Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Back to Work

The spring semester started today. I taught three composition classes: one 50-minute section every other hour until the end of the day. I have one more literature section--a new class--tomorrow morning. Anticipating a smooth semester.

When I came home from school, Angela had taken down all of the Christmas decorations, and there was a pile of unwanted stuff in boxes in front of the apartment door. As we are leaving Qatar at the end of the school year, we are not taking everything with us, starting with the Christmas tree that, among other things, a German couple that we met when we first arrived left to us in our first year. I can't say that we loved it, but, for the price, it served us well, and helped to keep our tradition alive.

More will disappear in the coming weeks and months. We can't leave everything to the last minute...


Friday, November 23, 2018

13 Ways of Looking at a Turkey

My annual Thanksgiving poem--this one based on the famous poem by Wallace Stevens--and a partial video accompaniment at the end...

I
Among eight Thanksgivings in Qatar,
Seven of them maintained
The preparation of a turkey.

II
Angela and I were of one mind,
Like an oven
In which there is one turkey.

III
Last night, the turkey floated in brine.
It was a small part of the potluck.

IV
A husband and a wife
Are one.
A husband and a wife and a turkey
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The tender white breast
Or the dark meat of a leg,
The turkey resting
Or just after.

VI
You filled the living room window
With transparent reflections.
Slices of turkey
Cooled in their dishes on the table.
The holiday
Rose to its crescendo
Of culinary coincidence.

VII
O well-fed friends of Doha
How can you imagine another meal?
Do you not see how the turkey
Brings us together
Even if you do not partake?

VIII
I knew storied cuisines
And delectable, gastronomic gambols,
But I know, too,
That the turkey is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the turkey was consumed,
It signified where some would sally
And where others only circle.

X
At the sight of the turkey
What's left of it in the yellow light,
Even its most intimate adversaries
Raise a glass on the occasion.

XI
She woke with a start
And in her blue nightgown grumbled.
At once, a fear pierced her
In that she mistook our turkey
Or our lack of it.

XII
The year is winding down.
The turkey must be celebrated.

XIII
It was Thanksgiving all weekend.
It was sunny in our desert.
And it was going to get windy.
The turkey bones
Yearned for your return.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Rain Reprisal & Work Resumption

So I will be returning to work today and it is a strange feeling. The Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Building, the building that houses the Academic Bridge Program (ABP), the school in which I work, was closed for one week due to complications from the severe rain that fell last week. In fact, the damage from flooding was so bad that the school has been relocated to the HBKU Student Center for, at least, the next two weeks. Other buildings did not seem to have received so much damage, but our building is one of the oldest on campus. I have my doubts about returning to the LAS building at all this semester, but I really don't know how long it will take to repair the damages.

Last Wednesday, after three days in post-storm limbo, the ABP staff convened at Education City Headquarters for an emergency meeting, and staff members learned about the severity of the rain and its ensuing flood damage to the LAS building. We also learned about our plan to relocate. The plan involved returning to the LAS Building on Thursday to retrieve necessary materials (books, papers, etc.) so that we could get up and running as soon as possible. I grabbed essential items from my office and stuffed them into the backpack that I had brought with me--other colleagues filled large cardboard boxes or had even brought suitcases! I also unplugged my computer and put the various components into a box and labeled it with my name so that it could be delivered to the Student Center. No one was sure about whether or not we would have computers to use in the temporary space, so common consensus demanded packing up the ones from our offices.

In the meanwhile, yesterday, on the way to Vito's piano and theory lessons at Katara, in a sardonic twist almost exactly one week since the previous storm wreaked its havoc on the city, a small thunderstorm seemed to crash down upon us from out of nowhere, shocking the sky with flashes of lightning, flooding many roads with heavy rain, and shaking trees hard enough to break off limbs and tear branches asunder. It was so intense that we thought we should have turned around as we had done during the previous storm, but we had had already gone too far to turn back. It was raining so hard when we arrived at Katara that Vito actually stayed in the car waiting for the rain to lighten a bit and he missed most of his piano lesson. The thought crossed our minds that the rain might be strong enough to, if it lasted very long, cancel school again. That was Vito's hope, at least. Fortunatley, it didn't last long and, after the music lessons had finished, we returned home without further incident.

Anyway, ABP staff reports back  to work today, but without students. At first, we will receive a tour of the new classrooms in the Student Center, after which we will break up to have departmental meetings. We are really just moving into our new space today to prepare for the students' arrival and the resumption of instruction tomorrow. Hopefully, repairs can be completed to the LAS building in a timely manner so that we can get back into our offices and classrooms as soon as possible!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Go Read a Poem

I am thrilled to direct you to read a poem I wrote called "the quill obscures the carpals", which appears at Nine Muses Poetry, a poem I wrote about the picture posted here. The poem was written in response to the Special Challenge for October. I am a sucker for those kinds of activities.

Thanks to Annest Gwilym for accepting the poem and supporting my work! Look for more soon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Stormy Weather

The picture doesn't really do the sandstorm justice.
x
So there I was, thumbing through social media in the bedroom when I hear Vito exclaim from the living room, "Oh, my gosh! Look out the window!" I put my phone in my pocket, looked around the bedroom, and noticed that the apartment seemed darker than it usually did at that time of the day. I got up and walked down the shadowy hallway into the living room and looked through the giant window making up about two-thirds of the wall that faces the street in front of our compound. There's a little landscaped walkway with spindly trees and little manicured shrubs between our apartment and the compound wall. On the other side of the compound wall is a two-lane road separating our compound from The Clubhouse, a kind of recreation center for the compound with a small gymnaseum, swimming pool, tennis courts, etc.


"Oh, wow!" I uttered, moving closer to the window and standing next to Vito for a better view. I could see the yellow air outside. "We haven't had one of those in a while." Trees were leaning and straining against the rough wind, and the air was swirling with clouds of dust. The wind continued to blow fiercely, the sky turned a grey orange, lightning bolted through the atomosphere nearby in jagged streaks and far away in illuminated pulsations behind the clouds and dust, and thunder cracked overhead and echoed across the desert. It looked like it was going to rain, but it never rained. I thought I saw someone post a message that it rained somewhere in the north of Qatar, but the wind eventually died down, the dust dissipated, and nothing much else happened the rest of the evening.

* * *
A few days later, it really did rain. A sign of the season's changing, perhaps. I was at home and Angela was out. All the same buildup as previously described, but with the added addition of actual rainfall. It started about midday and rained for an hour or so, although maybe it wasn't even that long. I was sitting at the computer when it started coming down quite forcefully, and then I heard a sound like glass breaking in the kitchen. After investigating, I could see little pea-sized beads of hail bouncing off the window ledge and clattering against the glass, which was causing the sound that had disturbed me. I watched the rain clamor down and the little bits of ice jumping off every surface for a while and then returned to my work.
       
I texted Angela and told her to be careful on the way home; when she had left, it hadn't really looked like it was going to rain, so I knew she might not be prepared for the unusual change in the weather. When she got home, however, she told me that it hadn't even rained where she was.

* * *
The main entrance of the compound.
Yesterday, it rained again and stormed even more fiercely. It was easily the worst storm we have experienced since living here in Doha, and also one of the scariest storms that I have ever experienced anywhere, possibly made scarier by the fact that we were out tying to drive around in the mayhem. We had plans to meet friends of ours for lunch and left the apartment at about 12:15PM. It was raining quite hard, but we thought it would subside. The street outside the compound was already beginning to flood. Wind was blowing, visibility was low and we drove much slower than usual as the conditions were horrible. Various segments of the road were completely submerged in the dirty brown water, and traffic stalled to a crawl while cars rolled slowly through the roads turned waterways.
       
At a stoplight not far from our compound, a strong gust of wind pushed a large plastic barricade into the road in front of our car and I had to get our of the car and move it. It was too heavy and the driver from the car behind me got out to help. When I returned to the car, I was soaking wet. We decided to go back home as it simply wasn't safe to be on the streets. Angela called our friends to let them know that we weren't going to make it, and we began to make our way back to the compound.

The roads were even more flooded on the way back and we were worried that we wouldn't make it all the way home. We could see cars that had stalled in knee-deep water, and cars on the wrong side of the road or backing up looking for alternate routes. Debris was scattrered along the streets and roadsides, on the water, unseen under the brown water and flying through the air. We got about 300 meters from the entrance to our compoundthe rain was pouring hard and wind was knocking down wallsand I pulled over to the side of the road where a number of other cars had stopped on the edge of a large dirt field. We could see that the entire road leading to our compound was submerged and that a few cars had already failed to make it through and were stuck in the mud or water. We knew we couldn't go that way. The three of us watched a wall-sized sheet of plywood suddenly take flight from the opposite side of the road, spinning through the air in the wind, and colliding with the car that was parked behind us, bouncing off the windshield. It didnt' look like anything was damaged, but it was scary to see. That made me nervous. I didn't want anything like that to happen to us and I resolved to find a way back to the compound without wasting any more time.

While we were thinking about how long we would wait or what other options we had, we noticed that a car had taken a detour through the dirt field, around the submerged road, and followed a side road that appeared to be drivable, so I took the car out of park and rumbled along after it. We returned home without incident and watched the rest of the storm from the safety of our apartment.

The apartment wasn't completely unscathed, though. The roof in our kitchen was leaking in a few places. The leaks were not severe and we placed some towels on the counter to sop up the water. Within a couple hours, both the leaks and the rain had stopped. We didn't even bother calling maintenance because we were sure that there were much bigger problems to resolve. We knew that it had taken some people many hours to return home yesterday.

* * *
Today, Vito's school was closed and Qatar Foundation schools were also closed; I don't really know about other schools. The usual signs of lifepeople coming and going from the clubhouse across the street and the distant sounds of trafficwere absent this morning. It was peaceful and vibrant and sunny. Everything I could see from the window was more colorful, greener, washed clean by the storm, but the road was still closed; the main gate to our compound was closed and the body of water that had engulfed cars and trucks was still covering the street. Some kids were paddling a kayak around. When we went out later to "survey the kingdom," as one of my neighbors put it, we could see that the roads and sidewalks were covered with silt and mud. Unfortunately, the severity of the flooding on the other side of the compound was much greater as we observed that the water had entered some of the apartments and villas over there. This wasn't the only place affected by the foul whether. We heard about other disasters in other parts of the city, as well, but it is hard to say when things will get back to normal. I know that Qatar Foundation schools are closed for, at least, one more days, so I will stay at home again tomorrow until I hear otherwise.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Angela's Orchids

Orchids have lovely, unusual flowers. If you've seen them, you know what I mean. The orchids we have have flowers, when they are blooming, that almost look like the squinty faces of little open-jawed animals. The flowers also last for quite some time, which makes them nice to have around. I don't do much for them, however; Angela is really the nurturing one who provides all the care. No minute change goes unnoticed under her watchful eye. We have ten orchids in our apartment, starting the collection after receiving a couple as gifts many years ago. Now that I think about it, we have eleven, but the eleventh is a fake orchid that we picked up at a garage sale or somewhere, and it lives out its ever-blooming days in a dark corner of the hallway.

Nine of them hang about in the living room, all of them with long wide droopy dark-green leaves. The tenth, in the bathroom in the master bedroom, is a small thin-leaved little plant so far, which sprouted in a bottle that I brought back from Thailand a couple years ago and was transplanted to a pot recently. Once it had grown to a certain size in the bottle, we had to break the bottle to take it out and move it to a pot, but we have yet to see the plant bloom. It still seems quite undeveloped. Before we broke it, the picture on the bottle showed a plant with an orage and yellow flower. That will break the color theme of the orchids pictured in this post, although we know we have a few that bloom all white flowers. Right not, coincidentally, only the orchids with shades of purple flowers are in bloom.

Most of the time the nine in the living room don't do much, just growing in their pots with their big floppy leaves hanging down over the grey-green knots of roots. Sometimes they bloom and sometimes they don't. A dictionary definition describes orchids as perennials, which, I suppose, indicates that they could bloom over and over again throughout the year. It's surprising to me that they even survive at all in this desert environment. Anyway, after returning from summer vacation at the beginning of August, one of the plants (pictured at the top of this post) with purple-striped white flowers and a dark purple lip in the center was in bloom. A couple of the flowers dropped off after a few weeks, but then three more opened on the same plant miraculously. We hadn't seen that kind of delayed bloom before, so it was an exciting event.

Since then, we noticed that, at least, three of the other orchids were budding, and the buds on two of the plants started opening within the last week. One has flush pink petals and sepals with a dark purple center, roughly the same size as the striped one, and another has smaller puple flowers. The orchid with small purple flowers (pictured at right) is remarkable in that there are two flowering stems, which is also something we had never observed before.

Finally, the other budding orchid is a giant orchid. I don't know if that is the correct name fot it. When we received the plant, even though it was smaller than the other orchids, there was one large white flower about twice as large as the other flowers. This one that is budding now actually has two buds at the end of its squat bent stem, so we are hoping that both of them will bloom, but who knows. They look small, clenched inside the little buds, and we wonder if the blooms will be as large as they were when we acquired it. Sometimes the buds don't open at all. We'll have to wait and see.