August 21, 2007

Intrepid of Arabia Part I

It is ten p.m. on day four of our arrival here in Doha. I am lying in my king-size bed, adorned with sheets from Zara home, typing away on a brand new MacBook given to me by our school. A L’Occitane Orange Blossom candle flickers beneath the central cooling system, and outside and across the street there sits a barren construction site; it is 90 degrees. The sun set hours ago; during the day it is 105.

I will write a more comprehensive post regarding my first impressions of Doha and the culture here, in which I will juggle and experiment with the several metaphors I am considering to describe this surreal place: A pearl, a secret, or the obvious one an oasis. I want to use this time to let my friends and family know the practical details of life here in the desert.

Let’s start with the house. We are still waiting for our shipment from Malaysia, so I will hold off on sending pictures until the house is presentable, but in the meantime let me try and paint you a picture with text. The house is one of ten villas on Al Waab Street. Street is an overstatement. We live in the middle of a sand field surrounded by a construction site. We are number 21, there is no reason why that should be important except that 21 is my lucky number. The houses are all brand new. While most people, myself included would automatically think that freshness, when it comes to housing, is good thing, I think it is a good idea to keep in mind that complications can arise when you live in a house that has, up till your move, been vacant. For example, there are no shower curtains in one of the bathrooms, or the shower that has doors leaks water into the bedroom, because the drain has been precariously placed on a small mound in the center of the shower floor instead of being at the end of a gentle slope. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, so I will stop with this statement- A new house has glitches that need to be tended before it can be properly and comfortably inhabited. Our school has assured us that these slight tribulations will be tended to at the earliest opportunity. We are flexible and okay with that. The kitchen is big and spacious and there is lots of light!

Rather than describe the house in further detail, I will ask you all to be patient and wait for the pictures in a few weeks. But here is a fun little quirk about living in the desert. Out water tank sits outside in our backyard above the ground, thus nearly boiling the water that comes through our pipes, making it nearly impossible to take a shower or find any cold water from the taps during the day. That is all I am going to say for now about the house. It is nice; it is new, it is comfortable; it has potential. Kaia seems to love running around all the open space.

Let’s move on to our school. We have been attending daily orientation meetings and the school itself is one huge constructions site. (See the trend) There must be at least 200 South Asian men (There will be a future post about my thoughts on slave labor and the moral dilemmas one has living so close to exploitation. Doha has a population of 300,000 people with two thirds of them foreigners working construction and in the service industry.) working in the stifling heat to make sure the school will be opened by September fourth. There is no way this will happen. The administration is optimistic, but realistically there are still a few weeks till we can bring in students. I am not sure how they will handle this. We will wait and see. We are flexible and okay with that. (see the second trend) But Oh my god, what a school this will be. They are building an entirely new Middle and High School wing and it is out of control! The design is inspiring and I can honestly say more imaginative and practical that my university. It is all glass with spacious classrooms, a huge indoor pool, track, library, presentation rooms, a 700-person state of the art theater with orchestra pit, fountains, and a baseball field complete with dugouts and a concession stand. Again I will not send pictures now, because it looks like crap, but wait and see what this place will look like in a few months. Do you see the third theme here in Doha? Potential!

The curriculum and the Atlas Rubicon system they use to share the Understanding by Design Units is so far ahead of my last school that I am giddy with anticipation to get started. The admin seems friendly and professional, and the fellow new staff has potential for some friendships. All in all, we are settling in nicely.

I did, however, experience some culture shock the first few days. Doha is a place of contradictions. Where else can you see women dressed in full black Arabyas, with their entire faces covered as their children dance to Pussy Cat Dolls blaring from the radios and giant Plasma TVs at Carrefour at 9pm? The city itself is a barren, hot, dust covered, flat no man’s land, but then you can take a Gondola ride or go ice skating at the mall as you shop at the Gap, drink a Starbucks coffee and get the latest CD at the Virgin Megastore while people watching. There is so much to see, photograph and write about, but, I will write more on the city soon. There will be my trip to the falcon market, camel races, jet skiing in the bay, sailing lessons, 4WD in the sand dunes, camping at the inland sea near Saudi Arabia, trips to Jordan, Oman, Turkey, Iran, and Bahrain, and I am sure a million other things, like the fact that I was dancing with Kaia the other day to the 80’s hit Mickey as a Qatarti family looked on contemplating the birds and fish on my arms. Wahabi Islam I am here!

It is getting late and I must be up early tomorrow for work. I will have Internet hooked up at our house in a few days, so I can share the details as they dribble from my confused head. This place makes me think and feel uncomfortable and different, and believe it or not, that is why I like living overseas. I love the idea of living in a place that is so different than the places most people have lived. I love being able to say, “Oh yeah, when I lived in Doha things were….” Be patient. I think we will be here a while and I will do my best to find out what is really going in here, and I will keep you posted. In the meantime, we are busy finding a car, a nanny, waiting for our shipment, trying to get our cats imported, and all the other millions of things that must be done before you can sit back one night, put up your feet, sigh and say, “I am home again.”


  1. Sounds good man. It sounds like the potential is there. Hey, there is also a very, very remote chance we will be moving to Oman. Doubtful, for sure, but who the hell knows? I've heard good things about Oman. And they speak Swahili there! Peace...

  2. wow so exciting! can't wait to hear more about your experiences there!

  3. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Wow! Arabia... sounds so distant and --this is ridiculous-- oriental from here in Malaysia (to me). I'm really curious now, awaiting your next post!