Sunday, January 31, 2010

A new year and new adventures ahead!

So I fell behind with blogging yet again... go figure. A lot has happened since the last time I posted. Work remains busy and always challenging, social life is blossoming and my adjustment to Doha is as good as it will get.
Over the month of December and January work was busy even though students were mostly gone visiting family back in their respective countries. I found little projects along the way to occupy my time while staying in Doha over the Holidays. I worked with the facilities crew to get our offices painted,
worked on some planning items for Residence Hall Council (the group that I advise) and even re-painted one of Lindsay's walls in her apartment while she was home in Louisiana (I'm a handy guy apparently).

On December 14th, Qatar celebrated it's National Day which was marked by a huge military parade and fireworks. It was an interesting experience and I was happy to experience this day with some good friends Jon and Julie Chase. Julie's mom and dad were visiting from the states and we made a nice day out of the events. We attended the parade in the morning that included tanks, soldiers and even some very cool fly-bys with aircraft. After the parade we had a nice picnic on the corniche (the bay) of Doha. Towards the middle of the day it started to rain (which is weird because it rarely rains here in Doha) and I was driving home and I lost control of my car and hit a curb... $330 later I had a new tire and rim... Overall, the day was great! Pictures Here!

It was a bit of an adjustment staying overseas and not being with my family for Christmas (the first time ever) and it was also difficult being away from Lindsay for that long... time moved quickly and I was surrounded by some good people. Christmas eve was spent at Denis and Christy Busch's house where they prepared a wonderful dinner. I got to see a past colleague, Kevin and a friend whom I met when I first moved here in July, Mohammed Al Kuwari. Mohamed has been in Kansas working on his Masters degree in student affairs. He is the first Qatari to go to school in this area and we are all excited for him to graduate and start a new trend of Qatari student affairs professionals. He shared some stories with me over dinner about his experience in Kansas and how he bought another Ford Mustang (vintage this time). The evening was full of great conversation and company. I always enjoy seeing Mohammed and he continues to serve as a positive Qatari image to me as I adjust to the culture here in Qatar.

Christmas day was weird but ended quite well. It was a strange feeling waking up on Christmas day without having family around. I missed that feeling, but I also enjoyed not having the traditional Christmas day picture shoot (love you mom). Oh, and get this, I didn't even try to open my gifts until I video conferenced with my mom and sister around 4PM that day!! Look at that self restraint! My mom and sister had traveled to Macon, Georgia to spend the Christmas holiday with my auntie Berta and uncle Terry. Thanks to technology (mostly Apple) we were able to have a nice long video chat with each other and I got to talk to/see my cousins and aunt & uncle. I got a lot of neat little gifts from my mom and sister which I enjoyed a lot. My mom knows how to find the strangest, yet amazing, food items from TJMaxx. My sister got me a great work-out outfit and my dad got me some gift cards. Christmas day ended with a great dinner at my friend Timika's apartment. I was grateful that she and her husband, Rory, invited me over for great food, company and some Nintendo Wii!

I wasn't completely alone the entire Holiday season as I was watching one of my friend's cat, Shilo. She is a beautiful cat and quite sweet... however, she had some... um... unique habits that I could have lived with out... namely the ability to attack my hands in the middle of the night while I was sleeping, or her ability to drag my cloths from the laundry basket into my bed so that I would wake up to a nice nest of shirts, shorts and socks.

I also found out that I am quite allergic to cats... which is weird because my mom has two cats (the best in the world) and I have never had the symptoms that I experienced watching Shilo. After thinking about this for a while, I realized that my mom does a great job (some times too good of a job) keeping the house clean so the fur and dander are not as prevalent in our house at home.

The days following Christmas were not too exciting, just more working... however it was nice to see my colleagues and friends slowly return to their middle east home. Perhaps the person I was most excited to see was Lindsay. We waited until she got back to exchange Christmas gifts and I was so anxious to watch her open hers! We had set a price limit on gifts which was a good idea since I tend to go overboard, but I managed to get her some things that she really wanted. I gave her a gift card to one of her favorite stores but she got that before going home so she could actually use it. The next gift was Julia Child's cook book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Lindsay likes to cook and we both had watched "Julie & Julia" and liked the movie a lot. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, it focuses a lot on Julia Child writing the aforementioned cook book. Lindsay really enjoyed this gift because she said she almost bought it when she was in the states but decided not to because it was heavy to pack. The last gift I got her was a necklace that I had made for her by one of the many local gold shops in Doha. In Syria I had overheard her talking to our friend Natalie that she liked another friend's necklace that was a pendant which had her name in arabic in the form of a tear drop. My research started in Syria when I asked Natalie to find out where her friend got the necklace which lead to many emails between Natalie, her friend, and me. Finally, I brought another mutual friend, Karen, who is one of Lindsay's closest girlfriends here with me to the gold souk to get her expert (female) opinion on the design. We did some shopping around and finally decided on a place called "The Belgium Workshop" (nothing Belgium about it, I may add). I placed my order and then came back when it was done a week later. It looked great and she loved it! She wears it about every day. Lindsay got me some great gifts too! She remembered that I really wanted to find a copy of my favorite movie "Lucky Number Sleven" and got me the DVD, she also remembered me talking about getting a lens holder for my DSLR camera and surprised me with those. She got me more of my favorite cologne and the best gift of all, a new Citizen EcoDrive watch. It's such a nice watch and I wear it almost every day.

After Lindsay got back, work and life returned to the normal blistering pace. She had a lot of work to do for LeaderShape which is a leadership development program for students that her office is responsible for every year. She put a ton of time and effort into this program and it turned out great. I got to meet the lead facilitator who is the current Dean of Students at Florida State University, Jeanine. Lindsay and I brought her to the Exxon Mobile Men's Tennis Tournament after the program ended. I think that Jeanine really enjoyed her time in Doha and the tennis experience. Pictures Here!

Before I knew it I was head first into the Qatar Young Professionals Institute which included masters and doctoral students from University of Maryland College Park and the University of San Diego. The institute focused on developing dialogue and research for student affairs in the arabian gulf. The group I was assigned to focused on the commuter student population and how student affairs here in the gulf context can work to better serve this group of students. It was three days long and boy did it feel like a week! It was a great experience getting to meet the awesome students from UMCP and USD and I was super excited to meet Dr.Komives and Dr. Geitz in person (Student Affairs celebrities).

The week after YPI was spent getting ready for the RHC spring retreat which turned out well and this past week we as a department have been super busy with CDA interviews/selection. (CDA=Community Development Assistant, or as we like to call it in the US a RA). Interviews are always a great time and you can always bet there will be that one student who says the most ridiculous thing during an interview. This year my favorite quote was from the question of "Why did you apply for the CDA position" his answer, "for the money"... after trying to get anything else out of him for this question, I gave up and went on to the next question "what skills do you bring to this position if hired" his answer, "I'm good at Microsoft word".... I almost laughed.... poor guy. At least he tried.

Since YPI life has calmed down and I have had more time to spend with Lindsay which is great. We went out to dinner with Chris and Jill (friends/colleagues) twice and saw "Sherlock Holmes" with them and we went to see "Nine" with our other friends Rachel and Tristan. We were shocked to find out that "Nine" was not edited at all for content! Movies here in Doha are often edited to cut out kissing scenes and any other scene that has sexual implications. Last Thursday, Lindsay hosted a "Fiesta Night" at her apartment and I made enchiladas that were really good (I surprised myself) and we had a bunch of friends come over and bring different food dishes, it was a great time!

This week will be a short work week for me because Lindsay and I are leaving Tuesday night for Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Look for pictures soon!

Some recent developments that I hope to blog about soon are:

The 3rd grader that I just started tutoring;
My trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi;
CDA selection for next year;