Friday, September 11, 2009

Back in the Doha Haze

Our Apartment in Bin Mahmoud
It is hard to believe that we've been back in Doha for two weeks now as the days seem to have merged into the heat haze that is Qatar in summer. With temperatures regularly in the mid 40s during the day and lows of 30C the idea of doing anything really active during the day disappears as one contemplates the comfort of air conditioning in the cocoon that is our apartment.

On top of the heat induced lassitude it is also Ramadan here which means that the day starts with the dawn call to prayer at 4.00 followed by the sunrise call at 5.15. For the locals it means that there can be no eating or drinking after 5.00am until the sunset call at 5.45pm.

It also means that the working day becomes compressed into a 4-5 hour slot between 8.00 or 9.00am and 1.00pm. (For the workers on the building site behind our apartment the day starts with the shriek of an un-oiled pulley at 5.30 and finishes at around 10.30 or 11.00am when the heat is too much for any outside labour.)

There are several advantages to this situation: getting on with some reading both for recreation and professionally, polishing up PD presentations for delivery once schools start, writing up exemplar lesson plans to take into the schools for teachers to follow and for us, as ATs, to demonstrate as effective teaching to the staff, watching the news on TV, having organisation meetings with the ATs with both companies involved with the contract and socialising with our colleagues.

It does mean that we are getting ourselves well organised for the coming school year.

I've been on site at the school the team I'm on is working in for the past three days meeting the staff, sorting out our work space and getting ourselves ready to swing into action this Sunday when we meet the full staff for the first time.
This year the school is an ex-Ministry one that has become an Independent school. The plan is to operate out of the old site for 2009-10 then move to a new site in 2010-11. In the meantime the old rooms are being given a make over with new plant installed ready for the students by the 27th. Consequently the parking area looks like a building site with stacks of student desks, old filing cabinets, broken blackboards, chairs, papers, bottles and hunks of timber and broken masonry on one side and an army of labourers busy painting, reassembling and moving new materials into the classrooms while teachers hunt their way through the movement to find a space to work or talk about the new year in their departments.

It also means that the English Coordinator and I have to sit down and sort out the resources needed to ensure that the Department can deliver both in quantity and quality as there appear to be no text or consumerable resources left from the old MoE school for the staff to use to develop lessons from.

We are, however, impressed by the energy and organisation of the Management team who have been coordinating the changeover for some weeks now. Every discussion we've had with them has shown that they have a solid and well thought-out knowledge of the challenges and requirements of the change from a MoE to an Independent SEC school will mean for the staff and the students. It should also mean that come the 27th the school will be ready to spring into operation.

On the home front Joy and I have settled into our apartment and, following a long exchange of misdirection and misunderstandings, unpacked our final boxes of gear to make the place more homely. Joy has hung her canvases of NZ scenes on the walls in the lounge and lined the walls of the spare bedroom with blank canvases and her paints as a studio and I've set up an alcove in the lounge as a workspace and library. I also picked up a cheap DVD player so we can now enjoy films whenever we want rather than surf our way through the 1050 channels available on the satellite TV to find a programme worth sustained watching.

Joy and Priscilla, as the current surviving "Doha Darlings", are busy plotting and planning their next foray into musical theatre which means they are off most mornings to explore the air conditioned halls of the souqs on the look out for material and items they can put to use. They are waiting on the return of Jan to complete their trio and the "Darlings" will spring into action
Joy with one of her paintings at the Souq Waqif
Joy and I drove down to the Souq Waqif one evening to check out the "Summer in the City" exhibition Joy had had two paintings exhibited in over the July-September period and were impressed at the range of work and styles the local artists are working in. I think it would be great if Joy could, with other Kiwi artists here in Doha, do a totally NZ art exhibition at sometime. The contrast between the intense colours of the Pacific and the haziness of the Gulf would be interesting to say the least.

On Wednesday we were the guests of the Bloomsbury-Qatar Foundation Publishing House for Iftar, the post fast meal, and a poetry reading by four local poets. The poets read their work in both Arabic and English to a very receptive audience after the meal. The poems revealed the differences in attitude, thought and imagery between male and female in the Middle East as well as the linguistic accomplishment of the poets.

The male poet's work resounded with discords and clashes of images while the women's work focused on the issue or the meaningful moment with intensity and controlled passion which left the audience in earnest discussion after the reading.

This coming week will be interesting especially as I,with my colleagues, will be beginning our work proper and as Ramadan nears its end. Joy and I are also trying to work out what we will do over the Eid break that follows Ramadan - there is a public holiday from the 17th through till the 27th - so we are looking at a trip to Turkey, which would allow us to visit places we didn't get to see when we first went there in 1997, or to Abu Dhabi where we could catch up some of our colleagues from last year as well as drive to Oman and as explore another Gulf State.


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