Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shop Ahoy!

For me, Eid kicked off with my fifteenth annual Junior Robert Football League (JRFL) fantasy football draft on Sunday (which is the first day of the week here). Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan, and we have to hold a re-draft this coming Sunday. On top of that, I caught a cold so I haven't been feeling too hot.

Father and son at City Centre Mall
I don't like shopping that much, but we have gone shopping every day this holiday despite my cold. It was a kind of shopping marathon. The quest for two sets of matching bed accoutrements, one for Vito's and one for ours, was almost never-ending, especially with Ramadan / Eid Al-Fitr interference making for late night shopping, but we finally found something that satisfied our desires. When we arrived in Doha, the beds were only made with matching comforter, flat sheets and pillow cases--Vito's a pink and yellow floral pattern on light blue and ours on pink. Not our colors, but enough to start with, and leaving plenty of room for improvement.

Anyway, we finished shopping for such pressing necessities today. Here is a picture of Vito and me at the City Centre mall in downtown Doha. I think there are five levels in this mall, which is, perhaps, the largest in Doha. We're pictured here standing above the ice rink located on the ground floor of the mall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Car-R-Us

The Shuttle Bus
Without a car, it is virtually impossible to get anywhere in Doha, especially in the heat, and especially with a young one among the three of us. The heat just crumples the tender. We tried taking cabs for a few weeks, but they have to be hailed well in advance for both coming and going, which can be a little tedious. We went back and forth about it for a while, but finally decided we should rent a car.

Unfortunately, I can't drive yet. Angela went to the traffic department a couple weeks ago, showed her Italian license, paid 150 riyals, and a temporary Doha license was issued. I have to make an appointment to take the driving test; however, Ramadan ends in the last week of August (or close to it), and I won't even be able to make an appointment until then. I heard a story that a sheikh went to the USA and was forced to take a driving test, so now USA folk have to take the driving test in Qatar, but I don't know if there's any truth in it. At least, I can take the shuttle to and from my office every day. It literally picks me up right outside my apartment and drops me off at the steps of the LAS building.

A Traffic Sign
Among the car rental shops that we called, Petra seemed to have the best deal, so we made arrangements to  acquire one of their cars, a Nissan. I had heard that we could have a rental car delivered to our apartment, which was great. For whatever reason, though, we had to go down to their office to get it. Over the phone, Petra said that they would send a car at 9:30 the next morning. We met a German couple, and they laughed at us when we told them. "We waited around until 7PM or so," Jorg said. Well, that wasn't going to happen to us. At about 11AM, after a few disgruntled phone calls, a cab arrived to take us to Petra.

While we were filling out the paperwork, Vito saw a red Tiida in front of the shop, and that was what he wanted. Weirdly, that's what we got. We reserved a different model, but whatever. Anyway, it looks OK on the outside, but the engine makes a little whistling sound. The interior is not so nice, either, but the air-conditioning and the CD player work. So far, it makes grocery shopping much more convenient, but we haven't taken it into the heart of the city, yet. On the way home, we hoped that we would be able to find the way back to our apartment, but we arrived home without incident.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Muezzin Zzzzz...


Every day, when it is time to pray, the muezzin's voices ring throughout every neighborhood here, broadcast from the minarets that can be seen everywhere. I've come to like the sound, but it is still a little unusual. Yesterday, I opened my eyes at around 3:30AM and Vito was standing in front of me next to the bed. He said, "Daddy, I don't want to pray right now." I took him into his bedroom and put him ito bed with the muezzin lulling both of us back to sleep. His bedroom is closer to the street, which means it is closer to the neighborhood mosque, and so the call to prayer has been waking him up occasionally.

Souq Waqif
The video above shows the Souq Waqif, also captured in the picture on the right, which is where we went last weekend for dinner. We were celebrating our anniversary, and we arrived in the evening across the street from the Islamic Cultural Center just as the muezzin started. It was terribly hot and humid, perhaps the hottest and most humid day since we arrived in Doha, and the streets were nearly deserted. As muslims here are fasting from dawn to dusk, this call to prayer indicated the end of fasting. During this period of fasting, people do not eat or drink, and eating and drinking are not permitted in public.

Anyway, this is my last weekend before school starts with its abbreviated schedule for Ramadan. I still have some things to get used to, but I'm about as prepared as I can be to start teaching. Things will feel more comfortable after classes get rolling, of course. This first semester, I will be teaching two sections of Academic Composition on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and another section of Academic Composition and an Academic Literature course on Mondays and Wednesday for a total of four classes. In addition to my courses, I have to serve a few hours each week in the Language Resource Center as an English tutor, which is one of the unique attributes of the ABP.

Friday, August 05, 2011

School's Cool

The LAS Building in Education City
I work for the Qatar Foundation in the Academic Bridge Program (ABP) on the Education City campus. Education City is really a megacampus that hosts a number of different educational facilities. The campus continues to expand as can be seen by the tremendous amount of construction going on around here, and visible projects include the nearly completed Qatar National Convention Centre and the Sidra Medical and Research Center.

As a result of Ramadan beginning last Monday, we have shortened work days, which is a nice way to jump into the culture here. The day starts at 8:30AM and ends at 1:30PM, and we will carry on with that schedule until the end of the month when Ramadan ends and we have a week-long Eid or holiday. I haven't started teaching yet, but there are many other things to take care of before students arrive. Over the past three days, for example, we have been administering placement tests to our students. Actual classes start on the fourteenth.

My Office
The ABP is located in the Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) building in Education City, and the staff includes teachers and administrators from countries such as Australia, Canada, Egypt, England, France, India, Ireland, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Sudan, Switzerland, Tunisia, and the United States. A free shuttle picks me up right outside our apartment, and, about ten minutes later, drops me off at the front entrance of the LAS building. It's very convenient. The ABP shares the building with the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies.

In this region, among many other characteristics, the ABP is unique in that male and female students attend classes together, which is something that, up until this point in their lives, our students, predominantly Qatari nationals, have not previously experienced. As a result, in order for Qatari parents to allow their daughters to go to school with male students, all of the classrooms and offices had to have glass walls.

Here is a picture of my office. If you look closely, you can see a kind of geometric pattern on the window of my office, which mirrors the pattern on the outside of the building. The pattern is not actually on the window, however. It is an aluminum wall or curtain suspended from the ceiling, and appears throughout the interior of the LAS building. It almost looks like a veil. While difficult for someone new like me to get around, it makes for a striking panorama within the building.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Apartmental

Kitchen
Our apartment, one benefit of my job with the Qatar Foundation, is quite pleasant. If we have to stay inside all day long because of the heat, at least we really like our living quarters. I can't speak in terms of square feet, but it is spacious and certainly an upgrade from what we had in Santa Clara.

We arrived with all of our clothes (even our Winter clothes as we'll be taking those to Italy during the semester break at the end of December) and many of Vito's toys, but we left all of our decorations and knickknacks in storage in Vacaville. Our apartment still looks about the same way as it did when we arrived, but, when we get around to doing a little more shopping, we will look for some things to personalize our living space.

We live on the second floor, which is great because there was no furniture to move in, but we also don't have anyone tramping around on the ceiling. The apartment is fully furnished, and came with all of the basic necessities for our survival, such as silverware, bedding, dishes, etc.

Vito's bedroom entrance and closet.
There are two bedrooms, both with walk-in closets, and two bathrooms, both with showers. Each bathroom also has a bidet, which makes Angela happy. All of the rooms have tile floors except the bedrooms, which have hardwood. The kitchen has marble countertops and plenty of cabinet space. Additionally, there is a large storage room, which is akin to a giant closet, and our own little laundry room with a washer and a dryer. All of the walls are made of stone, and we don't hear any of our neighbors. Even though it's so hot outside, we don't have to run the air conditioner 24-7. The apartment stays fairly cool.

Unfortunately, these pictures don't really do the apartment justice, but I'm not going to retake them and they give you the basic idea.