Saturday, August 8, 2009

One Month!

Well, almost one month. 13/08/09 will be my one month anniversary here in Doha and so far it's been a great time.

Currently we are half-way through CDA training and even though it is a long and tiresome process, I enjoy working with the student staff and especially my CDAs. I've had the opportunity to present at CDA training a few times and will have a few more sessions to lead. So far, so good. It is enjoyable to present to a group of students who actually participate in the conversation and have comments and thoughts to share in reference to the topic at hand.

The diversity is unmatched by any previous experience I have ever had, and the caliber of students here is phenomenal. My staff of four CDAs includes Sinan who is from Baghdad, Iraq, Joshi from Nepal, Swapnil from India, and Modaris from Syria. All amazing young men. Sinan and Modaris go to Texas A&M, Joshi is starting at Cornell and Swapnil goes to Carnige Mellon.

Although I've had two years experience working as a Residence Hall Director overseeing two halls with 11 RAs and 200+ students, I can already tell that this job will challenge me despite only having 4 CDAs and 100-ish students. Everything from programming to community development will be different and will require detailed and intentional approach. While a lot of what I will be doing is "familiar" in the sense of job requirements and expectations, there is an underlying cultural context that I predict will keep me "on my toes" as I learn what is and is not acceptable, applicable or effective in this new environment.

Outside of training this past week I've been keeping very busy with going to the gym, swimming and the joyous driving classes I go to every evening from 8pm-9pm. The driving issue has become the bane of my existence but it gets better day by day. My first day of driving lessons my instructor did not show up like everyone else's did, so I went on a journey to find him. After 15-20 minutes of looking for instructor 81 (my car number) I finally found him sleeping in his on-sight accommodations (A.D.D moment: all the instructors are from other counties and live in very small rooms on the driving-school land. It's not the best situation and I consistently feel bad for them.) So, after knocking on his window and explaining that we needed to start the class, he got dressed and finally started my first lesson. How to describe my first lesson?? Hmm.. horrible. My instructor did not speak English (my fault also for only knowing one language) and he also assumed I knew how to drive manual stick shift. FAIL. So after stalling 6 times I eventually got a grip on the concept and we did some circles around the school driving course.

The classes are essentially to teach you how to pass the test, and to teach you what techniques and tricks they look for while you are being tested. So, naturally, after paying QR 1250 (~$300) I wanted to know how to pass this test. But, getting these answers from my instructor was not going to happen on the account of our inability to communicate and the fact that he was on his cell-phone the ENTIRE TIME. So I was over this situation from minute 5 but stuck with it for the remainder of the course. I decided to give the man one more lesson to maybe prove that he was going to be a good instructor for me, but he failed to do so. The morning after my second lesson I went to the driving school and requested to have a different instructor. Very easy process and very friendly management.

Lesson three was 100% better. My new (and current) instructor Raju (car 116) is from India and has been in Doha teaching lessons for 15 years!! He has two girls back home in India and he is a really nice guy. He taught me more about stick shift and we even went outside of the school course to get practice on real roads. Yesterday (Friday) my colleague Chris, rented a stick-shift car and we practiced for 2 hours out on the main roads and even practiced the incline stop/start part of the exam. I can confidently say that I know how to drive stick-shift now.

Last night at Jill and Chris's pool party I met a man who works from Georgetown and he had heard that the reperocity agreement between the US and Qatar was re-established and now US drivers licenses will be transferable. This maybe a rumor but he said that they are having all of their new staff and faculty wait a week because they believe it's true and will take affect soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

(I'm not sure if I explained what happened behind the USA license not being accepted, and I'm too lazy to go back and look. Essentially, what happened is that the Ambassador from Qatar to the US was denied his US license when we had the reperocity agreement, and he was not happy so they basically said "an eye for an eye" and ended the easy transfer of US to Qatari Licenses.)

Jill and Chris's pool party last night was a lot of fun. Great food and company. We also celebrated Wil's birthday with a British flag cake of course! The pool parties are becoming somewhat of a common event and it seems that the same people bring the same snack or food for the group. So I've decided that my signature food will be a glass bowl of some new (hopefully uncommon) fruit. Last night I brought mandarine oranges from Africa and Australia.

Well, I'm off to the gym in a taxi.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Justin, love the blog idea for you so that all can read about your life there in Doha. Work sounds challenging but good for you and I am laughing at your 'driving lesson' experience. When I was growing up - there were not many automatic cars so I learned on a stick shift.

    Will continue to check in on you through blogging.

    Love you --- Auntie Berta