Sunday, February 26, 2012

February Fall

Isn't it amazing when a memory takes you right back? The weather today is unusual, by Qatari standards. When I came down to the kitchen and looked out the window this morning, I was surprised by the muddy, speckled mess that was our outdoor furniture. Clearly, it had rained. As Kaiya says, in Qatar it often "rains dirt." That's what happens in the desert. Ah, it had rained... and I had missed it!

As I drove into work today, the QBS radio broadcaster stated that it would remain a "windy and chilly 19 degrees" today. I had to smile as I thought of typical Niagara weather in February, generally my least favourite month of the year.

Yes, it was windy and well, almost chilly today. But there was a distinct difference. The air felt remarkably fresh and clear, and as the day continued, a beautiful blue sky presented itself, not the gray-ish/brownish haze of sun peeking through dust that we've grown so accustomed to this winter.

It seems that little rainfall helped clear things up a bit.

After I came home, all that I wanted to do was sit out back with a glass of red, saluting the day while watching it fade with the setting sun. And as soon as dinner was in the oven I managed to get myself out there. A rare moment of quiet fell upon our house while Kaiya coloured and Jeff prepared the rest of the meal, and I found myself in a funny, wonderful place.

I sat, taking in deep breaths of the cool, fresh air. I sipped my wine and pulled my sweater a little closer. I watched the trees (and not the palm ones) sway in the wind, and let my eyes blur out while taking in the fading colours of the sky. And suddenly I was RIGHT THERE. I was sitting on the front porch of George Street. I could actually see the concrete of the porch, the yellow spray foam in our front windows, smell the late-fall barbecues, watch the questionable neighbours stroll by with their 7/11 Big Gulps. I saw mothers pushing strollers, red, yellow, and brown leaves, a big, gray, puffy cloud sky. I heard car doors slamming as people returned home from work, leaves crunching underfoot, mothers yelling after children, and Sarah calling a friendly "hello" while pulling into her drive.

It's amazing to me how something as simple as the weather can take you right back. It's so etched in our bones... the place where we come from. All it takes is a cool, windy day to take me to mid-October and remind me I'm Canadian. Even now, as I write this post, I lean against the open back door, taking in just a bit more of the crisp, fresh air, taking in just a little more of the moment before calling it a night.

It'll be sweet dreams tonight. I can feel it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Getting Lost and Found, Doha Style

There's a lot in Qatar you just don't get right the first time. Like when you go to Paloma at the Intercontinental because it's listed in the "family dining" section of the 2-for-1 book, and they tell you your 4-year old daughter can't come in because it's officially classified a "bar." Or when you look for the mangroves in Al Khor, but keep ending up at the same disappointing beach. Or when you drive all over the country looking for one of those beautiful, free, public beaches your co-workers keep telling you about, but end up finding dirty, isolated stretches of rubble-y coastline instead.

Japan, with its oodles of detailed maps and well-marked signs, this is not. An adventurer can get somewhat stymied in the adventuring.

We haven't quite yet figured out our latest favourite get-away, MIA Park. The first time we went to explore, just Jeff and I out on a date, we drove to the wrong entrance and then got lost trying to find the roundabout to get us to the right entrance. With Doha evening traffic encroaching, and our bellies hungry for dinner, we gave up the search. The second time we went, just last week for Sports' Day, the park, as well as the entire Corniche, was crawling with scads and scads of impatient people, honking and pushing their way to parking spots. (Yes, in Qatar, cars do *push* their way...) We had to park far away and walk through more rubble and incomplete parking areas to get into the park. Even tonight, we parked in what we thought was the right spot, but ended up having to walk through horrible-smelling industrial areas just to get to our destination.

Yes, you could say Doha is very much in process. You have to embrace and accept the stinky parts to get to the beauty.

But no matter. MIA Park is so very worth it. It's new, having just opened a month or so ago, and it's adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art (hence the MIA acronym). It has, in my humble opinion, THE finest views of the city. The museum itself, the water, the dhows, the high rises of the West Bay, and a whole lot of palm trees. The park curves beautifully into the bay, and it's lit up very nicely at night. It has a huge playground area, wide walkways by the water, and best of all, an amazing coffee shop with the best seating area I have ever seen. Okay, admittedly, I didn't actually taste the coffee yet. But the seats! The view! We'll be back, again and again.

I'm not kidding that you have to walk through an industrial area to get to the park. From the road, you'd never guess the park is even there. It's Doha Port... a shipyard, for goodness sake. And just outside the beauty of the park is the stench of I'm-not-sure-what, along with a lot of general untidyness. But just as Japan had its contrasts between the traditional and the modern, Doha has its contrast between... the breathtaking and the construction rubble? The new, clean, and beautiful and... the unfinished and stinky? Words seem to be escaping me.

Let's let the photos speak:

Dhows with the West Bay in the background

Long stretches of palm trees. Is it really February?! :)
The Museum of Islamic Art on the right

The coffee shop is just down the stretch
Monkey liked the busy busy playground
Seriously? Ahhhh... a little bit of heaven...

 And there's another attraction at the park, for a limited time only we've been told. So we checked it out tonight. Curious? Watch the videos ... and laugh ... we hope to always remain young at heart. :)

this one is of me!

Oh, and we should get it right next time. On our way out, we found the parking lot where the informed people park, past the shipyard, just outside the playground.

We learn a little every day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cultural Differences 101

So I was teaching my class of young men the differences between countable and uncountable nouns today. If these terms mean about as much to you as "binomial coefficients" mean to me, no worries. Not essential information here.

I finished up the class by asking them to construct sentences using the words "some" and "any."

"Abdullah, give me a sentence with 'some.'"
"Ali, give me a sentence with 'any.'"

(These aren't their actual names, but they could be...)

I came to the last student... "Fahad, give me a sentence with 'any.'"

Fahad: "I don't have any wife."

As I was opening my mouth to tell Fahad that in this case, you would actually say a wife, not any wife, I stopped myself. Then I smiled and simply said, "Right."

And then I stated, "You mean wives. I don't have any wives." 

Friday, February 10, 2012

4-year old faith

When Kaiya went to St. Thomas daycare back in St. Catharines, she learned a simple prayer which she would often say at meal times:

"God is great, God is good
Let us thank him for our food."

Well, God help us if we ever tried to extend the prayer... "by his hands we all are fed..." or if we ever tried to pray anything else. We were quickly put in our place by Miss Kaiya, who let us know in no uncertain terms that we were not praying correctly.

Through our gentle encouragement, Kaiya has slowly branched out. I think much of this branching is due to the wonderful children's bible Karen gave us this year. Kaiya is in total awe of all the little stories, and we crack up every time she says, "Can we read the Bible again tonight? Pleeeease???"

The other night, Jeff managed to write down one of her soliloquies...

"God is good. So we all thank you for daily bread with butter on it and bread is good with jam and peanut butter and the jam makes our bellies red."

Um, ... amen?

The other night, when it was just Kaiya and I, she thanked God for being so brave. She also made sure to thank Jesus for being brave too.

Night after night, we have listened to her endearing treaties to God, desperately trying not to crack up and spit in our dinners. Her earnestness is just too much sometimes.