Friday, December 27, 2013

In My Small House, a Holiday eCard

West Bay, Doha, Qatar, 2012
She is young, beautiful (ma sha allah), Qatari; an administrator.  She wears black abaya, sheyla and bright red lipstick around a white toothed, face lighting smile.  She sits in the corner of a windowless office tucked deep inside the women's area.
She stands, wraps me in a tight, two arm, belly hug, kisses my cheeks.  "I want to know what your house is like in America."
I am told that Qataris prefer large, tile floored, compound style homes over apartment living.  Construction is sand and wind resistant steel and concrete.  High walls shield flowering outdoor gardens where there might be chicken coops and children's play areas.  Inside there are marble countertops, crystal chandeliers, winding staircases, flat screen tvs.  Upstairs windows are covered to assure privacy.  There are independent quarters for maids, nannies and drivers; separate meeting spaces for men and women.  At mealtime some families sit in chairs around a table, while others prefer to gather cross-legged around a common platter placed on the floor.
random street, random home, Doha, 2013
"My house is small," I say.  "Wood frame, floors, siding, eaves.  A low wooden fence outlines the back garden.  Windows overlook the street and the front door opens to the living room and kitchen.  There are flowers and trees and in the Spring, beds full of purple phlox, daisies and daylilies.  We didn't have television when the children were small because we wanted them to read and play outside.  Now there's a single tv in a cozy basement family space."
She nods, smiles - and I know the description is not enough.
In My Small House
a Holiday eCard
In my small house, elbows bump.  The tv and radio are too loud.  There is clutter and a line for the bathroom.  There is straightening hair in the hallway, a crowd at the mirror and chairs wrapped like ribbon around the dinner table.  There is teasing over passed gas, stinky bathrooms, everyone-sick-at-the-same-time.
Like a small town – there are no secrets in my small house.  No sneaking out when you're grounded or cheating-on-your-diet-no-one-will-know.  No hiding Reese's Cups, saving the last bit of cheesecake for a solitary midnight snack.
There is noise and chatter and laughter in my small house.  There is talking after lights out in shared bedrooms.  There is arguing and there is making up.
November, 2013
Tinkling piano keys stream music into every corner of my small house.  Flour footprints trail into the hallway and the sweet aroma of warm sugar cookies tickles my nose.
In the spacious back garden my tow-headed 4-year old learned to swing.  Her legs caught the wind as she sailed into the sky.  For two exhilarating hours.  Without stopping.
On the street in front of my small house, my competitive 7-year old met his 6-year old sister's challenge to ride his bike "no hands!"  He did her one better, propping his feet on the handlebars: "No feet either!"  He hits a curb, tumbles, snaps his collar bone.  Three cozy days at home later, he returns to school with half his math book completed.
my kidz
Early attempts to teach homeschool PE involve giggling circles around a fat, white bark tree.  (Later, we play actual sports.)  We watch a mother butterfly lay eggs on a milkweed plant at the kitchen table.  We chart the progress of her babies from pupa to wet-winged Monarch.
In the living room of my small house I braid wire into my 10 year old's long hair for her lead role in the homeschool musical.  Her endearing, high cee voice sings light into the shadows.
We "do school" all over my small house until one by one my babies leave for high school, college and life.
my babies, 2008
Now, this very minute, wheels rattle across the hardwood floor in my small house.  A pony tailed cherub pushes Big Bird into my kitchen office in a little red stroller.  Her soft pillow cheeks puff into a smile.  "Nonnie!" she sings.
I lift my grandbaby into the air and kiss her perfect little face.
I love this snuggy little boy, 2013
Concrete or wood, tile or carpet; barrier walls or open gardens; a house is just a shell for living.  It's what's inside that matters.

We've enjoyed our cozy time together in America this holiday season. 
From my small house to wherever you are in the world today:
Our Family, 2013
In My Small House, copyright 2013, edited and reprinted from my blog, Tales from a Life.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ya Filus! Rich American

shopping at The Pearl
She sits at a desk deep inside the secured ladies' area.  She wears abaya and sheyla and when she leaves the protected space she covers her face and hands too.  Her job is to answer the phone, maintain lists, help visitors.  She's from France.
She greets me this way:  "Ya, filus!"
Hello, Money.
"She's crazy," say the other ladies.  "Ignore her."
But I'm puzzled.  The greeting is negative, assumptive and mean; a slur:  fatty, ugly, rich.
"Why do you say this?" I ask.  "It's very rude."
"But it is true, yes?"  eet eez troo.  "You are American.  You are rich."
I shake my head.  Not that it's not a bad thing like stealing bread from babies but No I'm Not Rich.  I tell her about layoffs, old cars, raising three children in a small house.  Joint bank accounts, family budgets.  Hard earned achievement realized through years of education, planning, sacrifice.
I don't own excessive "stuff."  I shop at Walmart, not Hermes.  I cook, clean and do laundry.  I work.  I'm in Doha because my husband is good at what he does - and win or lose, we operate as a team.
She purses her lips, waves the back of one hand in my direction.
She's not impressed by my college degree, professional experience, stories sold to Highlights for Children.  She's not interested in my job in Doha and efforts to volunteer in local schools.  She's more curious about why I don't have a maid to wash my husband's socks than understanding how everyday American women balance work and family obligations without the aid of a full time, live in nanny.
…it is the man's duty to take full responsibility for the care and maintenance of his wife and family. He must provide a safe home, food, clothing and all material needs. Indeed, Muslim men are responsible for all financial matters.  A Muslim woman may contribute financially if she wishes, but she is under no obligation to do so…
In America, "rich" makes more money than she spends.  She drives a truck, Toyota, BMW, lives in a tract house or mansion.  She's every nationality, color, shape, size, orientation, gender, religion.  She has savings to care for herself and her family and maintain her lifestyle without working, if necessary.  And according to sociologist Leonard Beeghley, she has a net worth of at least $1 million.
Hermes at The Pearl
Qataris enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world.
In Qatar, the country's oil and gas revenues are shared with minority population Qatari citizens.  Here, "rich" drives a Lamborghini, Rolls or SUV, lives in a sprawling family compound/beautifully appointed villa/The Pearl.  "Rich" summers in a cool climate, sends his children to university abroad, spends holidays in Las Vegas.  Most households engage a nanny and maid but "rich" boasts one helper per child and two, three or more maids.  "Rich" is employed, but doesn't necessarily work; is conservative and religious - and generally unavailable to outsiders.
"Rich" is relative, political, desirable, shameful - and achievable in some places more than others.
She raises her chin, lifts an eyebrow.  "I want to go to America."

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to Get a Speeding Ticket in Doha

cameras placed strategically throughout Doha
photograph errant expat (and other) drivers in action
In America.  How to obtain a moving violation:  drive too fast.  Watch rearview mirror for black and white sedan with strobing red and white lights.  Pull to side of road, unroll window, wait.
Snap of door opening, closing.  Keys jangling, heels on pavement, rush of passing traffic, bitter exhaust.  Blue uniform with hat, belt and holstered weapon.  Hand on hip, officer bent at waist, stern face in window, smooth Old Spice cologne.
"License and registration, please."
Tattle tale lights flash.  Cars slow to pass.  Children point from back seats, laugh:  Speeder!
Pounding heart, tears.  The shame.
surreal, sardines-packed-in-a-can, Doha traffic
too many cars for personal attention between officers and rule breakers
In Qatar.  How to obtain a moving violation:  you have to look it up.
enter your Qatari id, license plate number, establishment ID
download the phone app to view others' violations while stuck in traffic
In Doha, yellow and white cameras situated at intersections and along highways weed through the crush of sedans, SUVs, trucks, semis, motorcycles to photograph plate numbers and assign violations, such as:
  • exceeding posted speed limit - 500 QR
  • not giving adequate signals as required - 200QR
  • driving a vehicle at abnormal low speed that may obstruct traffic movement without a good reason - 300QR
  • motorist does not abide by the automatic traffic signals (running a red light) - 6000QR
  • driving a vehicle in the wrong direction - 6000QR
Link: traffic offenses that can be settled by paying a fine.
Caught on Camera
Somewhere in Doha
Bob or Cindi (but probably Cindi):
November 9, 2013, 7:06 AM, Al Bidda (per website) or the Corniche (per agency):
"The motor vehicle's operator exceeds the maximum speed limit on the road"
There is no summons, notification, letter in the mail.  No flashing lights, jangling keys or holstered guns.  Nobody knocks on your door.  Errant behavior is recorded on the website and stays there until the fee is paid.  Whether you're a bad driver, in the wrong place at the wrong time or somewhere else altogether, it's possible to rack up violations and fees while living in blissful ignorance - working, shopping, taking the kids to school.
As long as you don't try to leave the country.
registered vehicle owners with unpaid violations
are stopped at the gate
Since the infraction is assigned to the car, it's the registered owner's responsibility to review the website for violations and pay fines.  This is a benefit to expats who lease a vehicle as the rental agency's name is attached to the car, not the driver's.  A service agent regularly checks the traffic website and emails request for payment.
"Kindly settle the attached traffic ticket..."
-email to Bob from Doha based car rental company, three weeks later
Suppose, like one of Bob's coworkers, you receive notification about a violation that ostensibly occurred on a day, place, time in which you and your car weren't present.  Nobody else drives your car.  You never speed.  There's too much traffic on that road at the stated time for anyone (except the young men in dish-dasha driving white Suburbans) to "exceed the posted limit."
It's Christmas and you have plans to travel.
You could request more information:
This is you, right?
Traffic Department's proof of Bob's car's violation (edited)
Hire a lawyer:
expensive and time consuming; still can't leave the country
Or just pay the toll - and go home (for the holidays).
Bob in Paris, 2013
good sport, good friend, good lookin'

Friday, December 6, 2013

Arabic in America

Kimber studies culture and language
Doha, 2012
"…The meaning of al-Salam Alaikum is informing the person who is greeted that he is in peace and safety from all kinds of mischief from the side of the greeting person…"
In My America, the cashier at Target wears a head scarf.  "Salaam Alaykum," I say.
She peeks at me out of the corner of one eye, whispers, "Wo alaykum..."
"…Imam Ibn Majah…'If they greet you saying al-Salam Alaikum (peace be upon you) reply them with Wa Alaikum (and upon you too)'…"
"Do you know Arabic?"  I ask, in English.
She's from Togo where French is the national language and English is widely spoken.

She smiles.  "I'm learning."
"That's great!" I reply, in Arabic.  "I'm learning too.  Please, will you speak with me?"
She laughs and says in English, "No, stop.  I don't know this."
"But don't you read the Koran?  I'm learning the Arabic of the Koran."
"My husband does.  He's studying Engineering here.  He tries to get me to read the Koran."  She shakes her head.  "I want to learn before we return to Saudi Arabia."
"If you speak Arabic with me we can both practice."
Doha, 2012
The next time I see her, she's wearing a dark blue snow cap over a black headband.  "My husband was asleep when I left this morning."  She shrugs, adjusts the cap.  "It's fine as long as my hair is covered."
She speaks to me only in English.
The next - and last  - time I see her, she's wearing a beautiful black and white sheyla.  She goes to break as I approach her line; she does not return my smile.
"…the Prophet said: "Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it…"
In Doha, I'm often asked why I want to learn Arabic.  "Because I live here!" I reply.  Perhaps it's also true that since I studied Arabic in my youth I'm drawn to the inflections, intonations, highs, lows - the language's uniquely musical qualities.  I like the way one word or phrase can mean many different things.  That God is part of everyday speech, whether greeting a person, introducing an idea or baking a cake.  How there are so many responses to "I hope you're well" it can take 20 minutes to get past "hello."
Sometimes I wonder if Arabic is a language or a religion.
"…'al-Salam' (peace, safety) is a Name, Attribute, and Act of Allah, so pronouncing this word is a supplication of Allah. Therefore, this great word should be protected from those who do not believe in it but they are enemies of Al-salam (a name of Allah). Thus when the Prophet wrote letters to the kings of Kuffars he wrote in the beginning 'Peace be upon those who follow the Guidance'; he did not write Kuffars the expression 'Salaam alaikum.'"
In America, as in Doha, I study alone at my kitchen table or with other non-native speakers.  I read children's books, watch children's videos, listen to Middle Eastern music and write emails, stories and poems.
It's not enough.
"…The ideal way to learn a foreign language is by conversing with native speakers…"
Yesterday I mail a package at the post office.  A man passes me carrying a baby.  Behind him steps a woman in abaya and sheyla.  She glances at me.
"Salaam alaykum," I say.
She smiles, surprise lighting her face.  "Wo alaykum salaam."
"A smile is a gift and counts as a form of charity."
- Qatari teacher at Fanar, the Islamic Cultural Center, Doha, Qatar
How to Speak Arabic
Lesson 1?

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Life In America- Holiday Edition

Crossing a bridge into downtown Kansas City
The car in front of me drives through the intersection and stops.  The lane ahead is full.
I pause at the crossroad, brake at the white line.  The car in the lane beside me stops too.
We wait 1-2-3 beats before our light turns red.
We don't honk, gesture, slap the steering wheel.  We don't accelerate into the space between two vehicles, block the intersection or flash our headlights.  We don't hop the curb.  We don't drive on the sidewalk or median.  We don't get out of our cars and wave our arms at the injustice of this forced lesson in patience.
We wait.
Lights change on the right, left, in front.  Cars, trucks, vans, SUVs take turns moving through the intersection.  Merging happens: first one, then the next, then another, vehicles unite in moving traffic, mixing seamlessly like the teeth in a zipper.
A song plays on the radio, something about love, peace, God.  There are plenty of other programs to choose from: rap, metal, opera, talk shows, gossip, news, politics, entertainment - but I like this music.  The car's heater hums.  The clear blue winter sky is framed by ice defrosting on my windshield.  The temperature gauge reads 15F (-9.44C).  My hands are toasty in heavy cotton gloves, but the tip of my nose is cold.
My light turns green.  The lane ahead of me is empty.  I move my foot to the gas pedal.  The car beside me advances; I accelerate too.
Family night in America
It seems that life in America is easy as long as you follow the rules:  stop at the red light, don't block the intersection, wait your turn, pay your bills, don't steal, respect others' rights, keep your hands to yourself.
Here, public restrooms (almost) always have toilet paper.  (Sometimes there are second and third rolls and extra under the sink too.)
In My America, there are winter trees, crispy leaves, flowers, yards and neighborhoods without walls.
There are sidewalks where people walk, jog.  Strangers who smile, say, "hi!" and "I hear we might get snow" and "did you know you dropped something?"
Medicines are available for purchase in the local grocery.  Cashiers, salesmen and women and service people everywhere smile, say, "How can I help you?"  And mean it.
In My America there are people of every color, shape, size, religion, culture, disposition.  There are agreers and disagreers, saints and sinners, lovers and haters.  Bars in airports and movie theaters, bibles in motels and gas stations.  Cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, non-denominational meeting halls.  Men and women, men and men, women and women.  Martha Stewart, Howard Stern, X Factor, XXX, Disney Channel.  CNN, ABC, Fox News; rich, poor, haves, have nots, hard workers, hardly working-ers, Republicans and Democrats.
My America is a mish mash of people, ideologies, lifestyles, attitudes.  It snows in My America.  People get the flu, bump heads, disagree and sometimes, even, run red lights.
It's not perfect.  But - it's home.
Happy Holidays, America.  I've missed you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Happened on the Plane

"…'mixing' and 'interaction' happened everywhere during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him): in the mosque, in the street, in the market, and everywhere.  The idea of segregation of sexes was simply not there…"
Tucked into my aisle seat, I watched passengers board.  It was my first time to sit in the center three seat section on a long haul flight.  Away from the cozy hollow near the plane's wall.  Exposed in the middle, without the window's comforting light.  Who would sit beside me this time?
first trip to Doha, Dec 2011
Katie, Kimber, me, cozy window row
Usually my long haul seatmates are readers, sleepers, armrest sharers.  I've also sat beside the mother with two fidgety babies; the girl who talked for hours in a high pitched screech.  The woman who put up a passive aggressive, across the world battle for the armrest; the smelly man.  There have been spillers, elbowers, climbers, wigglers, talkers, borrowers, snorers, eaters.

I'd never refused to sit beside anyone or had someone refuse to sit by me.  Until now.
An acrid scent, a man in the aisle.  He raised his arms to stow his luggage and a heavy body odor smell filled the space.  He glanced at his ticket - and took the middle seat in the row behind me.  I adjusted my air vent.
A small man with a long, dark Islamic style beard and white prayer cap appeared in the opposite aisle.  He wore slacks, a vest.  His bone structure, dark skin and hair identified him as Arab.  He glanced at me, stowed his bag and slipped into the aisle seat.
"Trim your moustaches & let your beards grow…"
a narration of the Holy Prophet (saww) by Al-Saduq
"Sir, your seat is in the middle," said the attendant.  She pointed to the spot next to me.  "You'll need to move."
Air jets hummed, engines rumbled.  The plane vibrated, hissed, squealed and clanked.  The man said something I couldn't hear.  The attendant glanced at me, nodded, "but you're in someone else's seat."
He stared straight ahead.  After a moment, he slid into the space beside me.
Some Muslim men do not want to shake a woman's hand.
-Asian Muslim woman living in Qatar
I tugged at the vee in my long sleeved blouse, pulled my jacked closed. My elbow grazed my seatmate's arm.  He didn't flinch.
This could be my longest 17-hour flight yet.
"A woman should not look at or speak first to a man.  (But it's probably different for you because you're from the West.)"
-Indonesian Muslim woman living in Qatar
A young, jeans-wearing Arab man plopped into the empty aisle seat in my row.  My neighbor turned and spoke quietly.  I watched the young man's face as his eyes widened.  He glanced at me, looked away, nodded.
My seatmate crossed in front of the young man, motioned him forward.  Animated conversation, gesturing - and the two men disappeared.
Who decides the extent to which a woman covers?  She does.
-Qatari Muslim woman
A toddler peeked over the headrest in front of me.  A baby cried.  Overhead compartments snapped shut.  Window blinds slid open and closed strobing sun and shade.  The attendant offered me a pre-flight jolly-rancher style hard candy.  I popped the tangy sweet into my mouth.
My seat jiggled.  The young, jeans-wearing Arab plopped into the space beside me.  I peeked around him.  A Western attired Asian man now occupied the aisle seat.
The young man's name was Sultan.  He was 26, from Saudi Arabia and this was his first trip to America.  He was headed to a 4 month, live-in language program in California to learn English, after which he'd return to Saudi Arabia for college.

We spoke about the difference between the Arabic of the Koran and street Arabic.  And the value of learning a new language.
"It is important to know English," he said.  "For business."
"At Hajj men and women pray side by side."
-American Muslim woman
Over the next 17 hours, Sultan and I were joined at the armrest.  Our shoulders touched.  My shoes shifted into his space.  His pillow landed in mine.  He jolted in his sleep and elbowed me in the head.  I dropped a roll in his lap.  We shared a pen.
But when he needed to stand, he climbed into the aisle away from me, even when it meant straddling a sleeping passenger.
"…Islam forbids mixing between the sexes that might provide even the remotest possibility of temptation…"
I watched 5 full length movies, an entire season of Big Bang Theory and multiple episodes of Modern Family.  I ate two shareable sized bags of M&Ms all by myself and asked the attendant for water so often she brought me a liter sized bottle.
Sultan slept.
Many meals, snacks, clogged sinuses, sore knees, trips to the bathroom and kitchen later, I helped Sultan complete his landing card.
"What should I see in America?" he asked.  "Los Angeles?  Las Vegas?  The beach?"
"Yes!" I said.  "And attend a live tv show."
"Thank you," he said.  He smiled.  And then -
he shook my hand.
"Women are revered in this culture."
-American Muslim woman living in Qatar

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Moments, Six Pictures

Moment One:
Cars stream across the road in front of me - traffic moves just one direction at a time in Doha.  When the light facing the flood turns red, a wall of wheels forms a blockade across the intersection.  Now the light is green for those headed left into the barricade.  Vehicles nose forward, plugging holes in the sea of traffic.  The light changes again - and those headed the other direction surge into the morass.  The road is now flush with vans, trucks, sedans, SUVs and exhaust saturated air.  An orchestra of honking horns, squealing brakes, humming engines serenades idling travelers.
At the heart of the clog, an SUV's door opens and a man in white emerges.  He adjusts his headdress, smooths his dishdasha and steps boldly into the swell of bleating steel.  He points and cars back up.  He waves and cars move forward.  His raised arms and billowing robe are shadowed by the sun shining through the passage he creates.  He reenters his SUV and disappears into the gap, trailing cars like animals in the Ark.
My light turns green and I slide through the wall too.
Bird Market, Souq Waqif
"What, me escape?  Nyahh."
Moment Two:
"There are no wild parrots in Doha," says a shopkeeper at the bird market.  But I've seen them up close:  long green tail feathers, round heads, orange beaks.
Evening near Bob's job site; me and my camera comb the darkening sky.  The birds travel at dusk, headed toward the souq.  Dots on the horizon, flapping wings.  Feathers pull close to strong bodies as birds swoop high and fast over the ground.  First a small flock speeds over the sandy lot.  A set of two follow, then three together and one alone.  Like a gang protecting the slower members, a final company zips by.  I blink and they're gone.
Too fast for pictures.
Katie and Kimber outside Museum of Islamic Art, 2012
not related to anything in this blog, I just like this pic
Moment Three:
The musky smell of Bukhoor wraps me in a cloud of sweet.  My hostess heats coals in the chalice-like device.  She adds a perfume square and a dark mist rises from the vessel's foil lined hollow.  She places the receptacle under my shirt, holds it there until smoke drifts through the fibers of my blouse.  She removes the chalice, drawing a fragrant circle around me, over my hair.
It's the traditional goodbye after my first ever visit to a Qatari home.  Here there is sweet tea in tiny porcelain cups, smooth mango juice, spinach in pita, Omani candy and tasty Arabic cookies.  There is beauty: marble stairs, wood covered columns, crystal chandeliers, down comforters, fiber wall hangings.  There is home: shoes at the door, pillows on the floor, phone calls, family photos, great conversation and children who greet strangers with kisses.
sitting area at Weil Cornell Medical College, Doha
Moment Four:
Behind the wall, in the front yard of the beautifully appointed, villa style home, there is a garden, a bamboo majlis, an outdoor bathroom - and a multi-story chicken coop for roosters and hens.  There is a Little Tykes slide and swing set for the children.  There is a special place for grandma to sit while she feeds the birds and watches her babies play.
clouds in Doha: rare sight
Moment Five:
On the floor, knees crossed and elbows down, I play with the kids in a Qatari home.  Six year old Maryam draws a feel-insaan (elephant person) and the Arabic alphabet in pencil.  She is learning to read and write Arabic, like me, in the same way an American kindergartener studies the ABC's.
All around us, ladies chatter.  Tiny porcelain cups clink against plates.  On a wall, an Arab game show broadcasts on a wide, flat screen tv.
Maryam sits tall, says in perfect English, "I will test you."  She holds the paper, drawing side to her chest, says, "Say the letters."
I neglect to include kaaf.  When it's her turn, she forgets Saad, Daad.
"Arabic is called the language of Daad," says Maryam's mother.  "Because no other language anywhere in the world has this letter."
Maryam and I practice until we each recite the letters perfectly.
psh, easy

Friday, November 8, 2013

Namat/Namoot: are you alive or dead?

Sometimes life in Doha is the Flyboard World Championship happening in the bay outside our window.
It's gymnastics with water and we've got ringside seats, no driving involved.  Ahhhhhh
But most of the time life in Doha is:  Fender kissing, headlight flashing Land Cruisers driven by men in white headdress (blinking lights is Qatari dialect for "please get out of my way."  The less polite version involves the possibility of burned rubber and smashed bumpers - but most expats just…move).

Everyday Doha is helicopters thrumming the air in search of the worst traffic tie-ups.  Motorcycles rumbling through haphazard spaces between vehicles.  Taxis hopping sidewalks.  Blocked intersections.  Construction.  It's also three hour wash cycles.  Bananas that shift from green to brown overnight.  Arabic pronunciation mistakes:
Rajool means man; rijil means leg:  "The leg said…"
Qalb means heart and kelb means dog:  "My husband works at the Dog of Doha project."
Namat means grown but namoot means die:  "My children are namat."
For me, everyday Doha means 3-5 hours in the car.  True, a portion of that time involves taking Bob to work and picking him up (in return for spousal access to Bob's company-provided vehicle).
at his desk 6 days/week
Bob worked 7 days in a row last week, adding up to 13 turns about the office by sleep-in day
This week I also work.  Plus, there is running the Corniche, walking the Pearl, Arabic class, homework, reading, writing and staying up late to watch Conan O'Brien (he makes me laugh).  There is church, missing our kids, email, skype, errands and lunch out.
Busy is our "Doha usual."  Some weeks, like this one, are busier.  Outtakes:
Childhood in Qatar
Fanar Family Majlis* presentation about childhood games in pre-oil Qatar, including an early Qatari activity for boys called, Bo Sbeit, are you alive or dead?:
Player #1 lays face down.  Other players shovel sand over the back of first player's head calling out, "Bo Sbeit, are you alive or dead?"  If there is a response, more sand is shoveled and the call repeated, until such time that player #1 no longer responds.  Other players stop ladling and wait for buried player #1 to emerge (which, en sha'allah he does).  Everyone gets a turn.  Boy buried longest (without, it is presumed, spoiling the game by going namoot, ie, dying) wins.
This game offered practice for pearling wherein divers descended to great depths with only a nose clip and lung capacity to keep them from drowning.  It was vital that young boys destined for a career at sea develop the ability to hold their breath for long periods.
According to the presenter, today's Qatari boys pretty much spend their extracurricular time playing computer games.
Basketball in a Skirt - Qatari high school PE class.
I join 14 sixteen and seventeen year old girls wearing ankle length shift style uniforms and dress shoes as they line up in a tile floored gym.  We do neck stretches and arm circles.  We place hands on hips and bend to the side.  We touch our toes (well - I touch mine).  We dribble (low air) balls in a small square.  We toss/kick/roll balls to the next girl in line.
Teacher is a young, energetic Egyptian.  She wears a purple sweat suit with pink running shoes, speaks very little English - and it is her very first day at the school.  She is Middle Eastern hospitable but curious about my participation in her class since my mission concerns language - Arabic for me, English for the students.  (The "why" is never made clear.)  Later, we chat in Arabic and share pictures from our phones - her beautiful 18 month old daughter, my babies and grandbabies.
Children's Books in Qatar
Fran Gillespie has lived in Qatar for nearly 30 years.  She's a former teacher, freelance writer and journalist who's published hundreds of articles about the country.  This week her first books for young children, published locally, are released.  This is a new endeavor for Qatar and a Very Big Deal!  Bob and I spend extra time lost in construction detours so that I might own sets of Fran's wonderful books in English and Arabic.  Click here to read more about Fran's books.
Park Bazaar/Flea Market
On the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art, locals and others gather under tents to sell stuff.  There are garage-sale-like tables stacked with Michael Crichton novels; craft booths with quilted tee shirts and stained glass items; shop tents merchandising pashminas and jellabias (a pretty abaya-but-not-an-abaya-style gown worn for dress up occasions).  Children's clothes, games, toys - corn dogs and coca cola.
Museum of Islamic Art designed by architect I.M. Pei
It's nifty to watch the shadows play
I don't buy anything.  I do: wander the grounds and take pictures.
This week's wandering includes spousal together time, language practice, pearl shopping with an energetic, continent hopping friend and coffee with a world travelling, couch surfing American who speaks three languages (not counting Arabic which she's studying).  She not only knows Qataris, but has attended weddings and other events - and once was flagged down on the highway by a leather mask wearing Qatari woman who needed a ride home.
Of course, a souk visit isn't complete without a plateful of Halloumi (FOR BERNIE, who asked):
THIS is Halloumi cheese, fried to a krispy, salty wondrousness.
Makes your mouth water, dunnit?
THIS is what you do with Halloumi, just before…
THIS.  Wrap 'er up and eat.
Homemaker Trials
We live in a resort with weekly cleaning, laundry service, Chocolate Bar downstairs and terrace overlooking world class athletic events (see above).  But it's not all fun and games.  (Bob worked 13 days in a row recently, and…) it took hours of fume-filled scrubbing to transform our cushy resort shower from housekeeping's clean-enough:
into this:
When a toxic odor invades our building, maintenance says, "Something died in here."  Drains are inspected.  Ladders placed.  Trash receptacles emptied.  Toilets flushed and sinks filled.  Fans blow stench through open windows.  Holes are cut into ceilings.
After all the cutting, moving, drilling, hammering, we pour water into "p" traps - and the smell goes away.  Huh.
In The Things We Missed Category - Red Bull Flugtag
This curious competition sponsored by Red Bull involves teams of people and weeks of effort to manufacture "flying machines" - which are then flown off a short pier straight into the water.  Longest airborne creation wins.
It is presumed that pilots are namat, but I'm not completely sure about that.  Every machine definitely ends up - namoot.
*Majlis:  special meeting place where single gender groups chat, eat, drink, hang.  Fanar's "family majlis" is open to both men and women; programs are presented by men.