Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Rain Does in the Desert

Qatar weirded out with rain today.

The weirdness started yesterday with cloudy grey skies most of the day and bit of gloomy sprinkling on the drive home. We kept peeping out the window in the living room, pushing the curtains aside to look at the street, still mostly dry. The weather apps on our phones indicated a 100% chance of rain at 7PM and the same for 8PM, and so on, a storm that would pour out of the heavens like never before, but the hours passed and there was none of the stuff. There was surely rain in another part of Qatar, but none where we lived, the dustbowl behind Education City where people only dreamed of rain and a real winter.

Whiling away on our pillows, we read that there was a possibility that school would be cancelled the next day. All three of us go to different schools with different schedules, so the likelihood of all of them being cancelled was slim or, at least, unaligned. It was a troublesome thought, as well, to think about tracking down a babysitter at the last minute. We went to bed thinking the impending downpour would happen during the night, and that school cancellation messages would be waiting for us on the other side of a good night's sleep.

In the morning, the earth had clearly been dampened by moisture, but it still wasn't raining. The sky was cloudy, but not threatening. Angela readied herself and departed at the usual hour. I got Vito and myself ready, and, by the time Vito's driver had arrived, drops had started to pattern the ground with increasing regularity. He and the two other boys in the backseat shoved off, and I assumed all was working as planned.

I left for work shortly thereafter and, at about 8:10AM, in the middle of a pre-school meeting with a couple of my colleagues, my phone rang. I answered it and learned that Vito's school, the American School of Doha, was cancelling classes due to the weather and sending children back home. Vito was on his way to my office, which mildly complicated my morning as I was supposed to teach at 8:30.

Vito arrived and I took him to my class. He went to Starbucks, bought a doughnut and a hot chocolate and sat down at one of the desks in my classroom. Angela called and asked if she had to go pick up Vito, but I told her that he was already with me. Only two students out of ten had arrived on time, so we just started chatting. I told them my friends and family back home would laugh if I told them that school was cancelled due to rain--not even very severe rain. Eventually, most of the students arrived, and all of them had stories about how they had been stuck in traffic and that the roads were completely flooded or impassable.

From an article in Doha News.
The Emir prayed for rain last week, and, apparently, it worked. Maybe he could pray for a better drainage system next time? Anyway, people get quite excited when it rains here. If anything, it's a welcome change from the monotony of sunshine and dust. Angela said that people at her office were going outside and dancing in the rain. Social media was trending with pictures of leaky ceilings, flooded streets with stalled vehicles and people walking around in the water with their pants rolled up. This is what rain does to a desert country.

Unfortunately, classes at the Academic Bridge Program weren't cancelled. My lesson went on as scheduled. When my class finally ended, and done with my teaching for the day, I left work and went home with Vito. There wasn't much for him to do at my office. I had a full day of babysitting to look forward to. By the time we got home, the rain had just about stopped and never really started again, but we weren't about to go anywhere. Vito played video games while I graded papers at the kitchen table.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Want to Blog

I have the best intentions.
Perhaps, that sounds stupid.
I miss it.
I miss you.

I need a niche.
I wish my left eye would stop twitching.
I need to get more sleep.
It was a busy week.

I thought I would have more time.
Now that I look at it, I guess I always had the same amount.
I waste it.
I digress.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I got out of bed a couple days after Angela and Vito had returned from Italy, and Vito told me that he woke up early. "I watched the sunrise for a little bit, and then played with Legos," he said, as if it were the most usual order of events in the world. Sunrise was around 5AM, and we had been up quite late the night before, so I was surprised that he woke up at such an early hour. "Everything was orange," he added, "even the living room."

I was even more astonished that he was wowed enough by a new day dawning to make it the first thing he commented about to me that morning. A defense of his behavior, perhaps, which he may have thought broke some unwritten rule. If it became a regular habit, it might pose some problems, but this was a singular incident. How did our son, new romantic observer of the morning light spectrum, arrive to this? There's certainly nothing wrong with it, but what made him do it? I tried to recall other instances.

Did it start when Vito was four and we all went camping in Death Valley National Park? On our last morning, we woke up and dressed in our little three-person tent in the frigid desert darkness and then drove to Zabriskie Point so we could watch the sunrise over the valley, a recommended sight, and well worth the effort. There were only a handful of people around, and the sunrise seemed to last even longer as its rays painted the snow-tipped mountains on the other side of the valley. Had we enjoyed any other family sunrise gazings before then? Had it left such a lasting impression?

These days, we travel by air dozens of times each year. On planes, a habitual window-shade opener and closer, he must have also seen, going or coming, the extended sunrise outside a plane window at one time or another. He has probably logged more air miles than most people accrue in their entire lives. In any case, such a memory, perhaps, remains undocumented. Surely, the seed had been planted somewhere. It is possible that it is simply a new interest and nothing more. The budding romantic. As a poet and self-styled cloud monger, to steal a moniker from Baudelaire, I couldn't be more proud. Still, I wondered.

Moving forward a few years, in December, when were were traveling in Cambodia, we woke up early to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat with the scads of tourists that flocked there for the same purpose. He didn't complain about being roused from sleep at a frightening hour, but accepted the whim as part and parcel. Then, a few days later, while we were on Koh Rong Island and up all night nursing illnesses, we lucked into watching another sunset break across the sea from the veranda of our bungalow. It was quiet and spectacular and slow and then it was just morning. We paid in sleep deprivation. What was the reward?

Finally, most recently, while we were in Italy vacationing with two neices a nephew and my mother-in-law, we woke up one morning to watch the sunrise. Vito's cousin, Alessandro, joined us on the villa's tiled patio. What magic was working on them as they stared out across the water? Will we do it again? Surely, there is a promise in all of this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fragmented Days

I took Vito to California at the beginning of the summer while Angela stayed in Qatar to work. Our schedules weren't wholly aligned, and she decided against making a trip to the West Coast this year. We weren't going to have so much time together this summer, and she didn't want to waste any of those days traveling so far. Aside from the cost, it takes, perhaps, more than two full days round trip, which is a hearty commitment. Anyway, after a few weeks of California family, friends and fun, Vito and I returned to Doha, rested for a little more than 24 hours, repacked, and then the three of us boarded a flight to Turkey to spend five days in Istanbul before continuing on to our final destination, Italy. Jet lag was oppressive, but we did our best to ignore it. We were together, we were on vacation and we had sights to see!

We stayed together as a family for about three weeks before I had to return to reality. To Doha. Vito stayed with his mother and grandmother in Italy where, as of today, he has just about one more week before he has to return and start his new routine. 3rd grade. Music lessons twice a week, and whatever else will crop up once life returns to normal. What's normal for us, at any rate.

So now, I'm by myself. Back at work. Waking up early and preparing for another year in the Academic Bridge Program, putting my holidays behind me and watching via Skype and WhatsApp what Angela shares with me of the rest of their Italian summer--it's ferragosto, holiday time in Italy, and everyone there is eating together, taking day trips, meeting in the evenings, shopping and such. It's too hot to go outside here, but it's nice to have time to play the piano or watch a movie. I don't have to make anyone's lunch or get up early on the weekend. It's a little lonely and frustrating that I can only be a bystander while they stroll around the streets with gelato, but I suppose I had my time at the front end. I guess I'm just being greedy. And I miss them.

Vito answered the phone a couple days ago when I called, and he sounded different. Older. I'm missing some of that every-day connective tissue that usually blinds us to those little changes in our daily acquaintance. Wrinkles. Grey hair. My son is growing up, however momentary, without me, and it's tangible. I could hear it in his voice. It came across in a long-distance call. The changes rear up in short videos on my cellphone and mock me. When will I notice the next one? I imagine these kinds of episodes will only increase as our lives trundle on and we move away from each other for longer and longer periods of time, and he continues to grow up into that person that he is becoming. "Well," he says, pausing on the other end as if he is about to break it to me, "I guess I better go, daddy."

Sunday, June 07, 2015

How to Get to California

Starting at 10:30PM, one hour, more or less, in a taxi taking stock of Doha’s new architecture and construction oddities along the way, and wondering what will be different when Vito and I return in a month to recover Angela who is staying in the Q without us;

Two hours playing Brain Games for Clever Kids with Vito while waiting to board our Lufthansa plane to Frankfurt;

Five hours in the air between airports—me nursing a blossoming cold, Vito out cold;

Just enough of an hour in Frankfurt to find our gate, buy a chocolate croissant and transfer to our United plane for Chicago;

Flying with the sun, eight hours of coughing, sneezing, sopping snot and squinting while Vito busied himself with the window shade and whatever else he could play with without me. My eyes were buzzing. In the bathroom, I looked at myself and realized I had no idea what time it was. Vito wanted to buy a watch;

In a little less than two hours, Chicago was all baggage carousels, Blackhawks playoff jerseys, lines, neon lights and a hot dog before boarding the final plane for Sacramento;

Four more hours of my never-ending free preview of Direct TV commercials and crying children across the aisle;

Ninety minutes in the CRV with grandma and grandpa on our way to Rio Vista, we stop at Wal-Mart for cold medicine. Jet-lagged and lackluster after eating tacos, Vito and I crash and sleep until 3:30AM the next morning when I wake up and vomit. Vito wakes up and writes about it;

One day sweating in a recliner or in bed in pajamas sucking electrolyte popsicles.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

the boy

was starting to cough in his lap
with no boy’s knees
he staggered
the pistol in his shoulder
they came to a vanished road
lifted him over nothing
it’s okay he said and picked
and set off
he dropped down
he turned and stood
dropped to his knees and leaves
he wiped gore and mute
in the long cold
down he heard them
there was a cough
so frail and thin
“Pinch an Inch” PoMoSco challenge – use words in a one-inch width of source text.
McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Picador, 2006. Print.