Friday, February 12, 2010

Catch Up Posting

Where has the time disappeared to?I can't believe that I last updated the blog at the beginning of last month!!
I know I started with good intent to write up the blog every fortnight but a month plus is getting ridiculous.

This past month has been busy, a convenient excuse,but for some reason January-February have been busy months at work with the prospect of the two week semester break this month as an incentive to keep one's nose to the grind-stone.

The Advisory work has seen us pushing ourselves to deliver the training and programmes in the school more intensively as the staff are willing to experiment and try activities to initiate the reforms in education. Our team has,according to our SMA, achieved more in this semester than they could last year... this is probably because the administration of our school is keen to see the programmes develop and the students succeed and therefore actively encourages the staff to contribute to the work we are doing.

Over January we set up an inter-school debate competition - at the moment between Ahmed bin Hanbal and Abu Baker Asdeeq but with possibilities to include other local schools if we can get more support from Qatar Debates. There is willing as we were able to host two Debate coaches from the NZ University team for a two day workshop session to encourage our boys to look at debating as a means to improve their English. We are looking forward to next semester when we can revive the inter-school competition and attempt to develop the competition to involve the neighbouring schools.

Cognition also welcomed the NZ Debating team to Qatar in February when they arrived to take part in the Qatar hosted International Schools Debating competition. As of writing the NZ team is running fourth in the competition according to The Peninsula newspaper which seems to be the only paper comprehensively reporting on the debating competition.

We also had some good news when after the January Doha Debates recording session one of the boys from our school was contacted and invited to join the BBC, Qatar Foundation and the Doha Debate organisation in New Delhi to observe and,maybe, participate in the outside debate at St.Stephens College in February. The boy was selected on the basis of his confidence and articulateness when he challenged the guest debaters at the recording. We are looking forward to both hearing of his experiences and,perhaps, seeing him on screen when the debate is shown in March.
As well we have had a series of outside workshops to attend on organising the Library, developing further policies and operating procedures for the LRC (Library) and others informing us about the training programmes Cognition has been running this year that will have an impact on our activities in the schools.

On more personal fronts: These past months have seen the long lines of migratory birds that are a feature of the Gulf winter stretching across the early morning and evening skies. These birds appear from the Northern winters into the warmth of the Gulf each year and settle onto the mangroves and the coastal waters of Qatar and in formation each day ribbon themselves in the grey sandfilled air as they head to and from their roosting areas. As I sit at the traffic lights on my way to work at 6.00 every morning I watch these lines pass across the roof tops for minutesat a time.

We were informed, when we went out to the International Falconry competition in the desert beyond Al Khor, that these lines of migratory birds become the prey for the trained falcons the local Falconry Association members train and use.

The Falconry competition was held out in the open space of the desert, 70 kilometres from Doha, with participants from other Gulf states exhibiting the power of their birds in a series of events that we could see, as specks on the desert floor, from our vantage point in the grandstand and exhibition area the Association had built for the event. We were able to see some of the action through the telephoto lenses on our cameras.

The birds were released from a hide several hundred metres from a lure twirling man and then swooped at 200kph down from the sky or at low level across the ground onto the lure.The rules and scoring system wasn't explained to us so the esoterics of the sport remained a mystery.

We,however, were able to handle some of the birds the young men and boys were parading around the exhibition area willing to show off to anyone who showed interest in their pets.

The Competition was also a show case for Arabian Horses, Saluki Dogs and prizewinning camels.. although none of the horses or dogs were in evidence when we were there despite the advertising indicating that we would be able to see these animals in action as well as the falcons.

The same day we journeyed out to the Falcons the local paper carried a story that a local camel breeder had turned down an offer of QR25 million for one of his animals by another enthusiast fromthe UAE. The camel owner said that he would not be willing to part with a symbol of Qatari heritage for any amount of money.

We had heard reports of camels changing hands for 2 to 5 million QR but a figure of 25 million QR was out of the ordinary enough to attract the attention of the newspapers!

So it is now mid semester break so Joy and I are off to Turkey on Saturday for 10 days to complete the tour we'd promised ourselves 12 years ago when we first embarked on our overseas travel adventures. That trip will be the subject of our next blog.

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