Monday, March 30, 2009

Rain and social activities


At peace with myself!
The past couple of weeks have been busy but without the unusual or different that has been part of our lives since arriving here in December. Probably a welcome relief after the events of March.
The highlights have been a "Geriatrics Party" to celebrate a colleague's 60th birthday. We were invited to attend in costumes that would relive our lost past.

Joy & Me at Geriatics Party: Bruce & Me at same party Whose youth has caught up?.
Needless to say the costumes were varied and sometimes both temporally and spatially confused. This may have been a result of our collectively impending short term memory losses or merely because the 1960s were, for some, a confused blur anyway.

The party was held in a Villa in the West Bay area of Doha which gave usan insight into life outside of the Apartment blocks and an idea of the grand style favoured by Interior Decorators here.
The Villa had a swimming pool and barbeque area outside which catered for those who favoured the balm of the evening air. Once inside one was exposed to an over the top luxury - the front doors opened onto a marble floored lobby and a grand marble staircase that was lit by a chandelier that would have done justice in an hotel.
Beside the entrance lobby was a fully equipped mini-gym with every piece of self torture equipment a masochistic gym lover would need. The walking frame even had a flat screen TV so you could screen films of bush, desert or ice fields as you walked yourself into a trance in the quest for fitness.
The lounge was dominated by a flat screen TV as big as any at a mini-cinema complex while the dining area held a table capable of seating 20 people comfortably at one time.
We were told that the bedrooms each had an en-suite and a built in flat-screen TV screen on the wall at the foot of the bed so one didn't get bored luxuriating in the generously proprotioned beds.
However, we party goers ignored the blandishments of luxury and got down to the serious business of celebrating Bruce's birthday and reliving pasts both real and idly imagined. Great fun!!!
We packed ourselves up around 11.30 - age having put a dampener on early morning party finishing, you know, and headed back to our apartments and the reality of home comforts.


Then, just for a change, last weekend Qatar decided that it really needed to provide a variation on the theme of perpetual sunshine and, for the fourth time since we've been here, it rained and, for the second time, the front page of the Qatar Tribune was stopped to allow the headline story "RAIN IN DOHA" to drive all other world news from the front page.

Hyperbole aside the rain was heavy and the run off made more spectaular by the lack of an efficient or effective drainage system which meant that the water pools at the lowest points on the roadways - the middle of the roundabouts that mark intersections here.
TV & Burger-King Roundabouts had water at least 60cms deep around them so that drivers were forced to either circle out wide to go around or plough into the pool in the hope one could get through without stalling. It made for interesting driving especially as many of the locals are not familiar with the idea of hydroplaning on wet tyres.

Rain in Doha gets front page coverage again!

With the excitement of the party and the rain past life has returned to normal - up at 4.30am to the first of the prayer calls - Fajr (Dawn) and preparation for school as I listen to the BBC news on TV while the second prayer call - Shorook (sunrise) swirls through the window. The mosque nearest to us has a call to prayer that ensures one is aware of his aural presence. Thankfully, he gets submerged in the more musically adept calls that begin to blanket Doha and the day begins in earnest.
This week school has been dominated by the Grade 10-11 national testing which has meant that the Grade 12 students were at home supposedly studying for their own end of Cluster (Unit) tests in Arabic and English which took place on Thursday.
This was, in itself, unusual as the students had to sit two two hour papers in one day! The reaction to the second paper, English, was as expected.... looks of total incomprehension and loud claims of excessive difficulty when faced with what was little more than a reading and listening comprehension requiring them to write full simple sentence answers based on two typical airport /flight announcements and a two minute recording of a business meeting.
At the end of the day the teachers of English were looking as though they'd been through a session on a really rigorous gymnasium and then pummeled into submission by an over-enthusiastic masseur as they assembled in the workroom to mark the students' contributions to academic enterprise.
During the hiatus from classroom teaching each subject Department has been expected to write up a full annual plan for each grade level, a break down of the proposed Unit Plans and, given time, luck and enterprise, specimen lesson plans that allowed for differentiation for classes that would, in the 2009-10 year, be operating at both Foundation and Advanced levels according to the Curriculum descriptors. Just a small task.
We succeeded in creating a logical and sequenced Annual plan with interlocking and more student centred units for English. It now remains to assemble the resources and begin to write coherent standard based lessons to satisfy the descriptors in the Standards, the proposed unit content and allow the students to develop their spoken and written skills in English without falling into total grammar lessons and rote recall responses to questions. That, of course, means that we have to begin a series of workshops on effective test creation and assessment methodologies which will be another story in itself.

While I've been enjoying work Joy has been busy painting and selling some of her work. She's sold four pieces so far and hoping to sell more as the contract period draws to an end.
She received a real boost this week when she was invited to contribute to an exhibition of works by artists resident in Qatar at the Souq Waqif galleries over July-August. She is to select three of her paintings and provide a brief biography to the gallery who will select the paintings they wish to exhibit. Needless to say she is keen to see her work on exhibition here in Doha.

We'll keep you posted on the exhibition.

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