Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The "Boot Scoot"

I am sorry for the delay in blog updates. Over the last two weeks I have been focusing on one thing that has been stressing me out. I do not want my blog to turn into a rant out something I can’t change – so I decided not to blog until I had something positive to write about.

This past weekend I was able to go to my first ever “Boot Scoot.” Growing up in the north, this was an unheard of tradition. The evening started with some great Tex-Mex food and good conversation. Soon after dinner the music start. Things changed quickly. The tables emptied and the floor filled. My table was left with two others and me. We were talking and learned we were all from the north and had no idea what dance everyone was doing on the floor. We shared that thought that somehow we missed out on something because we grew up in the north. Everyone from age 20 to age 70 knew the dance and danced it well. After talking to some friends I learned that Boot Scoots and Two-Steps are normal in Texas.

Most of the evening I spent watching people of all ages spin around the floor and having an awesome time. When Dave and Karen rejoined the table Dave offered to teach me to Two Step. At first I was really nervous because it looked fast and complicated. He assured me it would be fine, and I cautiously got up to join him. As I left the table I made sure to tell his wife I would not intentionally break her husband toes. Dave explained the basics and off we went. It was actually not that bad. I looked at the floor for the first half the song, but by the end I was actually able to look at Dave while dancing. I quickly learned why evening, no matter the age, was enjoying the event.

Later that evening I had a flash back to a middle school dance. We all remember some point in our lives where we danced with someone and when the music stopped, one or both of you ran away. For me I always think back to my fifth grade sock hop when I danced with Brian Cook. To be honest, I do not even think I got to the end of the song. Well, I relived a middle school dance when Justin (not the Justin I work with) asked me to dance. The dance was good, I only stepped on his foot once, and he only lead me into other partners twice – but in all the dance was fun. As soon as the music stopped he turned and ran away. I promise you, when you are 25 it is even more awkward for this to happen than when you are 13. I stood there for a second and then went to talk to other people, all the time wishing that moment had just been taped. Even as I write this I know none of you will truly be able to appreciate the awkwardness of this moment. The gift that I received for this moment is that now I am no longer embarrassed for ending my dance with Brian Cook early (for real, I was 11 – that is a good enough excuse).

There was another amazing moment from the night. You all know the “Cotton Eye Joe” song. For me this song reminds me of sixth grade gym when one of the groups in class did their gymnastic routine to this song (I think it might have been Megan Rapp’s group). Now that memory will forever be replaced. Apparently at Texas A&M there is a dance that is mandatory for all students and alumni to learn and dance in unison together anytime this song comes on. It is actually really fun – but I was not expecting it. The song came on, and all of a sudden the dance floor turned into lines making spokes of a wheel. Every one began moving forward, then backward, then forward. Everyone was pivoting around the center of the room and having a blast. To make this even better, out of know where everyone started saying “Bull Shit” at specific points in the song. After the song ended I asked several people why they said “bull shit,” and the answer was always, “because you do.” I am not saying I wish I went to TAMU, but I do think I would have had a great time it I did.

So the “Boot Scoot” is the good thing I have to write about. The rest of my life is going well. I am working a lot – too much, and am amazed at how quickly the semester is going. I promise I will not let two weeks pass without another post. Although, then next several weeks will be CRAZY, so don’t expect too much.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Worst commercial ever…

So when I say worst commercial ever, I mean this commercial promotes so many problems in our world. Let me walk you though this commercial.

Picture just about any somewhat cluttered living room. A mother is sitting on a couch with her feet up. You cannot see her face as the camera is positions right behind her. A maid is sweeping the room with a broom in simple clothing. Two teenage girls walk into the room and get “bratty” faces on as they tug at their perfectly acceptable clothing. They are each wearing nice jeans and decorated t-shirts. The mother then turns the TV to the home shopping network and “clicks” the remote. Each time she clicks the remote something changes. The room gets decorated a little more, the oldest daughter is now wearing a dress with jewelry and has her hair curled. The younger daughter is then dressed up and her hair is straightened and her outfit and jewelry are now “cool”. Lastly, the maid is “clicked” and she is dressed in jeans and a plain t-shirt and now is using a new vacuum to sweep the room.

Wow – The first message I got from the commercial is that regular clothing is not good enough. The second message I got from the commercial is that “even if we treat our maid like shit, she needs to look good enough and have good equipment so we look ok.” The third message I got was that money does not matter; you just have to click. On top of that, I learned that you could do all of this with no effort simple by staying on your couch.

I am not commenting further. Please make with this commercial what you will.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seeing the conflict from another perspective…

Today I joined one of my CDAs who was attending a speaker on her campus. The speaker was addressing the topic of the Jordan River and the prominent role of water resources in addressing the Arab –Israeli conflict. Anyone who has spoken to me about world politics knows that my “trigger” topic is the Arab-Israeli conflict. I have strong opinions on the topic (which I believe are well founded and based on information gathered from multiple sources… yet there is probably some emotion mixed in there), and I could talk for hours about various aspects of the issue.

I went to the speaker excited. Not only was I able to learn something new about a topic I am genuinely interested in, but I was able to share the experience with a student who was equally interested. My CDA invited many other students, but was a little disappointed when none joined us. Despite the let down, we grabbed our seats and prepared for a great lecture. I did learn a lot – nothing drastically new, but more detailed information about water in the directly affected area, a topic of which I only had general knowledge. The speaker based his lecture around the Johnson Plan (from the Eisenhower administration) and its lasting impact on water issues in subsequent negotiations, and its application to currently efforts. As someone who considered myself well versed in this particular political topic, I was surprised at how little I knew about the past and current efforts to address water while addressing the overall conflict. I am so glad I went, because I can look at the issue from a whole different perspective.

One thing that surprised was the comments made during the question and answer session following the lecture. I tend to lean pro-Palestinian when it comes to the issue, and at times get really frustrated with Israel (I know, why should I get frustrated, I have absolutely no power to affect the issue and am not directly influenced by the issue… I should not let it frustrate me… but I do). When listening to speakers or having conversations about the topic my ears perk when I hear pro-Israel statements or blatantly biased or unfounded statements. I was impressed that this speaker really addressed this topic from a resource perspective and the impact on all involved. He did not “take sides” and if anything “called out” Israel on its unethical usage of water (meaning subsidizing water costs for Israelis while creating a system that raises costs for refugees and others in the West Bank, and allowing a system of water usage where illegal settlers use 6 times the amount of water as legal inhabitants of the West Bank). I was shocked when most of the comments were challenging the speaker for taking Israel’s side. What? I did not see that at all! After thinking about it, here is my explanation for these reactions. The individuals responding to the speaker come from a demographic that is connected to the conflict in a much more personal and cultural way (the respondents were all Arab, one was Egyptian, one identified as being from the Gulf, and the other two I only know they are Arab but not more about their background). They also appeared to have very firm views of the issue, that may more may not be tied to “information” but that are clearly tied to “emotion”. It might be that by the speaker not opening stating that he was against Israel, they assumed that he was pro-Israel. I do not know if this is the case, but it did help me understand why these individuals might have reacted as they did. I am glad I was able to attend this lecture in a different environment that had people who were so passionate about the topic. I am excited to attend the next lecture about politics in the region.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday is the new Friday…

So it is a Thursday night and I am sitting at home blogging. Wow – I am a winner. For those of you who don’t know, Thursday in Qatar is the same as Friday in the US. (some Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, have their weekend on Thursday and Friday, while others, like Qatar, have their weekend on Friday and Saturday). Sadly I have found that my Thursdays are surprisingly similar to my Fridays in Philadelphia. There are not a lot of things you can do on your own, and it is hard to get a group together for things, so many Thursdays end up with me watching a movie.

This weekend I am also blessed to be “On Call” otherwise known as duty. This means that even if there are things going on, or a group getting together, I can only go if it is close to campus. Most of the time this is not the case, or whatever is going on is happening at the exact time as something for work. I signed on for this – I know this is a part of the job – I only give up about one weekend a month… that is not that bad.

On a really great note, I started mentoring a third grader at Qatar Academy. Abdulla is my mentee, and he is great. He is this quiet kid who is so proud of his role in his family. He is the oldest male in his generation (this is a BIG role). He talks with such excitement about his little brother and how he “guides” him. Mixed with this pride is also a good portion of shyness. He usually looks down right before he says something he really wants me to comment about. He says something (while looking down) then he pauses and looks up and waits until I say something. He is awesome! He is also a wealth of knowledge. He is Qatari and Bahraini. He has passports for both countries. The first time I met him he looked at me with a serious look and said, “I will use the Bahraini passport now, but my dad told me to use the Qatari passport when I am older.” In addition to sharing his knowledge about citizenship he is taking skiing lessons in France (for real… he flies to France for lessons… I have not figured out how often) and he is an avid fan of wolves, and is planning of reading me something about them. He was going to read about them today, but we got to caught-up in our game of Monopoly. The game was going well, but he kept lecturing me. “Annie, this is a game of buying, you have got to buy, buy, buy.” I promised to keep that in mind the next time we played. He asked that if we played again could we use credit cards instead of money because it would be so much easier. Oh he was not raised in the Schuster household. I did not get my first credit card until I was 22, and I am still afraid to charge anything unless I know I have the money in the bank to pay it off. I will make sure to keep you all updated on the fun things I learn from Abdulla.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Just a shout-out to some friends...


Today I had a conversation with a student that reminded me how lucky I was to find my best friends in college. Two friends in particular came into my life at perfect times and were able to experience some good, some bad, and some great things with me. The student I met with today has been experiencing some typical transition issues to college, but also some other personal and academic issues. I think back to my transition to college and how difficult the start of the second semester was. My first semester was a constant high. Everything was new and exciting, and I loved it all. As the second semester started I began to realize that the “newness” has died away and I was left with the life I had created in my new environment. I had met acquaintances, but had not built strong friendships or joined lasting organizations. This was the semester the homesickness set in.

Annie and Kelly at Homecoming

I made it through that year and worked hard my second year to build strong relationships and find things to be involved with. That is the year I met my two best friends from College. Kelly and I met through sorority rush, and ended up joining the same sorority. Katie and I met through the ride board, and ended up studying abroad together – then we were in the same sorority together. I hope for all my students that they are able to meet two equally amazing friends.

Katie and Annie in Vienna (Katie cutting my hair)

Thanks Kelly and Katie!