27 February, 2009 § Leave a Comment
So today my roommate Erin came in to say good morning at around 4 p.m. I was sitting on my bed, reading blogs on my broken ipod (the “home” button is broken, which means if I want to switch applications, such as go from the internet to listening to music, I have to turn the thing off and back on, a 45-second process, meaning the thing is BROKE). I said “good morning.” She said something like “what’s up?” and I said, “well, I woke up about eight hours ago but I haven’t really gotten out of bed today yet. I hope that’s not a sign of depression.” That kind of ended the conversation.
26 February, 2009 § 2 Comments
Today, 26 Feb, is an auspicious day, as it is Qatar Environment Day. I didn’t know this when I made the regrettable decision to get out of bed this morning at 05:45. When I came to school, I thought I was sentenced with the usual Thursday schedule: listening & speaking 8-9, literature 9-10, writing conventions 10-12, reading & writing 12-2. Six hours, no break, no focus, no attention span.Then, halfway through my writing conventions class, around about 11, we were dismissed for Qatar Environment Day. Apparently the way this day is celebrated is by building a huge tent in the desert behind the girls’ science building (which meant a trip to the Women’s Campus for all the guys in our program–the promised land where sometimes one or two girls has taken off her shayla). Here’s the mildly interesting thing: I totally had the wrong idea about what Qatar Environmet Day would be.
Now, when you talk about philanthropic, charitable, or otherwise “good” events, functions, and fundraisers, usually the topic being addressed is named in the affirmative and people are left to their own assumptions about whether it’s a positive or negative meaning. What I mean by that is that when you hear Earth Day, you just assume that it’s a day for the Earth, not against it. When you hear AIDS Fundraiser, you just assume that it’s a fundraiser to stop AIDS, not encourage it. You don’t really have to include the coding for “good” or “bad” because it’s obvious.
So, I assumed that Qatar Environment Day was for the environment. Boy, was I wrong! It was a bunch of people sitting in a tent cooking food and serving them in plastic and styrofoam containers, all while handing out huge bags of plastic and vinyl souvenirs that no one will ever use (I also got a book called Resurrection and the Hereafter: A Decisive Proof of their Reality by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi with a quote–and I literally just flipped the book open randomly and picked the first paragraph I saw–”Indeed, the Almighty Disposer of this world’s affairs creates in every century, every year and every day, on the narrow and transient face of the globe, numerous signs, examples and indications of the Supreme Gathering and the Plain of Resurrection”; can we say it together AWESOME, but that book wasn’t from Qatar Environment Day, it was just from another student who sees my uncovered hair every day and finally decided to do something about it). So within minutes I was covered in disposable, mass-produced junk with the QU logo affixed, piles of little plastic bowls, and plastic spoons. The only way it could have been more against the environment would be if they had the tent surrounded with everyone’s cars with the engines running and air conditioners blasting. Oh wait, they did.
The good news: We stood around eating fried dough balls (Qatari delicacy, as in the rest of the world) from 11:00 to 12:00 and then everyone started leaving, and it became clear that there would be no more class, shortening my horrible Thursday in half and bringing in my weekend three hours early.
25 February, 2009 § 1 Comment
So, many of you know–because you’ve pried so rudely into my life, insisting at all times to know about the minutiae of my health, and god, is it annoying–about my broken toe. I acquired this broken (well, who knows if it’s broken–I certainly won’t for ten to 14 days) toe in Nepal, on my last night, on the only night of the trip I drank (and by “only night of the trip,” I mean “only night that weekend of the trip”).
I was with two British ladies and two Nepali guys, a fun time in a bar with four tables and one waiter. Tuborg after Tuborg and I threw a 500 rupee note at the mess and we made our way back to the hotel. I had my own hotel room–win. And I had a high blood-alcohol content, too. So, when I entered my hotel room, I promptly walked into the bed, slamming three of my toes on the right side of the leg of the bed and two of my toes on the left side. I heard a huge crack, and immediately I was on the floor. I assume this is what giving birth is like–one or two seconds of intense pain. If it’s any worse than that, you can definitely count me out, because hurting my toe really sucked. Probably the suckiest thing that happened that night.
So I took a shower, and since I was somewhere around the “not sober” range, I went to sleep without any problem. The next day it was about three times as big. Over the next few days of ignoring it and wearing flip-flops because putting my foot inside a shoe was the most painful thought I could muster, it, along with the rest of the foot, turned a really unappealing shade of purple. It kept its size, and it was crooked, turned about thirty degrees from its appropriate position. A little over a week passed and I arrived in Paris, where it is cold. I wore my flip-flops in that weather for all of three minutes before realizing that I could either avoid the pain of putting on shoes or have my feet amputated from frostbite. I thought about choosing frostbite, but ultimately dug out my hiking boots and (wool) socks. The pain was unbearable, but I had stuff to do. Besides, I come from a long line of people who suffer in silence, who suffer unimaginable pain and suffering without saying a word about it, the kind of pain that turns your insides black but remains a stealth secret because of the martyrdom enjoined on my line of people. That’s why you’re not hearing me complain about it now, you’re only reading it.
So Europe was great, and I’ll post about it and the rest of the trip in non-toe-related details soon (I’m working on it), but the swollen, discolored toe was kind of a consistent reminder that I probably should do something about it. Wearing shoes consistently, though, straightened it out, so it at least now points in the right direction. Fast-forward to the present moment, and it hurts like crazy when I’m sitting still, lying down, or walking, i.e. doing anything, and it’s still swollen, but I had pretty much accepted that this is how my toe is now, and that my foot will probably always hurt because of the funny stride the toe causes the entire leg to take.
Today I decided to do something about it, as it’s getting really ridiculous to have nine reasonably skinny toes and one obese one. I decided to start at my university’s free health clinic (for women only! The one perk of being a woman in this peninsula!), where the doctor, after hearing that it had been a month and I hadn’t gone to the hospital in the first place, gave me that look doctors always give me when they are pretty sure I am the most reckless, cavalier person ever.
First, let me explain about why I didn’t go to the hospital. It was my last night in Nepal, and I went to India the next day. I’m sure India is all first-world and stuff with medicine, but my anecdotal, and therefore correct, impression is that I have no desire to have my toe attended to in an Indian hospital. The Indian approach towards health is single-minded: do you have any snot in your nose? You’ve broken your leg? Too bad, clear your nose. You’ve lost your vision? Well, perhaps you have a mucus problem. You’ve been stabbed and your intestines are falling out of your abdomen? Here’s some magical herbs to break up the phlegm! So, I didn’t go to see a doctor in India.
Next, I was in Europe, an excellent candidate for place in which to seek medical care. But, the downside…I was in Europe. So I didn’t feel like going to the clinic. That’s that.
Now, back in Arabia, I have to contend with the Arab approach to health: the Evil Appendix. I just know that as soon as I walk up to the hospital, I’ll be asked whether or not I have an appendix. If I didn’t, then maybe they would take my toe seriously, but I am 100% positive that since I actually do have a normal, human appendix in my guts, they’ll need to take that out first before x-raying the toe, and I think my appendix is just fine.
So the doctor at the clinic on campus told me in a very disapproving, but kind, tone that I need to have it x-rayed. That can only be accomplished by going to the emergency room, because this country is nuts. To do that, I need a healthcard, but I figured it can’t be that big of a deal, because the healthcard gives me free healthcare (after I pay the $30 the card costs), and after all, the doctor is saying I need x-rays soon, so how long can the card take?
I went to the Events & Hospitality department to find the contact person to get the card (it’s obviously not dealt with through the medical clinic). It entails a paper application, two photographs, a copy of my passport and visa, a copy of my Qatar national identification card, and $30 in Qatar money. It’ll take ten to 14 days, despite my insistence that no, really, I’m supposed to get this sausage attached to my foot looked at soon. I guess it can’t be that big of a deal if Events & Hospitality isn’t worried about it.
25 February, 2009 § 1 Comment
Last night I decided to embrace the fact that I am a Liberated Western Woman living in the most sickeningly conservative region on Earth and, at 19:45, walk to the grocery store, about a half hour’s walk away, in the dark, alone (and “alone” as in without any other people, not “alone” as in “without a father, husband, brother, or adult son”), and beyond all that, in short sleeves. I don’t know what inspired me to take such reckless and risky action; probably, it was that I am a Liberated Western Woman, and therefore, have no sense.
Walking is fine, as Doha is the safest place on the planet (with great safety, of course, comes great BORINGNESS). As usual while walking in public outside, I listened to my music and ignored the fact that my elbows were exposed for everyone to see–and see they did, as my uncovered flesh attracted the attention of the entire resident population of Kerala in Qatar. But as usual, only a few cars honked and only one actually pulled over to try to offer me a ride until he realized I was walking–on purpose–the opposite direction of his car’s orientation, so he gave up.
When I neared the Villaggio, the colossal up-market (I love that I say up-market as if Qatar isn’t already the embodiment of the term) shopping mall with a Carrefour, I noticed a guy in front of me walking slowly. I sped up to pass him on the sidewalk. Most glaringly obvious about his appearance was the unfortunate fact that he was wearing a bright orange shirt. I got around him and when I was four feet or so ahead of him and thinking it was a non-event he said “Hi.” Pretty creepishly, too, but I’m not rude, so I dismissively and with transparent (because everything I do is transparent) disdain, said “Hi.” “How are you?” he said, speeding up to keep the gap between us constant. “Fine,” I said, speeding up to get rid of him. “We be friends?” I ignored this comment and figured that my usual tactic of pretending to be deaf would work. (Usually I just imagine that I’ve fallen deaf that very instant, right after the last thing I said to the creeper.) “You have number?” he went on, to which I said “No,” sort of annoyed that I happened to be holding my cell phone quite obviously in my right hand. But maybe he would get the hint?
So I went on and entered the mall and decided to go into Boots, a British pharmacy-cum-perfume store that seems to be heavier on the perfume. I walked around wondering what I would buy if I didn’t have credit card debt and made it as far as the soap section when I noticed the orange shirt guy was in there, too. I doubted he had walked all the way to the mall in his ugly clothes to buy cologne or shoe inserts. He saw me see him and came over–great. He picked up the most random item for sale near his hand and said, “This good?” I said, “I don’t know. Please leave.” He looked crestfallen–but hey, that’s what happens when you approach a girl and don’t bring your game. I mean, come on! Finally, he said, “No chance?”
This was the easiest question. “No, there’s no chance.”
I felt kind of bad, though.
25 February, 2009 § Leave a Comment
In the mornings, at about 05:45 when I have to wake up, I have to go over in my head, before I turn on the lights, the two options I have in front of me day after day: one, remain in bed and enjoy a wonderful day of sleeping, eating, and not stepping foot outside the compound–i.e., a normal weekend day–or two, pulling myself out of bed, eating, wondering what homework I didn’t do, starting on the 45-plus minute commute to a university from which students are not authorized to leave by taxi (more on that later, I am so not kidding), sitting through four to six hours of foreign language instruction in a freezing-cold classroom, and waiting half an hour to two and a half hours for a ride back to the compound. It is usually a very, very difficult decision.
Involved in the decision are these speedbumps in my compound. They are made out of plastic and have been installed into the asphault, but because they lack uniformity of substance with the pavement, the yellow and black plastic glares in every direction. I have so much active hate for these speedbumps that I’m afraid it’s going to rot my heart. These speedbumps are definitely on the side of me staying in bed at 05:45. Every morning the pain seems brand new–the bus tears over them with no concern for the fact that if that wretched vehicle had a suspension system at any point in its long history, it most certainly has whatever the opposite of a suspension system is now. The front of the bus takes a nosedive when it clears the obstruction, then the entire body of the thing sinks and pops back up, propelling the back of the bus–usually where I am because God saw it fit when I was conceived that I should sin while still in the womb by becoming female–to fly up with such force that it seems the wheels are going to tear from the axles and then the whole thing smashes down again and every bone in my body smashes into the neighboring bone, my head bounces, and my feet slam on the floor. No amount of bracing, preparing, or gripping can avoid this. Generally–this is about 06:33–I wish I had stayed in bed.
22 February, 2009 § 2 Comments
So, I am back in Doha, and school has started. Overall, my judgment of Doha–if four months of living here and a month and a half away to reflect are enough to make a reasonable judgment–is profoundly negative. Don’t come here.
Anyway, for the city being one I don’t particularly like, things are great. Erin and I missed each other desperately, and so the reunion has been joyful, involving trips to the grocery store, H&M, and the television. School should be difficult, which is good, although the class hours are too long to be very beneficial because in the sixth straight hour of class without a break in another language, I just don’t focus anymore.
I’m going to try to write about my trip in chunks. My own computer is broken right now and only the somewhat-to-moderately competent employees of Computer Arabia could tell you when it’ll be fixed. Until then, I’m on Erin’s, so my ambitious plans for disseminating every detail of my trip (because you all obviously want to read about it) will have to wait, but I’ll see what I can do until I have my own portal to the Real World back.
Here’s a table of contents, to introduce the upcoming posts in the order they will arrive:
1. Traveling around Thailand (5 Jan-12 Jan). In which I arrive in Bangkok and leave to visit Burma, Kanchanaburi, Hellfire Pass, and a village.
3. Chilling in Bangkok (13 Jan-16 Jan). This will be really boring, because the most exciting part of each of these days was acquiring Pad Thai.
4. Nepal (17 Jan-24 Jan). Wherein I visit Kathmandu, drink a mojito listening to Nepalis play Eagles songs, look at but do not climb some mountains, check off a life goal by seeing a gharial, ride on an elephant, visit the Lord Buddha’s birthplace, and break my toe.
5. India (25 Jan-2 Feb). During this time I visit Varanasi and am splashed with some Ganges water, absolving me of all my sins, see the Taj Mahal and it’s as sweet as you think, check out some birds, and ride the Delhi metro.
6. France (3 Feb). A short sojourn in the City of Lights leads to an impulsive decision.
7. The Netherlands (3-5 Feb). I travel to Amsterdam to see if it really exists–it does; I meet an Indian and decide to go through Europe with him (the chances!).
8. Belgium (5 Feb-7 Feb). Despite having no desire to go to this country, I go to Belgium, and speak only Arabic.
9. France Again (7 Feb-9 Feb). Again, no desire to spend even more time in Paris, but I finally take the stupid elevator up the Tower.
10. Switerland (9 Feb-12 Feb). I see Geneva, a huge lake, a sporty museum, and I fail to complete the Tour De Freddie Mercury, leaving Switzerland in shame, vowing to return. Damn you, Switzerland!
11. Italy (13 Feb-16 Feb). Skipping the presumably missable Milan, Venice, Florence, Pisa, etc., I head straight for Rome and check out some old stuff. Sweet.
12. Greece (17-18 Feb). The most gratuitous part of my trip, I traveled by foot, by train, by foot, by public bus, by foot, by ship, by foot, by train, by bus, by train, by metro, and by foot again to get to Greece from Italy, just to have dinner at a restaurant and then immediately thereafter a second dinner at a second restaurant with two charming American girls. Worth it.
Then I came back to Doha.