Thursday, September 27, 2012

What do Jack Gantos, Laurie Halse Anderson and Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens Authors have in Common?

Linda Hoiseth, Middle School Librarian and Kathy Patterson, Head Librarian at
The American School of Doha
The American School of Doha, of course! (
More than 2000 students from 79 countries attend ASD.  The ultramodern facility is wireless, with two computer labs, LCD projectors in every classroom, double gym, fitness center, indoor pool and theater.  Teachers are multinational, instruction is in English.
Outside it's Doha
Inside it's a haven
for kids from lots of places
Sure everyone in Doha knows about ASD.  But there's a secret.  Pssst:
Right here, in the heart of this desert community - where everything from apples to shoes are imported…and the country's "bookstore" is more Office Max than Barnes & Noble - are two sunny, modern libraries chock full of kidlit treasures:
ahhhhhhhhhh books
That's right:  Books.  Big books, small books, fat books, lean books.  The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.  Great children's picture and chapter books. Fun, funny, serious and silly books.  New and old books.  Recent award winners. Books on tough subjects, tomes for research and study and books, well, just because.
Except for The Three Little Pigs, true or otherwise (apologies to Jon Scieszka).  Pork is just as haraam in the library as it is in the grocery. (Yes, really.)
Jack Gantos endured the 2 day journey over land and sea to entertain and enlighten ASD's kids.  Laurie Halse Anderson, Korky Paul and Charles Benoit make the trip in November 2012.
And now books by HWKT (http:/ authors Ann Ingalls, Anola Pickett, Barbara Stuber, Bridget Heos, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Katie Speck, Laura Manivong are available for borrowing by ASD students too.
cozy reading spaces in middle school/high school library
beautifully appointed library is a great place to research, write, print assignments
so many books, so little time - ASD Elementary School Library
inviting High School reading space
But wait, there's more! On hand before I walked in the door:  Crossing the Tracks, by Barbara Stuber (checked out!), Maybelle Goes to Tea AND Maybelle in the Soup, by Katie Speck and A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce.  Browse nonfiction and you'll find multiple great titles by Bridget Heos, including the biography, Lady Gaga.  That's right, there were HWKT books already in stock at ASD.  That's just how smart these great people are!

Kathy Patterson, Linda Hoiseth, Lauren Elliott
Super Librarians Abroad: love kids, love books, love travel
Titles were distributed to the appropriate library. Kids grabbed 'em up!

May I read this one, please? 

Love to read!
Thank you Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens' authors for gifting books to Doha's kids:
  • The Little Piano Girl, The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend, by Ann Ingalls & Maryann Macdonald, Illustrated by Giselle Potter
Anola Pickett (
  • (2 copies) Wasatch Summer, by Anola Pickett
  • Old Enough for Magic, An I Can Read Book, story by Anola Pickett, pictures by Ned Delaney
Barbara Stuber (
  • (2 copies) Crossing the Tracks, a novel by Barbara Stuber
  • What to Expect When You're Expecting Hatchlings, A Guide for Crocodilian Parents (and Curious Kids), by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
  • What to Expect When You're Expecting Joeys, A Guide for Marsupial Parents (and Curious Kids), by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Elizabeth C. Bunce (
  • A Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce 
  • Maybelle Goes to Tea, by Katie Speck, illustrations by Paul Rátz de Tagyos
Laura Manivong (
  • Escaping the Tiger, by Laura Manivong
Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens is a group of the most wonderful, accomplished (see above) writerly peeps in the Kansas City, Missouri area - and my critique group!  To learn more about HWKT, click here: 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Haya Baya!

Found an archaeological site shouldered by a vast desert.  Climbed a mountain made of wind ravaged stone overlooking the sea.  Discovered a beach where windsurfers soar into the sky and small boats zip in and out of mangroves.

Toured a museum stuffed with personally owned Qatari artifacts like ancient rotary phones and radios.  Saw a life sized brass horse and handmade tapestries.  Authentic pearl diver's equipment, child's cribs, guns, knives, books.  Antique Korans in glass cases.  Old coins.  Listened to a lecture called Women in Popular Culture given by a female Qatari college professor.  Sat on traditional red and white pillows, drank (saffron?) tea and learned local history from Qataris at the Fanar.
But the highlight of this week was tanween and Haya Baya.
In Arabic grammar, "tanween" adds beauty and definition to a word by doubling the ending vowel and adding an "n" sound.  In Qatari philanthropy "tanween" is eleven young Qatari women, 9 college seniors and 2 graduates, who add beauty and definition to the world by sharing knowledge and smiles:
Tanween is not a school project, class assignment, thesis or community service.  The students don't get paid for their work.  Their children's program is simply an effort to share local culture and build language skills among Doha's youngest.
The Story of Haya Baya:
During pearling days, divers gave food to the sea on the eve of Eid Al Adha - so the sea wouldn't be hungry during the next pearling season and drown them.  Today, children plant barley seeds in small baskets.  On the 9th day of the Dul Hijja month of the Islamic Calendar children gather along the seashore, sing a song about the growing, green plant…and toss it into the sea.
(I was invited to take photos.)
Learning the story of Haya Baya with Hissa
Making baskets with Aisha
Planting seeds with Noora
Ready to grow!
So, I was going to end with something sappy and vaguely political about how a child's smile defies language barriers.  That familiarity, empathy and understanding begin with this next generation of diplomats, politicians, writers, personalities…and students working "just because."
And how kids who understand grow into compassionate, tolerant adults.
But the truth is ana jedda (I'm a grandma) who misses her little - and not-so-little ones. Love the stories, love the kids.  More, please.
Haya Baya!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Grand Mosque and Me

Head scarf pic; but don't freak out (Mom)!  Hijab required when inside a mosque.
High on a hill overlooking Doha's West Bay is Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque, the State Mosque of Qatar.  It's a grand building with bubbling half-moons and a minaret:
Bob and I drive past the mosque every day on our way to and from Bob's job site.
I'd been told I couldn't go in, as I am a woman AND a non-Muslim.  So I didn't try.  Because I want to be respectful - and I just don't want to get into that kind of trouble here.
While I was napping, the rules changed.  Lucky for me:
It says "madkhool al nissaa'" (entrance the ladies).  Reading Arabic is so much easier when the English translation is included.
Up the steps…it's a bit unnerving to do this by yourself…
To the great, grand entrance just for ladies.
My guide said the mosque is "always open" and crowded on special days, but for regular five-times-a-day prayer most faithful attend neighborhood mosques.
Door to the Ladies' Section from the inside.  Doors and gates are important to Middle Eastern/Khaleeji culture and architecture.
Three ladies stood behind a counter to one side of the entrance. One (re)draped and (re)tucked my scarf, one checked to see if anyone was using the praying space and the third offered a tour.  My guide was Egyptian, from a tiny Up-Country village.  She wore a modern looking suit and hijab - and was newly pregnant with TRIPLETS thanks to the mysteries of invitro fertilization.  (Nothing to do with the mosque tour, but interesting…that she and her husband made use of this very modern process, and well, that she told me about it at all.)
Women's praying space. "You may take pictures," said my guide.  "Because there are no women here now."
Ladies pray in a wide carpeted balcony space overlooking the Men's Area.  "Do you ever look down there?" I asked my guide.  She was appalled.  "Of course not."  This is as close as I got since no one answered the phone downstairs (to clear a visit from me).
Another peek at the Men's Area.  :) Yes, I'm just that immature.
Ladies' ablution (wudhu) space.  Prayer preparation involves a very specific wash, rinse, repeat process:
A place outside the praying area to sit, chat, think.  Muslim ladies are very, very social with one another and generally solicitous to curious hawagas, ie, (female) tourists and strangers.  If you have the nerve to ask, she'll (probably, maybe) answer your questions.  But pictures?  No.
Courtyard for gathering, talking, hangin' with the fam before services.
I like the "ladies crossing" graphic.
Wider angle
Empty parking lot, workers at the minaret
Interesting, weird, diverse, unique buildings of Doha's West Bay
"Come back anytime," said my guide.  "Bring your friends!"  Good thing I have plenty of scarves.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Driving in Doha

This is what driving in Doha looks like:
There is: speeding, racing, backing up in traffic, middle of the street u-turning, curb jumping, stop and going, sidewalk driving, sidewalk parking, cutting, passing…and making a lane (on the highway) where there isn't one.
Lost on a side road a white Suburban fills your rear view mirror, flashes brights, blasts horn: "get out of the way!"  You're thirty cars from the green light when the Explorer behind you honks, gestures: "move!"  Wending through a full parking lot, you are blocked in with nowhere to go but over a curb and into traffic.
Roads are structured around a series of circles called roundabouts.  Three lanes pinwheel about a grassy mound until luck and momentum spit cars out the other side, hopefully at the desired exit.  There are no left turns between roundabouts, so choosing the wrong exit can mean 30-45 minutes of circling - lost, but not lost (you can see where you need to be, just can't get there).
Road blocks, blockades, diversions, lanes that end suddenly.  New street names.  GPS does not match reality.  Roads where there shouldn't be and no roads where there should be. Cars stopped in the street waiting on restaurant takeout.  Cars parked higgledy piggledy everywhere, including what might be, you're not really sure…the middle of the highway.
Traffic police in bright yellow and green vests sometimes facilitate movement on clogged roads. Speeders are "flashed" by orange and yellow striped cameras at select intersections. (Citations are issued "virtually" - remember to check online to see if you got one…)
young local drivers often ignore red lights at intersections missing these flashing beacons of order
By the time I arrived, Bob had been driving ticket and accident free in Doha for three months.  My five minute lesson:
  • Keep to the right
  • Watch for cars coming from every direction as...
  • They. Will. Cut. You. Off.
  • Cars in the roundabout have right of way over cars entering the roundabout
  • Use your blinker: "270 degrees at Arch Roundabout left blinker for first 180 degrees, then right for next 90 degrees" (huh?)
  • Cars have the right of way over pedestrians - who shouldn't be out there anyway
  • If you get lost, use landmarks - Aspire Tower, West Bay, Fanar (that's why the buildings are there)
And - license plates with fewer than six numbers are local, the fewer numbers, the closer that driver is to, ahem, The Top.  Stay Away From That Car.  (The smallest set of numbers we've seen is TWO; the car was parked illegally at a mall.)
Truth, driving in Doha is like driving anywhere else - while balancing at the top of a roller coaster.  All you gotta do is (discern then) follow the rules, stay away from transgressors (and those sporting short license plate numbers).
My technic for driving in Doha is easier to remember:  Breathe, Smile..
…Adventure ON.