Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I'm Not Posting a Blog Today (Yeah, Again)

Summer 2014
I should tell you about my Egypt-themed story published in October 2014's Highlight's for Children. Or meeting with a lovely (ma sha' allah) Qatari woman and her female relatives in a gold, silver and mirror lined majlis as part of the American Women's Association/Qatari Women's Association "language buddies" program. Learning conversational Arabic in Kansas City. Or what it's like to live in the heart of the Middle East during a crisis period.
Katie and Krissy snuggle
Summer 2014
I could write about Qatar's falcons and how these birds get their own business class airplane seats. Or about shopping for groceries in a place that doesn't produce its own produce. Or what it's like to sit in one airplane for 16 3/4 hours, nonstop. And why some expat women in the Middle East take up drinking.
Or perhaps:
Desert Rose Hunting
When Humidity Set Off My Fire Alarm
Sounds of Doha (Traffic Redux)
Why I am not Muslim
my babies
omg I love them
Sigh. Yeah, I know. I should write a blog today.


tutu perfect

But doggone. I'm 16 3/4 hours from home - and five of the most beautiful people ever.
these faces
Seriously. Wouldn't you be distracted too?

Friday, November 14, 2014

An Ordinary Life

Museum of Islamic Art
from the park
Her husband works in oil, construction, water, marketing. He's an executive, engineer, architect, accountant, geologist, pilot.
She's lived in Doha 5 years. Before that, home was Bahrain, then Kuwait. Her children attended American schools abroad, university stateside. Grew up, married, reproduced.
feeding the birds
on the Corniche
She lives in a three story villa tucked inside a walled compound with other families from her husband's company. There's a pool, tennis courts, gym, spa, convenience store. A live in maid mops floors, scrubs bathrooms, walks the dog. A driver escorts her to American Women's Association meetings, Tuesday Ladies Group, monthly mani pedi, weekly kaffee klatch.
Qatar National Theatre
from the inside
Her highlighted hair is neatly coiffed. She wears a loose fitting cotton shirt in the Middle Eastern style, Donna Karan jeans, high fashion pumps. Her bag is Gucci, bought cheap at that little place, I'll take you. She's a skilled bargainer, as demonstrated by the gold that shimmers at her neck and wrist, and glistening pearl earrings.
shopping Doha
International Trade Festival
She travels home three or four times a year, enjoys golf and shopping weekends in Dubai and Istanbul, beach holidays in France and Greece.
Bob and Chris
atop the singing dunes, 2014

Some people camp the dunes, shop the souk, eat a late meal at Kempinski, she says. "But we mostly stay home at night. We eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed. Get up, do it again." A young man in a white waist length vest slips between us, spirits away the used dishes. The smell of just baked bread courts the scent of honeyed lamb. An air conditioner hums.
ladies' tea
She slides a cube of sugar into milky tea and circles the confection with a shiny spoon. It clinks against the saucer. She wraps pink fingernails around glittering porcelain, breathes in the bitter and the sweet.
There are perks to the adventure, she admits. But for the most part, "we live an ordinary life." She smiles. "In an extraordinary place."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Smells of Qatar

Leaky sewer, step wide:
smells bad
very, very bad
Where many people are packed into a small space, infrastructure is a work in progress and smoldering air sizzles, there will be smells. And if you're sensitive to scent like I am, you know that odor has a taste. Sucked through the nose and pulled toward a hungry, absorptive tongue like it is.
"...Qatar's population hits 2.2million..."
For example, baked trash smells sweeter than cooked sewage. One is moldy apple cores, bananas and meat - a noisome dog food pie. The other is sweat, excrement and vomit served up in a savory latrine casserole that's simmered for days under a hot desert sun.
There's not always a visual clue identifying an odor's source. No piles of trash, sewage dumps, diaper pails, waste mounds. Because when it comes to dusting, cleaning, scooping, shoveling, taking-icky-stuff-away, in Qatar there's someone to do that. Here, malodorous flavors lurk, skulk and creep. One might be jogging along, enjoying the sunshine and colorful, just planted petunias when the heady bouquet of redolence drifts into range. Or descends in an invisible cloud like fetid smog.
When the rogue's source is apparent, it's generally a waste receptacle (empty or full), men's bathroom, men's prayer preparation space, an unmarked, clean appearing structure tucked into a corner. Or a truck marked "sewage" its hose an elephant's trunk pressed into the sidewalk. Where non potable liquid is drained from an underground cavern and hauled off to wherever smells live in the desert.
"...Qatar produces around 7,000 tons of waste each day..."
Less than 100 years ago, Qatar was an expanse of desert dotted with low prickly shrubs and limestone. Camels roamed the southern dunes and northern mesas. Bedouins camped in tents amid a sandy landscape marked by mangroves and rock. The hot air was ripe with the scent of oven roasted sand, wet camel, moist dung, salty sea, perspiration, perfume-sweet incensey bukhoor.
Today Qatar is a country under construction, its infrastructure persistently stretched to accommodate an ever increasing workforce population. As on any country-sized job site there are country-sized job site smells: engine fumes, exhaust, chlorine, smoke, sweat, coffee, cigarettes, portapotty.
Qatar was "...recently recognized by the World Health Organization as 2014's second most polluted country in the world (after Pakistan)..."
Oh sure, it's not all bad. There are flavorful restaurant aromas: oil, beef, chicken, shwarma, fresh bread. And (if you breathe toward the Gulf while standing in the desert or along the coast) delectable summer scents: sunshine, grass, flowers, fertilizer, fish, salt, sea.
But in Qatar today? Nothing beats the odiferous taste of sewer in the morning.
lovely day in April 2014
The Pearl, Doha, Qatar
(all senses not displayed)