Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What We've Been Up To...

hitched boat ride around Doha Bay...

...with this nice group of international teachers (would love to send this pic on with a working email address or phone number)

Meanwhile, Bob:
still working

And Bob:

hangs at the job site

enjoys hot tea ("shay") in tiny little mugs

Of course, it hasn't been ALL fun and games.   Bob does this every evening:
power walk and gym time

While Cindi enoys an everlasting never ending all day all the time takes 4 hours to do a handful at a time lot of this:
We both do a lot of this:

But only Cindi does this:
Arabic lessons
 In this amazing place:

fanar building

unmarked ladies entrance
seriously, don't even think about it

Taking advantage of opportunities to try new things:

As we make the most of our time together:

Love you, miss you, keep those cards and letters (ie, emails, facebook, comments) coming!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Corniche Potty Break

I know it's environmentally (and politically?) correct.  It's probably more sanitary and maybe easier than paper…once you get used to it.  One expat wife said she found the spray "refreshing."  But I wonder…

How to dry off before pulling up your…well, you know. Drip dry, perhaps? Have you ever squatted over a hole waiting on an air-out? 

I search the stalls for something familiar: 

Is the wet seat a product of the previously mentioned sanitary spray or something less appealing? 

What would you do? 

I place my feet in the marked position and send up a prayer of gratitude for gym lunges.  I assure you the device is architecturally sound as everything goes straight down the hole.  Perhaps it IS more sanitary, I think. 

And then…I drop my keys. 

Back at the Pearl…there are options:

Potty, paper, spray…and a little bottom sink. 

What would YOU do?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Story of a Picture

Moments after Kimber snaps this picture (via Skype) of me basking under the warm Doha sun - as if in punishment for rubbing coveted Middle Eastern brilliance into my daughter's chilly Middle American day...a blowing, gusting sand drenched wind spits kernals of dry stuff onto my resort-style patio.  I retreat to the confines of my cozy living room where the wind - and sand - take a backseat to the sun in all its clear skied glory.  Do I go to the beach today?

Well, what would you do?

To the beach, of course.  Before I can exit the hotel's warm parking lot and step into the bright Doha afternoon, beach security stops me.  "Pass?" he says.  He wears a winter coat, hood - and a paper face mask. He doesn't know me; he's new.  I show him my room key and he waves me on.  Does he roll his eyes and shake his head? Maybe.

The hem of my cotton sundress snaps at my knees.  Hair blows in my face.  Goosebumps tickle my skin.  How can the sun be so warm when the wind is so bitter, biting cold?

Sand may be fickle, but it tells the truth when it comes to the sun.  Sand does not engage in wind's lying game. When sun is warm - so is sand.  When sun is chill, sand is cold. Sand absorbs and radiates heat, whenever heat is present.  Hot sand trumps all, even a cold, cruel wind.  And hot sand against naked toes means stinging, pinching flotsam that's whipped into the sky against its forgiven.

Along the shoreline, umbrellas are pinned closed and beach chairs lie higgledy piggledy.  Tide is drawn to sea and buoys rest on the smooth wet bank.  No sun bathers.

The wind is cold but...the beckoning surf.  The glittering water.  The rolling swells. And the sun!!  Oh, the sun!

Well, what would you do?

I pull a chaise to the relative shelter of one of Doha's ever present construction barriers.  I place one towel under me and another around me.  I pull out today's Arabic lesson.  Whine away wind, I do not belong to you.  Yallah, emshee; go away.

A beach attendant approaches my little alcove.  "Tekellam Araby?" I say.

"No, I do not speak Arabic," he English.

"Enta min wain?" I persist in the "official" language no one seems to speak.

"I'm from Sri Lanka," he says. He smiles and is silent, but I hear him anyway:

Crazy American!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Secret

To the coworker who said, "they're a brutal bunch of people"; the loved one who pointed out that the Taliban may soon have an office here; the acquaintance who reminded me that, while the locals may be perfectly fine, "it's people from other parts of the Middle East you must avoid (and you won't know who they are)":

I've never felt more secure.

Bob claims it's so safe here, he could leave his briefcase on a curb, return two days later and it'd be in the same spot, undisturbed.

Sure we lock our home and car and keep our wallets tucked away. We walk in the sidewalks and stop at red lights. We don't flash money or skin. That's just common sense - and respect.

In Doha, men in dishdasha and headdress push carts full of groceries and play with giggling babies as abaya clad women shop. Women sit together, men stroll in groups, families cluster, babies laugh, cry and hug mommy's leg.

Ummas carry "hello Kitty" backpacks.

Events are filmed for television.
Soccer moms parade for their kids' schools.
Men race.
Women race.
Children show school pride.
There are museums, restaurants and world class stadiums.
During my morning jog I came up behind a woman in black wearing tennis shoes.  She averted her eyes; I was silent. While cooling down I met her again. She stared at the pavement.  What if if I offer up a good morning, I wondered.

"Sabah el khair," I said.

She smiled, wide, friendly, welcoming.  "Sabah el nour," she replied.

Once you get past differences in language, dress, religion -there is, after all, a secret to getting along:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

For My Valentine: National Sports Day

Forget Valentine’s Day chocolate.  How about a brisk walk? Or rousing game of tennis?

That’s what you’d be doing if you were in Doha with Bob and me on February 14:
National Sports Day is a pioneering initiative adopted by H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Heir Apparent, who issued the Emiri Decree No. 80 for the year 2011 on December 6, 2011, concerning the State’s National Sports Day. The decree states that Tuesday in the second week of February each year will be the state’s National Sports Day. (

Perhaps it’s a way to stem the nutritional tide: Qatar has a dangerously high rate of diabetes.  Or a continuing effort on the part of the government to get nationals, expats and itinerants (like me) interested in the country’s ongoing bid for the 2020 Olympics.  Or maybe the HH is just really into fitness.

There are already gyms and sports clubs everywhere (including at the Pearl where Bob lives).  It’s said that the HH rides his bike in the desert and plays tennis.  Doha hosted the 2006 AFC Asian Cup and the 2011 Pan Arab Games.  And of course, there’s the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals to be held in a (beautifully revitalized) Doha.

The Sports Day decree states all public companies are required to organize some sort of physical activity for employees who enjoy a day off. Sports Day events include a special walk for women from everywhere at Aspire Park:
Other activities include a rare tour of Qatar Olympic Committee facilities, including sports stadiums, grounds and indoor halls – all open to the public!  (Katie, Kimber and I tried to see Khalifa Stadium last December and were asked to leave…)  Look for sporting events at Qatar University, Katara Beach, the Tourism Authority and walks along the Corniche.  All public sports clubs are free to use on February 14 too.

Bob and I plan to walk the Corniche after which we’ll ride the ever-present-and-probably-enhanced-that-day wave of traffic to QOC facilities.  We’ll do lunch somewhere fun then head home - to the Pearl – together.

Most of you know I’m battling my way back to mobility after 5 months of hobbling around, courtesy of an ankle bone contusion earned in September 2011.  I’m finally back to running (in frustratingly slow, sometimes painful, fits and starts) with the April 14 Burns and McDonnell Rock the Parkway half marathon in my sights (

My training will happen in Doha. Bob promises to exercise with me.

As a (Rockhurst High School) soccer star, coach and three time veteran of the Kansas City Half Marathon, Bob’s no stranger to exercise.  What makes this gym sojourn different?  Our Doha honeymoon, of course. J

That National Sports Day falls on Valentine’s Day, which happens to be my first full day back in Doha – and (JUST announced, even as Musheireb Properties is not a public company…) Bob has the whole day off!!

Coincidence?  I think not.

Check out Qatar’s Sports Day website here:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sheikha and the Chickens

Why is there a chicken coop overlooking the massive hole in the ground from which the Heart of Doha, Musheireb, will rise?

Giant Hole

Chicken Coop Overlooking Giant Hole

The answer: “The Sheikha wants them there.”

That would be Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, the Emir’s (second) wife - and Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development; President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs; Vice Chair, the Supreme Education Council; Vice Chair, Supreme Health Council; Chair, Sidra Medical and Research Center; Chair, Silatech; UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education; and Member of the High Level Group, UN Alliance of Civilizations. The Times of London named her one of the 25 most influential business leaders in the Middle East and she’s on Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.

As if all that weren’t enough, Sheikha Mozah holds a sociology degree from Qatar University, has been awarded multiple honorary degrees - and she has seven children!

Think you know all about the “oppressed and invisible” Middle Eastern woman? Think again.

At the Heart of Doha, Musheireb’s groundbreaking ceremony, Sheikha Mozah set her palm print into the building’s cornerstone.  Nearby, her image appeared on a television screen.  She said:
“Our past clearly reflected that communities in Qatar have always
been close knit.  People lived and worked together in harmony with
the climate, with the land and with each other.  We had our own
ways of dealing with our environment which was sustainable and
human in scale, and thus, our architecture reflected the unity of
our family’s identity.”

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the 1930s, this little pearl and fishing village has grown into a booming, busy metropolis. There’s a building shaped like a bullet and another in zigzag form. There are resorts and yachts and malls.  High profile sports events are held here.  The country has its own airline.

With all that development comes advancement – Education City, for example. On the down side, Qatar has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the Middle East and a generation of youth that (…reputedly…) prefers not to work.

A nation can’t stop moving forward for fear of losing sight of its roots or otherwise outgrowing its civvies.  Instead, leadership finds creative ways to remind those on the developmental front lines to stay true to the country’s heritage and culture.

She brings in the chickens.