Thursday, April 24, 2008


Hey everyone... hope you're enjoying your beautiful spring weather. Normally spring means gentle, cleansing rains, the opening of flowers, and a return to enjoying the warm outdoors. Over here, spring means something entirely different... it means "oh shit... here comes summer." We had our first 100+ temperature day here... on April 1st... 103F to be exact. It is consistently in the mid to upper 90's F everyday... all day. Walking across the parking lots to our main building feels like running a marathon uphill carrying jugs of water... and it's not even summer yet!

Everything is going really well. I just turned in my final grades, and can say that I successfully taught my first semester!! Well, at least 83% successful, since that was my average grade. Another instructor thought that was a little low, but my prof praised me for being a hard-ass. All in all, I had a blast teaching the labs. So much so, that I'm having to teach over the summer... ugh. I'm teaching the same lab, but instead of fifteen weeks... we're doing it over five weeks. Plus, I'm doing a recitation for two hours a week, basically doing problem solving sessions with the students. With the 20 hours a week of chemistry these students are going to have, they are going to absolutely hate me this summer... which wouldn't be so bad, except that I'll be surrounded by angry students with access to deadly chemicals and glassware.

Big news... last weekend, Tex and I went out to Dunestock. Dunestock is an all day concert put on by the Doha Players, a British theatre troupe to raise funds. The Doha Players theatre was destroyed in 2005 from the only terrorist act to ever hit Qatar. Some guy, during a performance, walked out of a performance, stood in the lobby, and blew himself up... killing one of the troupe members. Since then, the Players have been slowly rebuilding the theatre with donated funds... and their biggest fundraiser is Dunestock.

Dunestock takes place in an area called the Singing Dunes... in a central area of the country very close to the American air base. The Singing Dunes are a large collection of dunes in the middle of the rocky desert. They look and feel like any other dune, except for one major difference... they sing. No... really... they sing!! When you walk on the dune sand, you can hear a very low rumbling resonance. Actually, you more feel the sound than hear it... and it only happens on these particular dunes! Anyway, the morning of Dunestock a massive sandstorm moved in and, once again, almost blacked out the sun. But nothing was going to stop Tex and I from sitting in foldable chairs and listening to bad cover bands... so we were off.

The concert arena was in the circular area created by a massive sand dune, making the dune itself the perfect amphitheater seating! About four thousand people were there, and almost all of them were western expats! It was really very strange... when you live in a country where you are always the outsider, seeing a massive group of people that, at least on the outside, look like you was eerie. People set up tents and canopies, everyone was staring fires to BBQ and smoking shisha. Hundreds of people were climbing up the dunes and either sledding, snowboarding, or simply falling down the steep, powdery slopes. I tried to climb up the dune after an afternoon of drinking and smoking while in the middle of a sandstorm... got about halfway before my lungs gave out on me. Imagine climbing stairs made out of talcum powder... not as easy as it seems.

Another strange thing. There were no police. None. A private security firm was hired to make sure people bought tickets... and that's about it. Everyone was openly drinking, women were in bikinis, people were making out on blankets... behavior absolutely forbidden in public in this country. But it seems that the government kindly looks the other way during these large gatherings. Maybe they realize that there would be a coup if they didn't. Maybe the government was there without their thobes on... who knows. I did see some of my students there (some with women!)... and I asked them if their parents knew they were out partying. After some odd looks and quick unclasping of hands, most confessed they told their parents they were studying at school... sinners.

As for the bands... Doha isn't exactly up to Austin's "live music capital" status just yet. Only a handful of acts were decent, some were god-awful. One particularly fun act was a duo of older indians who sang acapella... no kidding... folk songs and sea shanties. Exactly the music western people want to hear during an outdoor music festival...

So with the exception of the terrible music, the sand behind my eyeballs and in my drink... it was a blast!

Heading out to play some golf this afternoon. Since the course is lit at night, it should be fun. Also, bowling is going great! I really sucked at first, but have quickly progressed to decent status. I still don't have my shirt... but soon, I promise...




Boro Girl said...

uncle ben, I hope you had fun at your concert, even though the music wasn't quite a riot it must have been fun to listen to horrible music on giant dunes!

HAPPY BIRHTDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- haley

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