Monday, July 27, 2009

Still riding in the passenger seat...

I was hoping that my next post would thrill you all with the tales of my driving test and purchasing a car. Unfortunately I am still waiting on my Resident Permit to be approved. This means I am still bumming rides off of colleagues and waiting to finish the “settling in” process. ---- Since I do not have that news to share, I figured I would just give a general post on my thoughts.

First, as I write this there is an Always commercial on TV. It is amazing how things are adapted to fit the market here. This particular commercial has turned the Always maxi pad into a flying carpet with hanging tassels. It is flying through the night sky twisting and turning, and there are no leaks. Wow! That is an amazing feminine care product. Other products have adapted to this market also, like the Tide commercial that shows a woman lamenting because she can not get her husbands thobes (the long white garment men wear) as white as the other men’s. Thankfully she switches to Tide and his thobes are as white as all the rest.

One thing I have really come to love about Doha is the call to prayer. I do not like that I still wake up to the morning call to prayer, but I like the actual call to prayer. When walking around late at night you can hear several call to prayers overlap each other from the surrounding masques. While I know it is male voices it sounds instrumental and the various voices seem to fit together in an amazing way. It has been a few weeks now and I still get the “we’re not in Kansas anymore” feeling. The minute or two of each call to prayer makes up for any frustration over not being able to finish getting settled in.

On a different note. Avril Laveen has left the musical lime light in the U.S., but she is living strong in Doha. I typically leave the TV on for background noise and have started to hate the “I’m with you song” because it plays soooooo often in commercials for a local soap opera.  I used to think that some was amazing – I was wrong.

I hope my next update has more substantial content for you all. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So you want my fingerprints…

As part of my immigration process I had to have my fingerprints taken. Prior to having that done, my medical process needed to be complete. On Sunday I received an email that they were ready for me and there would be a bus leaving at 10 am on Monday for the fingerprinting location. I was very excited because completing my fingerprints means I am about a week away from having my Resident Permit, which gives me the ability to take my drivers test, buy a car, purchase a permit to buy alcohol, and I get my passport back.

Monday came and a bus load of recent arrivals headed out to have our fingerprints taken. The mood was positive even though it was very hot on the bus and the air circulation was about half as powerful as it was in my civic. Upon arrival our HR representative met us at the bus and told us the fingerprint system was down and we would have to come back later. When someone asked when we could come back the only answer we got was, “not tomorrow.” The mood was still generally positive as we all knew to be flexible and realized things take time, but there was still some frustration.

After receiving another email saying they were ready for us again we all met at the bus on Wednesday. The mood was excited as many people were ready to get completely settled and this is the last major step before we could do that. While waiting and while on the bus I was able to get to know some people better and found I really like these bus trips.

We arrived just past 10 am on Wednesday and the women entered the one room designated for women, and the men entered the one room designated for VIP individuals. Upon entry we realized things were not going that well. The room was packed and no one was having their fingerprints taken. The woman behind the desk said the system was “sleeping” and when asked for how long she said, “until it wakes up.” We were then told to take a ticket or leave. We all wanted out prints so we took a ticket and found a seat. After waiting several minutes a man in a very official uniform entered (possibly government security or police) and told the women working in the room that the system would be down until the next day and we should all leave. The women began announcing this to the room and telling everyone to leave. We slowly started to leave, and when about half the room was empty the system started working again. We quickly took our seat and were hopeful.

One thing I realized from this experience is that there is a start of a great process at the fingerprint center, but they do not always follow it. We had assigned numbers, but they never used the number system. While waiting we started to realize this and deceided to move to the front of the room. One member of our group was selected to begin and we were excited it was working. About halfway through her fingerprints the system broke down again. This time was all were asked to leave right away and we went back to the bus.

On the ride home most were a little frustrated, but I was a little excited to be able to see everyone again on the next bus ride. About half way home, one of the men got a call telling him to have the bus turn around. The system was working again! We all turned around and hoped for the best. Upon arrival I noticed that there were only a fraction of the people as before and the staff seemed more upbeat. We got numbers and waited. Again we realized the numbers were not being used. I eventually stood up and that got the attention of one of the finger-printers. That got her attention and our group was next in line. I was the first up and was able to complete my fingerprints. As soon as mine went through the system went down. At this point everyone in our group was laughing, which caused the women working to laugh.  We were getting ready to leave when it started working again. Very quickly everyone rushed through and it worked!!!!! We now only have to wait a few days to get our permits!

The next step – the driving test…

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Weekend Down

My first weekend in Doha was great. As you can see in the picture, it was a windy weekend (I spent at least 50% of the weekend holding my skirt down.) For my first weekend in Doha it was a good mix of busy and relaxing.

Thursday night there was a farewell dinner for Caleb, the housing intern. It was a great opportunity to meet a few people I had not met and to get to know others better. We went to Soy, and Asian restaurant. The building itself was the coolest part about Soy (others would say the food). It is located on the second floor of the traditional Souq, but it wound around over a few different shops. There were several areas with different types of seating and it had a great feel. Following dinner a group of people went to Harry Potter. For those of you who don’t know book 6 is the book where the characters hit puberty --- and Qatar is an Islamic country. A few times in the movie scenes were less and artfully cut because of too intimate kissing. While it did not significantly disrupt the plot, it does leave you feeling like you missed something. I will be watching the movie on my next flight home (possibly December, or maybe March).

Friday was a full day, but full of relaxing things. Timika and her fiancĂ© Rory took me and Justin around Doha and out to eat for “good American food.” We had a filling breakfast at Rick’s Kountry Kitchen. It was really good and it was packed. Following lunch we had some time before the Museum of Islamic Art opened so we went to the giant pearl to kill some time. It was really hot, and really windy, but it was worth it to get a must have picture out of the way. (see picture above). After that we were able to visit the Museum of Islamic Art, which is one of the best buildings for a museum I have been in. The art was interesting, but I think it is a growing collection. It did bring flash backs to museum studies and art history classes from Hope. An hour was enough time to casually look through the collection – I will take another trip to go back and read all of the information.

Friday night several individuals were celebrating their 2 year anniversaries in Doha with a pool party. It is amazing to think I am getting used to the heat because I did not find it to be too hot to be outside. The location of the pool and clubhouse is right in the middle of several masques and we were able to hear multiple calls to prayer at the same time. It really is amazing. We spent most of the night just sitting outside and talking. I really like everyone here and am excited to get to know everyone better.

Saturday was a more casual day with grocery shopping, skyping with friends and talking with family. I ended the day by watching a movie with Wil  (it really is one l) and Justin. It might take me a while to get used to a weekend ending on a Saturday night so you can get ready for work on Sunday.

This whole weekend I have had the song from Annie where she keeps singing “I think I’m going to like it here.” 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My adventure at the department of health and FANAR…

Tuesday was a great day!

The day began very early (before 4 am) by waking up to the call for Morning Prayer. It was a nice reminder that I am not in Ohio anymore. I fell back asleep for a little while until I woke up to get ready for the day. I caught a ride to campus with my supervisor, who is very supportive and had been wonderful in welcoming me to Doha. Justin and I then boarded a small bus at 7:30 am to head to the department of health for the next step in getting our resident permits. The bus was packed with professors, other administrators, housewives and children – all a little curious about the process that awaited us. I was lucky enough to have heard of other’s experiences and felt prepared for what was to come.

Upon arriving at the department of health we were unloaded from the bus and lined up outside the building. We were all handed 100 QR, but not told what it was for or what we were to do. As we walked into the building the men were seated in the first room and the women and children were lined up along a wall and then walked to another waiting area. No one really spoke to us, but we were yelled at as if we were expected to know what to do without being told. After sitting a while we were taken into a staff only area where we were able to jump ahead of the men in line to check in and receive our numbers (this is where we gave them the 100 QR) – I was told it did not matter if my name matched as long as my number matched. During this process a man told me he had been to Florida and California and I looked like I would be good to take to California. He then said if I wanted to leave here I could go to California with him… I passed on the offer.

We continued to be herded through various lines and were separated into two rooms for our chest x-rays. We all stood in the room while each woman received the chest x-ray (wearing gowns that were clearly not clean --- I told them I could just wear my cotton skirt and tank top). I am not sure how safe all of those x-rays were, but I figure it was only 10 or so, so I will be fine. We then left the x-ray area fot the phlebotomy area to have our blood drawn. The women again were placed in front of all the men. While it was extremely awkward to cut in front of people in line I convinced myself it was ok because women wait in line forever for a restroom while men just go right in, so they can take their turn and wait. I was assigned to a doctor who felt he was very funny. He kept telling me I had to get 10 shots and 10 vials of blood drawn. Anyone who knows me know I do not like needles and I found nothing funny about these comments. After having one vial of blood taken he kept me sitting there telling me he would take more, eventually he laughed and said I could go.

Overall the department of health was not that bad and it did give me an experience I will likely never have again.

After a few more hours at work with nothing really to do we headed home to get ready for FANAR. Several individuals from my office took Justin and I to FANAR, a Qatari and Islamic educational center. Our guide was a very enthusiastic brit who had converted to Islam. He was very knowledgeable and passionate, but he was also slightly awkward.  I learned a great deal about Islam that I had not learned in classes earlier, but I wished I had learned more about Qatari culture. Following the tour of the center I was able to stand at the back of the masque for the evening prayer. All the women were very welcoming and several came up to me after to see if I had questions and to find out what I thought.

After FANAR Justin, Caleb, Mohammad and I went to an Iraqi restaurant for dinner. It was an amazing meal, but I was reminded that I am a Schuster because I thought the best part of the meal was the bread. I am also growing as a person because the chicken looked like a chicken and I still ate it (I usually only east boneless, skinless chicken breast, or chicken that is cooked into something).  Mohammad is a local Qatari who used to work in the office and is working on his graduate degree in Student Affairs in Kansas. He has been extremely helpful in explaining local culture and in ordering new foods (he steered me away from a few interesting dishes).

I am so excited this is my life! 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I have arrived...

I have safely arrived in Doha and have begun settling into my new apartment. The trip here was relatively easy and I was able to travel with another new staff member, Justin, helping to make the trip better. Once at the Doha airport we were to be met by one of our colleagues; however, our flight got in early and she had not arrived. We were provided with a wonderful service that helped us get through customs more easily and helped us with our bags. This service informed us that there was a change in our plans and instead of getting picked up we were to go to a hotel for the night. We asked who had sent this information and they said a woman from the Qatar Foundation had called. I took this as my first test in flexibility. I had been warned when interviewing that it is necessary to be flexible and that plans change regularly. Thinking this was one of those times Justin and I went with the change and found a taxi to take us to the hotel. Once at the hotel we learned that there was no reservation for us and we were supposed to have been picked up at the airport. As we had no cell phones or local currency (the ATM was broken at the airport – causing us to both tip and pay in dollars) we tried our best to get a hold of someone. Justin had saved some emails to his computer and we began making local calls through the operator. We quickly learned that all the numbers we were calling were office numbers, and it was well past office hours. We also learned that you could not place a call to a cell phone through the operator and the hotel would not allow us to place a call because we did not have a room to charge it to. I then pulled out my Magic Jack and we tried to make the call over the Internet … but we did not have a room number allowing us to access the Internet. As we were getting ready to try and pay cash to the hotel to allow us to make a call our ride arrived! She arrived on time to the airport and after waiting several minutes for us she inquired about where we had gone. In the end all was well and we had a little adventure.

We were then able to move into our apartments. Wow! This is the better than I could have hoped for. The style is not my own, but it works and it very comfortable. I have plenty of space and great appliances. (I now have a dishwasher and a microwave!!!! It has been so long since I have had those where I live).  I was able to settle in and take a shower while a pizza was ordered – from Pizza Hut. After being fed and watered Justin and I started going through things a former staff member had left for us. I learned that my dad is not the only person to ignore an expiration date. About half the food and all of the over the counter medication was expired. Even with the need to look at dates I am so grateful someone thought of us and left things we might need. There are now several things I can take off of my shopping list – hangers, cooking oil, sugar, flower, cleaning supplies and some other odds and ends. It was a great way to be welcomed to a new home!

I am now slowly putting things away and getting ready for bed. We do not have anything planned for work tomorrow until 11am. It is wonderful to be able to gradually settle in. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I am packed and ready to go!

It is less than a week until the BIG MOVE! I am ready and waiting patiently. I have been in Ohio for over a month now (longer than I planned) and am ready to be working again and to settle into my new home. While here in Ohio I have been able to visit with family and friends and to paint the nursery for my new nephew (estimated date of arrival: October 3, 2009)! This break with family has confirmed that I am best suited to be a senior citizen and not a 20 something ---- I have become addicted to hand and foot (a game played by many at the senior center), and I really do enjoy hanging out with my grandparents (all four are amazing).  I am hoping working with peers will bring back my youth.

Stay tuned because this time next week you will be able to read my first update from Doha!