Friday, August 28, 2009

It's all happening at the zoo...the Doha Zoo

Yes indeed, I am drawn to zoos. Fortunately, I happened upon a fellow zoo lover, Barbara, to discover that she is working with the keepers at the zoo to develop enrichment activities for some of the animals at the zoo. Barbara and others have been working to enrich the life of Rita, a chimp at the zoo. They're also working to make changes for the moon bear as well as bring in an enrichment specialist from the states to help teach the keepers different things they can do for the animals. might think we went in at opening, like normal people. No...not us...we have to go at 6am to watch the feeding and check on Rita and Timmy and Tammy (forgot her name). Isn't that what one does on a Friday (our Saturday) morning??? Turns out that during Ramadan the zoo is closed and the keepers come in early and leave once they finish the basic morning chores - though they'll be back for the evening routine. We did, however, meet Mr. Hussein who took us to see some of the animals. It was paradise!
Sadly, I got some pictures of Kalim (not sure how to spell it), an Asian elephant but they were blurry. I didn't want to use the flash but I should just didn't work well. Here's the best of what I took. I hope to come up with different ideas of things to do for him. The yard is quite nice - pretty good size for one elephant and it already has some things available. If only there was a ramp to the moat....

Monday, August 24, 2009

City Centre Mall, Round 2

The mall doesn't stop with shops- it also includes a rather ornate display depicting life in the desert, undoubtedly from those "good old days". It's actually quite authentically done, romanticizing, of course, life at that period of time. The buildings genuinely look old, the women are still in black and the men are still wearing white. The camels figure largely into the culture and everyone is serene and happy. It really is a cool glimpse into a time that was.

City Centre Mall

If you are ready for a luxurious shopping mall...look no further because we have it. The City Centre Mall here in  Doha is spectacular beyond compare.  Now first, despite its name, it is not located in the center of the city. It also does not limit itself to clothing and jewelry stores either, oh no, this place includes an ice rink, computer games, go cart track and even bouncy castles.
You might imagine that we live in a desert here, described as having little'd never guess it...the vast golf clubs and they have a waterfall, flowing into a small river that flows outside the mall and a ways through the front of the mall. There a palm trees outside!!! Really landscaped very nicely.
Of course, no mall would be complete without a selection of western outlets...they feature McDonalds, KFC, Applebees, Chilis and who knows what else (even seen a Krispy Kreme Donuts here). I keep asking...why do we export the worst of the worst???? Hmmm...wonder if I have a bias here???

Pictures of Doha

Jeff has put up some fabulous pictures of Doha - check them out at: Gallery Me  It includes shots of the Museum of Islamic Art and the Pearl!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Golf Anyone?

I cannot believe it…here…in the land of deserts…sand dunes….dry…dusty…they have golf courses! They are green, lush, manicured – while I think the grass is quite difficult to keep green, I’m sure they have some wicked sand traps! To top it off, people go out golfing in the middle of the day! It’s hot out there – even for me!! Oh well…guess it takes all kinds. It was another stop on our tour of Doha – did I mention it’s not very big??? We have been told that except for roaming around through the various shops, we've seen the highlights!
We did go see the fabulous new Museum of Islamic Art. It really is fantastic. The building is striking - it has been well thought out and is fabulous. We did not spend a lot of time there but had a chance to go through one floor. They have some permanent exhibits and some traveling so we'll be able to go back there periodically to check it out. There's also another view of it with a long, sweeping entrance way. Next time we go I'll have to look for a shot from there.

Tour of Doha

Our neighbor, Roeland, took us for a drive about town one Friday morning. It is their holy day so the roads are very clear – unlike most of the time when they are chock-full of cars. We drove out to the “Pearl” district – a very ritzy section of town. It’s a man-made island off the Corniche (waterfront) and it is made for the VERY well-to-do. The picture is one row of the shops. You’ll notice a lack of people out and about because nothing opens on Friday until late afternoon. Since we wouldn’t buy much there anyway, it was ok to walk about and window shop a bit. The yachts in the harbor were unbelievable! Jeff got some good shots – I’ll post them later on.
In the background of the Pearl shops, you'll see a number of building cranes - this area is only partially finished at this point. In fact, I'd say most of Doha is only partially finished. There are cranes and building going on EVERYWHERE here - someone said it was the land of a thousand cranes...hahaha.
The other shot is Roeland and Jeff at one of the elaborate pools in a hotel. There are malls leading off for indoor shopping - it's all about air conditioning here. You will notice...there are flowers on the right....

3D Classroom - that's me!

My room is starting to come together – though it still leaves much to be desired. It is quite small compared to some of the newer ones that have been built. I think the “worst” part is the lack of storage in this side of the building. I have one built in cupboard, single door. Newer rooms have about 3 – double door cupboards. Makes a big difference. I will say I have CLEANED this place out. The room had had a number of teachers only here for a few years each so no one nestled in and made it their space. Well…I have certainly thrown out stuff – and there was a bunch of it. It does look much nicer and I think it will work out well – though I will, of course, be moving things around again and again and again….
Here’s my basic room – great window across the back and once it’s landscaped it will be nice. There’s a covered gazebo type thing outside – lots of covered space for indoor recess . In the states we have indoor recess when it’s raining – here it’s when it’s too hot to go out. Need to rethink my games location – they’ll need them the first day!

Elementary stuff at ASD

Guess I should mention something about the school, after all, that’s why we are here. The school is absolutely unbelievable – but I need a guide to get around at this point! 5 years ago this school was closer to 450 students (or thereabouts) over the years, they have added on to all departments, bringing the classes from 2 or 3 per grade level up to 7! We now have around 1800. The last part of the project is being completed right now – the Pre-school and kindergarten wing. I saw furniture being moved in today so maybe the construction is done. Fortunately, this part of the school has parent meetings during the first week, meeting the students in small groups, talking with parents, kinda easing the kids in so they don’t start until next Sunday. We may all be working over there to help them finish up!!!
I’m pretty much focused on the elementary wing here – go figure. This shot is of the front of the school. While it is the entrance to the elementary wing, it also houses the main administration – guess they get to keep a good eye on us that way. The long view is a picture of my favorite hallway. It’s actually outside, connecting the lower elementary to the upper. It’s all latticed, making it a bit cooler and the breezes do come through – at least sometimes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Visions of Doha

Sad to say, the beautiful blue sky with idyllic clouds doesn’t exist outside the mall. Here it is stark, hot, dusty, dry, windy, humid….use your imagination…I’m sure you can find some more adjectives. I had thought there’d be more crisp vistas – after all it’s a desert – should be clear, clean…shouldn’t it? Does make the rising sun quite spectacular
Well…there’s dust in the air and it seems to be everywhere, most of the time, bringing a blurriness to things in the distance. The wind picks up that same sand, dust, dry stuff and twirls it around until there’s a fine sheen on everything. It doesn’t really seem to be so bad until you take pictures, and you realize that things aren’t quite as sharp as you thought.
This is a picture of “The Torch”, built for the Asian Games hosted here a few years ago. It “held the flame” throughout the games. To get into the “-est” moment….this is the tallest structure to ever hold the flame during the games. While the games and flame are gone, the building was built with a hotel, restaurant, gym and some other amenities.

Around our house

All Muslims are required to pray five times a day and mosques are set up around the town to call them to prayer during the course of the day. To make sure all can hear the call, mosques are built in every community, every section of town. This is the one closest to our home, a small one that probably would serve a small community of worshipers in the area (as I understand it, they must go to the mosque on Friday but other days they pray wherever they are). It is interesting to listen to muezzin, the man assigned to call all Muslims to prayer, as he sings the message to the community from the top of the minaret. While in the past, it was the force of his voice alone that was carried across the community, now the call is frequently assisted by PA systems.
It reminds you that you're in a completely different world, one with a culutre far older than anything we can imagine.

Villagio Mall

Can’t move into a place without exploring some of the things around us – and of course there’s the issue of buying food, locating stores, things to do. We started out with spots nearby….most notably the Villagio Mall
Villagio mall is a spectacular place that, sadly, looks like malls anywhere EXCEPT….it has the Venice canal running down the middle of it!  (A side note here… there’s a Villagio in Nagoya, complete with the canal, though their canal is outside, along with a number of shops.) NOTHING is outside here, everything can be found below a pale blue whispy cloud covered ceiling with air conditioning set to 70 degrees (or so it seems like). The clothing and handbag stores outnumber all other stores by about 30 to 1. There are also jewelry stores and then the answer to Wal-Mart – Carrfoeur - a general, all purpose, buy anything at a decent price store. Needless to say, we’ve been there a lot.

Living in Doha

It seems that my quick post with a few pictures has generated some interest in the depth and breadth of this new place we now call home. In response to these inquiries, I will attempt to paint a more detailed picture.
It appears that the majority of the houses here have an enclosed courtyard – similar to what we saw in Ecuador. There is a locked, gated entrance along with a “garage door” that opens, electronically, onto the “courtyard” area in front of the house. There you primarily find concrete tiles but, just to keep my hand in the habit of mowing, there’s a tiny patch of grass with a plant or two. Some of the homes in this "strip" have planted areas but, unfortunately, ours is quite stark. The covering on the right is our "garage" where the car sits.
To give you a better, more exacting idea, of the size of our house, the dimensions are 30.8 feet by 21.2 feet. (9.4 m x 21.7 m). This works out to roughly 2200 square feet (203 square meters). The first ½ of the house is the front room/kitchen area and the back half includes the 3 bedrooms. The color schemes are interesting – The dining area is a beautiful maroon color, shifting into a pale mossy green color in the connected living area - note the large number of boxes in the corner - more things to sort through and find homes for. Why did we ever send so much??!! 
The kitchen is completely done in tile – a maroonish pink color. The strangest thing is the location of the refrigerator…it’s in a separate room behind the kitchen. Have to wonder why it has a lock on it…diet…maids…kids? In fact, every door in the house has a lock and key to go with it!