Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Random Musings...

T+... 2.5 months...ish...Sorry y'all, I'll do better!

So Thomas is at a work training session, and I am rattling around the apartment waiting for dinner to thaw.  Random things I've thought this week...

-Baby-sister-who-isn't-really-a-baby-but-she'll-always-be-to-me moved to Chicago in November, giving me tons of inspiration to do this thing.  She flew home to visit this weekend, and I got a precious few minutes to Skype with her (as well as the rest of the family) this weekend.  SO hard seeing them all gathered together and not being a part of it... brought a lump to my throat and maybe a few tears to my eyes.  But one thing I noticed- she looks SO happy.  Happier than I have seen her in a long time, and that makes ME happy.  She and I are far more similar than different, we have so much in common, and I am so proud of her for taking the big step she did.  Also, her Sig.Other is pretty awesome, I blame him for a lot of this.  Thanks, man, for making my sister happy and taking good care of her.  (Not that she isn't fully capable of taking care of her self- she is- but you really make her light shine in a way it hasn't in a long time. Y'all really complement each other.)

-I had an advising appointment today with a student, who had some questions, wasn't sure he was on the right track but thought he might be... and after we hashed it all out he said the greatest thing to me.  "I thought I'd be OK, I just wanted to hear it from someone who knows what they are doing.  Kinda like going to the doctor!"  Made me smile so big.  He thinks I know what I'm doing!  Must be doing something right, then!

-Officially the only academic advisor here now.  The other girl has now moved into her new role on campus, so it's just me.  Yikes, no pressure to get May grads cleared, degree adjustments submitted, schedules planned...

-Thank goodness, then, that I got MY liquor permit this weekend!  Gonna need that... just kidding but seriously... I can also now officially buy pork.  Delicious, delicious pork.

-Also discovered the Jarir Bookstore this weekend!  Not quite Barnes and Noble, but they had a decent enough selection of English language books that I can keep myself occupied for a couple of weeks.

-We have found heaven, and it is called Ric's.  Ric's Kountry Kitchen, to be more specific.  It's a bit of a hole-in-the-wall place (which is exactly our type and what we've been looking for) but they have damn good breakfast and we've heard good things about lunch and dinner too.  The menu has lots of familiar foods- migas, breakfast burritos, Texas toast, CFS, grits... and ICED TEA.  Honest-to-goodness real ICED TEA.  Strong, crisp, caffeinated, SO GOOD.  I can drink a gallon of it.  We wer introduced by some friends, who invited us to walk over for breakfast a couple weekends ago.  We accepted, and met them in the lobby really early on Saturday morning.  Should have been a warning to me that they were dressed in workout clothes and we were in jeans... the walk was a BIT farther than we were expecting.  About 8 kilometers farther, around the Corniche and about three long blocks off of it.  Still, it was a great morning, sunny and breezy and the company was great, and the food was worth the walk.  We earned our breakfast burrito that day, and liked it so much we walked back this past weekend too (we caught a cab home both days.)  There's a tentative plan to go back this weekend as well, and if the weather's nice, I just might try walking both ways.  I do love being outside in the breeze when I can be, before it gets too damn hot.

-We were in one of the grocery stores this Saturday, and I was poking around looking for something when I heard someone say, Happy Mother's Day!  I turned to see who it was, and realized she was talking to ME!  Apparently Mother's Day was this weekend in the Middle East, and she was a rep for a baby formula company and they were giving roses to moms.  I told her I wasn't one, didn't have kids, and she said, "That's OK!  You get roses too!"  Uh, OK then!  So now I have two beautiful roses, one deep red and one peachy-pink, blooming on my dining table... unintentionally, a lovely reminder of Tyler, TX, Rose Capital USA!


-It rained this week.  HARD.  Surprisingly so, thunder and wind and all.  There aren't many people over here who know how to drive in the rain, since it happens so infrequently... also, very little drainage so no place for the water to go but over the roads. Was an interesting ride to work.

Dinner is just about thawed, and Thomas is on his way home... so I will sign off for now!  Four weeks to Texas!




Friday, March 13, 2015

In the Groove...

T+ 2 months.  Already? Time flies when you're having fun!

So we realized walking back from the grocery store this morning that today is our two month anniversary here in Doha.  An anniversary on Friday the 13th... that's got to be a good omen, right?

We have pretty much settled into our groove and things are rocking right along... work is going smoothly and as each day passes I feel more and more confident in the position.  I'm swimming in the deep end- the manager who hired me left last week, and the other advisor on staff will be leaving soon- so it will be just me.  But, I'm swimming!  There are people here who are really great about understanding that I don't know everything yet, and are more than willing to answer my questions and help me.  So I got that going for me, which is nice...  I am also excited about the opportunity to take everything I have learned in my previous position and thru my NACADA networking and implement it here. I think I have some really good ideas that can improve our services and really help our students better.  Those will have to wait until the end of the semester, though- right now, we have to get thru preregistration for summer and fall, and I'm learning that the process works slightly differently here than on main campus.  So much to learn, and I'm excited!

Outside of work, we are still taking every opportunity we can to explore and try new things; there are certainly a wealth of those!  Last weekend, we attended the finals of the CHI AlShaqab International Equestrian Competition; we saw the dressage and grand prix jumping.  Those were things I knew nothing about, and had really only seen on TV.  But up close and in person, really QUITE incredible- there were Olympians in both events.  And did I mention that since we are employees of the Qatar Foundation, we got FREE tickets?  Very cool...

Random thoughts... things I miss: aside from the obvious (family and friends)
-The sound of trains- no rail lines here, but they are building a subway system.  Right outside our bedroom window, all night long, they are building a sub way system...
-Albert's Hot Sauce- my favorite salsa from home; it's refrigerated, so not shelf-stable and therefore not orderable from Amazon.  You better believe I am eating a TON of it in April when we visit...
-Moderately insane traffic- like in Houston or Dallas.  Doha traffic is BATSHIT.  My heart rate is elevated just getting in the car. I do drive on the weekends when traffic is a little less nuts, but I leave the weekday driving to Thomas- who loves it.  I am more than happy to drive across Texas and back, and probably will next month when we visit...
-My patio- I miss being able to sit outside in the mornings with a cup of coffee and a book and enjoy the breeze... I can do that here, but I have to walk two blocks to the coffee shop on the waterfront. That goes right along with...
-My dogs- Casey loves to join me on the patio loveseat or in the swing, and I miss absently rubbing her belly or head as she was curled up next to me as I read.  Pudge would often jump in my lap and nudge my reading material out of the way in a demand for attention.  But, I have it on good authority they will be more spoiled than I left them... I am really looking forward to puppy snuggles...
-Mexican food- 'Nuff said.
-My Pampered Chef whisk- it's pretty substantial and can stand up to thick mixes and doughs.  The one I found here was bent out of shape after one spin thru my beer bread... I will be grabbing this from my kitchen at home (sorry, Laura Ann!)

Things I have discovered and I love here...
-The people!  Qataris have a reputation for hospitality and friendliness, and that has absolutely proven true.  Everyone has welcomed us with open arms.
-Urban living! I have never lived in a city larger than 150,000 before, and until Jan 13th had lived in Texas all my life.  College Station was a wonderful place for us, but in order to go anywhere we had to jump in the car.  Here, we can walk to just about everything but work- two grocery stores, a mall, the waterfront, tons of restaurants and hotels with bars, movie theater, dry cleaners in the basement of the apartment building... pretty much all we need on a daily basis.  Really convenient.
-Cooking more (not a new discovery, really, but I AM enjoying it.)  We were SO close to multiple fast food establishments in College Station, and it was so easy to just hit the drive-thru on the way home from a long day of work.  But here, even though there IS fast food, it's not exactly convenient- to get to the drive thru IS kind of a hassle with traffic, and it's cold by the time we get it home, because TRAFFIC.  Also, we have a much smaller fridge and freezer here so we can't just keep buying stuff and throwing it in there for later... so I've been cooking more and really enjoying it.  I've become quite domestic in that regard...
-Grocery shopping (also not a new discovery!) I really didn't enjoy grocery shopping at home- most times, the store  was crowded, I was on my way home and tired and cranky and hungry, and there wasn't just a quick "run in and grab it..." solution.  Here, though, the store is smaller, and generally less crowded; also, it's always fun to see what they have in store week to week.  It's always slightly different.  It's been inspiring!  And, Thomas can drop me off on the way home, I can "run in and grab" what I need, and then walk home and enjoy it.  I like walking here (this may change when it's 110 degrees... but for now I enjoy it.)  Also, since we have to carry it home, it has really stopped us from grabbing random things and throwing them in the basket!  We've actually been eating much better since we've been here- a lot less crap.
-Reading time!  I've had more time to read here, since I don't have something to do almost every night, and I am really enjoying that luxury.  I've finished five books so far! I will have to bring some home since I don't want to cart tons of books back when we eventually leave, but that's OK.  I have a library that has some room...

On the "Pick up in Texas" list...
-My kitchen notebook; didn't have room or weight to bring it, but all my treasured family and favorite recipes are in there and I miss having it.
-My whisk.
-Kitchen trivet for cooking utensils.  Hard to find here, apparently not a thing...
-Olive oil bottle with pour spout.  Same deal as the trivet...
-Girl Scout Cookies from the nieces- if they survive at my parents' house til we get there!
-Vanilla beans.  Can't find them here, and I want to make my own vanilla.  I can get the vodka, but not the beans!

So, yeah... in the groove.  My favorite routine so far is our Friday mornings (we work Sunday-Thursday.)  Friday is the religious day here, so those mornings are pretty slow.  We've gotten into the habit of waking up early, heading down to the coffee shop on the waterfront for breakfast, and hanging there reading (or in Thomas' case, playing on the iPad) for a bit, and then going to the grocery store for the week.  It's a nice way to start the weekend.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

FRIENDS COME TO DOHA!

Yesterday's post, continued... FRIEND VISIT!
(Can you tell I was just a little excited to see familiar faces from home?)

So our friends S and J came to visit this week- for a potential job!  S is an academic advisor like me, J is a faculty member.  He was interviewing for a faculty position starting in the fall, and she could be working with me in the advising office if everything works out.  They got here about 11:00pm on Tuesday night, and since their hotel is a block away I walked over to see them for a bit.  SO good to have hugs from home!  Also, they needed an adapter...

So J spent most of the next day in meetings, but I got to spend time with S.  We had some time to talk about the current advising situation (my boss is leaving Wednesday of this week for good.  The other advisor is likely to be gone by the end of the semester, leaving li'l ol' me...) and also showed her around for a campus tour.  Thomas joined us for that, then we all went to lunch and caught up.  Lots of questions asked and answered on both sides, then we went back to campus for a couple more meetings.  We brought her back to our apartment to relax and see the place (it will be one of their housing options if they decide to come over) and just chat... and nap.  They had a dinner scheduled later that evening with the faculty bigwigs.  Thursday we went down to the Corniche, to the coffee shop there, and had breakfast and a tour of the waterfront and park before heading into work.  It's been a bit hazy the past few days, but while they were here the weather was perfect.  They had their housing tour that afternoon, and had visited a school the day before (they have small children), and then J had a dinner so S came over to hang with us.  Then on Friday we did breakfast again and they headed out for a city tour with another faculty member.  They headed back to the States very early on Saturday- too soon for my taste.

But really, the best part was just seeing my friend again.  We easily fell into our old rhythm, and it was so wonderful to have that again, however briefly.  Don't get me wrong, I really really like it here; and the longer we are here, I know this is where we are supposed to be.  But DAMN I miss the people.  I knew this would be the hardest part, and some days are better than others.  As we were driving in to campus on Wednesday (S and J would meet us there later) I was so excited to see her I was literally in tears.  And when the door closed behind them, I turned to Thomas and sobbed.  (But then they called me and said, "We still have your adapter!"  So I ran over to get it and stole a bit more time with them waiting for the car to the airport.)  Anyway... I Facebook chatted with another couple of good friends today, and Skyped with my parents.  Ten years ago, that would not have happened- we are so lucky to be living in this age of super connectivity and I can type something or say something on Skype and my people will hear or see and respond instantly.  That has eased the transition somewhat, and definitely eased the homesickness.  If I'm honest, though- I might be a teensy bit jealous that they are still in CS together and can see each other regularly.  There is an advising conference coming up this week, one I've attended with a tight group in the past- they are going and I am not.  And it will be great yet hard to see the photos and know I am missing the fun and adventures, and I won't be part of the stories told from this trip.  And knowing this group, there will be EPIC stories.

I will have other opportunities, I know, and I will make friends.  I'm not shy. And the community here has been nothing but helpful and welcoming- I just wish there were a way to combine the two and have them all... BUT! I don't have to wait as long as I originally thought to see them all again!  Thomas has a conference to attend in San Antonio at the end of April, so I will tag along and we will get to see everyone soon.  I'm counting the days 'til I can have a beer with my Binnie, a Sazerac with Sam, froyo with Huong and Sarah... soon!  Very soon!  I.  CAN'T.  WAIT.


These are two of our new friends, Kerry and Eric, that we work with and also live in our building.  This was taken at the Doha Aggie Club's annual Boot Scoot dinner and dance, which was a GREAT night.  Tex-Mex, good music, cold Corona... happy Mathers!  And they are Aggies- and Aggies take care of Aggies.  They have certainly taken good care of us, and I am grateful for their friendship.

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other's gold.