I finally have enough time (and a computer) to update. I'm not sure where to start, so I guess I'll start from the beginning...
Jan 2nd... got on the plane. Mom and Dad were good enough to take me to the airport. If you've never flown business class on British Airways overseas... I highly recommend it. Warm towels, champaign, steak and shrimp... damn good food.
Jan 3rd... landed at Gatwick in England. Had a brief three hour layover. My next flight was on Emirates, and I was invited into their Club World Lounge. I had a fantastic breakfast (both arab classics and a true English breakfast). Emirates Airlines was really nice also... not at asthetically pleasing as BA, but the food and entertainment was top notch. Also... I swear they must hire their stewardesses from a Miss World pageant. I swear to God... these were some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen... or maybe it was just because I was stuck in a seat for 17 hours.
Next stop, Dubai. Unfortunately, I was only in Dubai for about one hour. Not enough time to really do anything but admire the airport... and realize for the first time that I was the minority that stood out from the crowd. Made one little mistake... I walked into the bathroom and into a stall... and was faced with the infamous "hole in the ground with squat pads and a garden hose to wash my ass." Needless to say, I came out of there trying to hide the fact that I had hosed down my ankles with the nozzle.
Final stop, Doha. Arrived at 10:30pm their time... more than 22 hours after leaving. A quick note -- due to security concerns, I'm not supposed to give out names of people I work with or specific places where I work or live... so I'll try not to be too vague. My coworker, we'll call him Tex, picked me up from the airport with a driver from the university. I didn't really see much of the city that night, just a long drive to my flat.
Doha. This is one interesting city. Qatar was a fairly poor country living under British rule until 1971, and only in the last thirty years did they get any wealth from their natural gas deposits. So instead of an old country filled with centuries old tradition rooted in Islamic faith... you get a city with extremely modern amenities with a backdrop of long-ago forgotten poverty.
I spent the first few days just adjusting to the time change... first sleeping 14 hours, then none for two days straight. I was taken out to lunch by Tex, his wife, and the other new lab tech, Alaska. Just calling her Alaska... duh. My first meal in Doha, Qatar... a Monte Cristo from Bennigan's. Turns out my coworkers like to treat themselves to American food from time to time.
I have a very nice two-bedroom flat in a new compound about five minutes from work. The compound is not finished yet... they're still building the pool, stores, and gym... but it'll work. My main window faces the construction site, and is right next to a mosque. Mosques here vary tremendously... some are huge, taller than skyscrapers and ornately constructed... glowing all night. But some are barely two stories tall and are almost crumbling. You cannot, honestly, throw a rock without hitting a mosque. When they announce the call to prayer five times a day, you always hear the one closest to you first... then you can hear them from all across the city... echoing in a beautiful rhythm. In this entire city, there is probably a few hundred mosques... but only ten gas stations!
By the way, it's the rainy season here! A cold front came through, bringing with it a massive sandstorm that darkened the sun one afternoon. After it blew through (and covered everything that was outside with about a half-an-inch of fine yellow dust) it got really cold here... down to the low 40s. But since these temperature are extremely rare, there's no heat in the buildings... so when it's cold... it's always cold. After three days of cold, the rain started. And no one has umbrellas here... and absolutely no one knows how to drive in the rain. It only rains for about one week, then it won't rain again until next January.
So much for moving to the hot, dry desert... it's been cold and wet all damn week!
I'm teaching my first class tomorrow night, and I think I'm as prepared as I'm going to get. I have to get home and eat... so I'll write more tomorrow morning. I haven't taken a ton a pictures yet, but I'll post what I have soon.