Monday, January 21, 2008

back to school...

First off... here's the link to some photos I took. Most were from my car while trying to drive around the city. From here on out, all photos will be at...

http://s249.photobucket.com/albums/gg223/benji-of-arabia/

Things are progressing nicely. I just got back from teaching my first real lab. It took twelve students about three hours to weigh fifteen different sets of samples. Can't wait until tomorrow when I have a class of 24...

I have some bad news though. Right before I went into class, I got an email that dropped my jaw to the floor. My friend and mentor at Texas A&M University, Dr. John Hogg, passed away yesterday. Although I never took a class from Dr. Hogg, he was one of the most influential people I ever had the pleasure of meeting. Besides being my undergraduate advisor, he was a good friend. Many hours were spent in his office bullshitting about staff and student alike. Every Friday he would come into Hastings where I worked to pick up the latest movies with good T&A... free of course with the coupons I used to slip him. Several times he gave me the riot act, quoting the rules of ethical guidelines for students and threatening me with expulsion for pulling a prank... afterwards asking me how I did it and tips for next time. After graduating, twice he invited me to be a guest lecturer in the Horizons in Chemistry course at TAMU. And... he was the guy who sent me the email, wondering if I'd be interested in teaching chemistry in Qatar.

I will forever be grateful to him... and will always miss him. Thank you, Dr. Hogg.

Last week I went walking around the Souq Waqif, one of the oldest open marketplaces in all of Arabia. Parts of it are several hundred years old. It's basically a huge flea market with just about everything you could imagine. Rows upon rows of little stores in a huge maze of narrow halls. Old men in thobes laze around on colored cushions people watching and swinging their prayer beads. I sat in an outdoor restaurant eating masgoof (grilled fish) and kofta rice. I tried to get the kofta camel, but they were out of camel... next time. I enjoyed a steaming hot mint tea made right in front of me. Afterwards, while smoking grape and apple shisha I was able to marvel at the sunset over the Arabian Gulf...

Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday evening.

I've put off my Arabic lessons for a little while, but am hoping to get back on the camel. Unfortunately... everyone here speaks English! And I mean everyone! With the enormous influx of foreign workers, I assumed there would be a giant frenzy of miscommunication. Instead, everyone decided that English would be the go-to vernacular. Most of my students speak perfect English; only a few have some problems, but most of their issues deal with chemical nomenclature.

On Thursday, I went to a basketball game... TAMUQ Aggies vs College of the North Atlantic somethings. My aggies played some mean defense, but they really struggled on the fast breaks. We came back in the fourth, but lost 64 to 58. Funny thing... the aggies did cheers in Arabic while the CNA students sang to someone beating a rhythm on an African drum.

I'm getting around the city OK, but it's still pretty easy to get lost... even though this entire city probably isn't as big as Galveston. There are NO street signs. The only way to navigate is by the roundabouts (called RBs) that pretend to be intersections. You go through one, then count how many until your turn. All directions are "go three, right, go two, left, go four on your right." What makes it more fun is that the roundabouts are installed all the time... on the 2007 map that I bought, it doesn't show any rbs going from work to home... even though I go through four. Best thing is that many of the roundabouts have official names, but no one (not even the Qataris) use them... everyone uses their unofficial names. There's the Oryx rb, Tilt rb (it's on a hill), TV rb (Al-Jazeera is next to it), and Burger King rb (guess). Hopefully in the next few weeks I'm going to get out of the city and head into the desert. I want to check out the giant sand dunes south of me, but you need a four-wheel drive to leave the city. No really... in some places the roads stop and you have to travel on sand until you reach the next road... how cool is that!

Next time I'm in the souqs I'll bring my camera. But for now, I've got to start grading some quizzes.

ben

2 comments:

NadineMathis1 said...

Wow ... You're posting at the same time I'm leaving a comment.

Where did you get that bedspread?? And let us know what that camel tastes like -- Chicken??

Boro Girl said...

I haven't looked at the pictures yet. I bet you are having a blast, can't wait for the next update. Sorry to hear about your mentor.

Sandi