight. The airport was hot and humid and the weather was clearly warmer than it had been in Doha. It was a small airport, but we quickly found our luggage and exited the airport to hail a cab to our hotel, as we would do at any airport, except there weren't any cabs The parking lot was strangely deserted.

The bus was festively decorated.
It was around 4:30PM and we were flabbergasted that there were no cabs outside the airport. A small window and a sign indicated that we could hire a cab there and so we tried to do just that, but the people working on the other side of the window told us that we could only book one from inside. We tried to return, however, absurdly, the security guard would not let us re-enter. I could see people on the other side of the window booking taxis, but they refused to reserve one for us! A nice man waiting for a cab himself offered to call a taxi for us but, after a brief conversation on his phone, he told us that none were available—it was rush hour and we would have to wait. At that moment, a bus pulled up and, asking if it stopped at Fort Cochin, our destination, and understanding that it did go there, the three of us boarded. It would certainly be cheaper than a taxi and there were plenty of seats, at least, which didn't last for long.

Happy to be going somewhere, we tried to enjoy the scenery that was passing by outside. The bus began to swell with people, seemingly stopping at every intersection. Vito kept asking how long it would take, but we really had no idea. We didn't know how far away the hotel was from the airport. Perhaps, some of our problems could have been handled with better planning, although, so far, things had been working out. Anyway, after some time, we asked a woman sitting near us how long it would take to get to Fort Cochin, the end of the line, basically, and she told us that it could take as much as two hours—it was rush hour! We couldn't believe it and another passenger who had overheard us nodded his head and smiled in confirmation when I looked his way. So we just settled into our seats and enjoyed the ride. At least we were in India! It was a good thing that we had eaten before boarding our flight, otherwise, we would have been starving.

We drove over numerous bridges and enjoyed the lush green landscape, a welcome change from the drab desert colors of Doha. Eventually, the bus filled up and it was quite crowded. At one point, two men started arguing loudly on the bus, and it seemed like a fight was imminent, but everything settled down after a bit. Eventually, we made it to the end of the line and stepped off the bus with our luggage. It was dark and we were disoriented and tired. We had no idea which way to go, but I had booked a hotel near the city center. Judging by all the people and traffic around us, we seemed to be there. We inquired at a nearby tour-booking kiosk about the hotel's location, and began walking in the direction that we had been pointed.

The streets were lively—full of tuk tuks (auto rickshaws) and dust and noise and exhaust and people. We passed by Jawaher Park brimming with people and vendors, and decorated with all manner of lights. The hotel wasn't hard to find and we arrived at about 8:30PM. I had booked a couple nights at Hotel Rossitta Wood Castle, an old hotel made of teak wood, which sounds more charming than it was, but it served its purpose. We dropped off our luggage and went to eat at the hotel's restaurant, which was quite crowded so we had to wait. We didn't have the energy to look for anything else. By the time we finished, it was quite late and, having only slept a few hours in the past twenty-four, we went to our room and did the obvious.