Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sunrise Photos




As you can see, this is near the water. I just thought it was funny. The Indian Emabssy is apprently just a sign.


It's beginning to look a lot like...Summer?

Christmas in the Middle East? It's not cold. Everyone is Islamic. It's their Eid Holiday. Didn't really feel like Christmas. At least there is a LARGE ex-pat community that has parties and such and tries to make it feel like home. All of my staff called or wrote to wish me a Merry Christmas, so that was very nice especially since 98% of them are Muslim. Here is a very short summary:

Christmas Eve:

Went to work. Since it was Eid no one was around. Since it was Christmas Eve, even less Ex-Pats were. Had a full day of paperwork, cleaning out old files, prepping some upcoming classes. Actually the day went pretty quick. That evening, I headed to Connie's and Jacque's for Christmas Eve Dinner. In addition to them it was Myself, Kevin, Kevin's Mom, John, Richard, and Carol. I brought the Nog which was attacked quickly. Jacque is a VERY good cook. They started this tradition years ago, but they have Spanish Tapas on Christmas Eve. It was very cool. Small plates, a wide variety of food from meatballs, mushrooms, shrimp, etc. It was so good. After food and socializing, we headed home about 10:00ish.

Christmas:

Once again it was a work day. Now you guys in the states will probably complain...Why was I working on a day that I could have taken off. (We get US holidays) Well the easiest way to put it is this.
1) This is like being on a Military Deployment. If you are not actually going to leave or go out and do something, you might as well go to work. It makes the day go faster and gives you something to do.
2) Economics. If I work a normal day, I accrue Vacation time of about .1 FTE per workday (or something like that). If I work a holiday, I accrue Vacation time of 1.0 FTE per workday. So, by working Christmas eve I get to take say 2 hours off sometime in the future (like when I come home), by working Christmas I get to take 8 hours off sometime in the future. See how that works?
Since I am here anyway, I might as well work. Plus, Vacation time I do not use I get to cash in. That is something I would like to do at this rate!
So after work, we had a 'Pittsburgh" party. Our project director had a huge buffet at her house and everyone was invited. We drank, had turkey and all the trimmings. I of course brought egg nog. Our Filipino secretaries once again brought the Karaoke machine, so we sang late into the night. We also had a Yankee gift swap. This is where everyone brings a present, then you draw numbers, and open presents. You also have the option of taking someone else's present instead of opening your own. Anyway, this is was a very fun part of the evening and I think everyone had a good time. It was a good Christmas Party.

26th:

So after a long night on the 25th, I was planning on having a quiet night at home. That was all well and good until about 7:30ish. Mitch's kids were in town and they are all College Age. He has 3 and one brought a friend. I told them that if they wanted to get out of the house sometime during the visit to just stop by and we could have a few beers or something. Well, the 4 of them showed up and stayed until about 10:30. I had to be up early the next day, so I had to kick them out. It was fun, even though one of them was going to Pitt.

27th:

I got up super early to assist with training at our hospital in the north. It is about 30 miles north of here and I had to be there at 6:30. I went up and assisted our nursing staff with class and then headed back to deal with our ever present radio issues. Somehow, I was not tired so I didn't take a nap that afternoon, even though I got up early. John and I headed to our now weekly Thursday night poker game and had a blast. There was 15 people in and John and I both ended up in the money. I came in 4th and John 2nd. Last time I was just under the money line, so this was nice. It was a great time, and since they play 8 minute blinds, the game goes quick.
I was home early and in bed.

28th:

Since I got up so Early the day before. I decided to do the same thing on Friday (our day off). I have been wanting to do this for a while, just to say I did and it was pretty cool. I got up early and went to the waterfront. I got to watch the sunrise over the Persian gulf. It was a cool experience and one that not many from our parts get to experience. It was something different and not really something I would normally do. Probably won't do it again soon...

Today, I slept in like crazy. 4 straight days of late nights and/or early mornings took its toll on me. Today is going to be a lay around day, laundry day, get back into workout day, (I have miss 3 days and I am going crazy!) etc. Talk to you later!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You thought I was lying about the nog?

Egg Shortage by fan_ni_sarap

CONSUMERS looking for eggs in hypermarkets around town are still searching in vain as the shortage caused by a ban on poultry from Saudi Arabia has not eased. Although a ban on eggs from India, the cheapest available before the embargo, has recently been lifted and large consignments are on their way to Doha, it will be another couple of days before they are available, industry sources said. A Gulf Times survey of five major hypermarkets yesterday revealed a bleak picture of no eggs whatsoever and no idea when they will be arriving. The eggs available at small grocery shops were going for QR1 each. "We received a few trays of eggs four days ago, from the UAE and a local farm, but the stock ran out within hours", said a manager at an Al Meera outlet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bahrain Photos Two

Hard Rock Cafe, Bahrain


Very interesting building. I took this while driving by.

Senor Paco's. They made us wear those hats to take our pictures.

You guys in the states will not appreciate this as much as me, but that is a true breakfast. Pork Bacon, Sausage, and Sausage Gravy; something you cannot get in the Middle East or any Islamic Country (Except Bahrain and Dubai)

Bahrain Pictures

The Grand Mosque. Over 7000 people can pray here at once.

Carol in the Grand Mosque. Women had to wear a complete abaya and hijab to be allowed to enter. Doesn't she look happy in full costume?


Camels in the Desert.


The Tree of Life


Carol and I at the Tree of Life. Notice the graffitti and trash. Somehow, with all the kids around we were able to keep them out of the picture. That was just luck.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bahrain

The 14th involved another round of the US Embassy Marine Party. The party was rocking early, however the all of a sudden the place died at like 11:15. We were the only ones left along with some Marines while we sat on the porch and waited for our driver who was supposed to pick us up at 12:00. Oh well…the next day felt better.

Our EMS Director had a small get together before the big Marine Bash. I would have stayed at that party all night, but we were meeting Pittsburgh people at the Embassy. It was a nice time with Nog (no where near as good as the Weyen version), a selection of food, etc. She is not the pre-planner, which is odd since she works EMS. She forgot to put to meat in the oven until the beginning of the party. Needless to say, I didn’t get to eat any food there. It was good hanging out with all the Australian Medics and people from work and around. These Australian and South African guys must really have the mojo. There wives were amazingly beautiful, seemed way out of their league. If you wanted to put it in perspective, like Cam marrying Jennifer Aniston, would be a good example.

As a small thought, do you ever realize that with all the Celebrating we do, everything that is related to Christmas and the holidays, is related to the Middle East? Camels, wise men, Mary and Joseph (who are wearing traditional desert dress…which I see everyday), sand, starry nights, etc. So, we think about the desert every year. Isn’t it funny how the cradle of civilization is contested? Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, etc…it just amazes me. The funny thing is, much of the middle east does not celebrate Christmas, it sure does not feel like it over here. A few of my supervisors called me today to wish me Merry Christmas, but none even turned a head when I came in to work Christmas day. They think it is odd that I am working when it’s the Eid holiday, not because it is Christmas. By the way, its 65-70 degrees and sunny, with a slight wind. Not Christmas-y weather.

So, Last weekend Carol and I headed to Bahrain. I needed a travel partner, and I think I picked a good one. The first story will probably give you all the proof you need.

So, instead of coming the night before and having to spend another night in a hotel, we got up early and took the 8:30 flight to Bahrain. It was a whopping 26 minute flight, and we were out of the airport by 9:15. We had just carry on bags, so it was smooth sailing.
We headed to the hotel and neither her or my room was ready. We knew it was a long shot, but we thought we would ask anyway. She told us that check in time was 1:00, but that if wanted, she could have us both our rooms by 11:00am. Since it was only about an hour away, we thought we would wait and decide on a gameplan for the day/weekend.

We headed to the lounge and the waitress came around. I was looking at the menu thinking about getting a diet coke and a snack. The waitress asked Carol first what she would like, and she asked what they had on tap. I dropped my menu and looked at her in disbelief. She smiled and said “We are on vacation, let’s act like it”. I immediately put down my menu and ordered a beer as well. I knew this was going to be a great weekend with a good friend.

After a couple of beers our rooms were ready. We with the cheap option, so both her and my room had 2 twin beds in it (twin, not double), very European. We stayed at a Movenpick, which is a Swiss hotel and the room had that feel. It was a 5 star place, but really nice and affordable. All the amenities. I was a little disappointed by the TV selection, because they have the same TV I have at home. I was hoping to have some Sportscenter to watch live instead of on my computer. Oh well, we didn’t spend much time in the rooms anyway.

After moving into our rooms, and our couple of drinks, what better way to pass the time than to head to the Grand Mosque? This is a HUGE Mosque in the center of town where over 7000 people can pray at once. It was huge and beautiful. Unlike other Mosques, they are open to non-Muslims and actually give tours. You have to dress conservative as a man, (pants, shirt, etc.) but as a woman you have to cover completely. This is part of the reason that I wanted to go there, just to make Carol put on a complete Abaya with Hijab. You also have to take off your shoes when you go in, and the tour guide gave us a look around, answered questions, talked about the prayer times, what they do when they pray, facing MECCA, all the good stuff. The even give you informational brochures when you leave (I would call it propaganda). These praying rituals are just about as bad as the Catholics…way too much exercise in a service.

After the Mosque we headed to the Hard Rock. Since we came on one of the first days of the Eid Holiday, certain things were hit and miss to be open. The Hard Rock was so we went to have a late lunch and of course some more tasty beverages. Service was good, you would be surprised at the amount of Military guys in there, but this is “Vegas” of the Middle East.

After our lunch, we were going to head to the Souqs, which we were assured were open. After driving around them and seeing nobody with a shop open, we decided to head back to the hotel. We both needed to take a quick nap, especially since I had to get up so early to get to the airport. I am not used to a 5:00-5:30am wake up. We headed off to our rooms and planned to meet up a little while later for dinner. After about an hour and a half we decided to head to the restaurant bar/lounge. We had dinner and then a small band was setting up. Since we had no luck anywhere else today, and cabs were expensive. We decided to just drink in the Hotel bar and try our luck the next day. We stayed out till about 10:30 – 11:00. I fell quickly asleep that night.

The next morning she calls me as she is getting ready for breakfast. As I was dressing, there was a knock at the door. It was Carol. I am not used to traveling with a girl that gets ready as fast or faster than I do. Then I remembered that she is ex/current military, so quick showers and efficiency must come second nature to her. I quickly dressed and was out the door in a couple of minutes. We ate at the hotel’s lunch buffet which had a good selection of European food (cold cuts, etc.) and made to order waffles and omelets. Pretty good start.

Since cabs were so expensive. We found a deal where we could have exclusive rights to a driver for 3 hours for about $60 bucks. So we planned our days after that in 3 hour bursts and bar stops in between.

So we headed out of town about 20km to head to the Harley Shop. I am destined to find some cool destination stuff wherever I go now. However, once again, it was closed. They would be open tomorrow, so not all was lost. We then headed to “The Tree of Life”. It was about 20 km out of town the other way and our driver had no idea of how to get there. We were able to help him with our map and guide book and we did find it. It was one of those feelings that you just cannot explain. On one hand, here is this tree over 400 years old growing in the middle of the desert with no known water source. Then as you get closer it looks like a high school hang out. Graffiti everywhere, branches torn off, there is a small fence around it, but there are kids climbing all over it, trash everywhere. It is really sad. We were able to get some good pictures, but still not as exciting as I would have hoped. Stuff like that really makes you appreciate things like the park service and the national register of historic places. I am glad I got a picture of it, cause I know one day I will see on MSNBC that the tree of life has suddenly died…due to overuse or contamination. I did get some cool pictures of a herd of camels that was near the tree. (Is that what they are called?)

After that, we decided to head back to the Souqs. Well, guess what. Closed. Again. We decided that it was not in the cards for us to hit the souqs this trip, so we would just deal with not experiencing them.

Thanks to a colleague from Pittsburgh, she recommended a GREAT Mexican restaurant that WAS open. Thank goodness. We got there at 2:30, however they were closing at 3 and opening again at 6:30. They did tell us to come in, eat and stay as long as we wanted. Well, 2 pitchers later and after dinner, it was just our waiter left and the night shift was showing up to work when we left. He got a great tip. Senor Paco’s if you are ever in the area. Great place. This is sad, but it made me think of Mom…you all know why.

Afterwards, we headed to the Sheraton because it was supposed to be the party place. They had a 6 piece band and they did pretty well with American and International songs. It was rocking. We stayed and had a great time till about 11:00 or 12:00.

The next morning we decided to move our flight up from 9:30pm till 4:00pm. We had a new staff member coming to town and Carol told her that she would meet her when she got here. Luckily, we have a good staff so they met her and we were going to head back early so she could spend the evening with her.

We were still trying to find the illustrious Pork so thanks finding a Restaurant that we also have here in Doha that serves just about a good a breakfast as you can get without pork, we headed there. We were like kids at Christmas looking at the menu. I ordered Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, and Sausage Gravy. I was in heaven. It was so good. I can’t wait to have mom cook some when I get home.

Afterwards, we headed to the Harley Shop which was open this time and was able to get a few mementos and items. They only had 2 bikes to sell, all of their other just arrived models were sold. These Gulf Arabs and their money….it burns a hole in the pocket of their thobe.

After getting our fill, we still had enough time to spend a few hours at the Bahrain National Museum. It was not the best place on earth, but pretty impressive when you understand how they do things in this part of the world. It had to be set up by a westerner, that is for sure. They had a lot of things in there about death, dying, the burial sites, how the bodies were found. Also…Arab culture and history, traditions, just to name a few. Some of the displays and the flow of the place did not seem to make sense at times, but we got through it all and I enjoyed it.

We headed back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and headed to the airport. We breezed through security and immigration, so we did what anyone else would have done, headed to the restaurant. We had small lunch with of course a tasty beverage. The flight back was so much longer, I mean 28 minutes…that is crazy.

It was definitely an experience, probably not somewhere I will go back to. Since I was here, I had to see it especially since it is only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
I will update you on my Christmas soon!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

No Nog? You Kidding?

There was almost a crisis in Doha today. Major issue, however thanks to Carol all was alleviated. I was planning on trying to make egg nog this evening. I have been scoping out the ingredients since I got here and I knew where to find everything. I got the “good stuff” last week, other than a change on the type of rum I am good to go. Today I went out to borrow a mixer off a friend and then head to the stores…(you cannot find everything at one store in this country). I went to one and got the whipping crème, plus some other groceries that I needed. However, they were out of eggs…so no worries, I will get them at the next store. Arriving at the second store, there was a sign that said ‘out of eggs’…crap this is getting bad. I got the rest of my supplies, minus the main ingredient, and headed to 2 other stores. NOTHING. THERE IS CURRENTLY A RUN ON EGGS IN QATAR. Are you kidding me? So I called Carol who I knew was going to another area of town to do her grocery shopping, I told her my dilemma and she promised to keep an eye out. About an hour later after I got home there was a knock at the door and there she was with 30 eggs in the carton. She stopped at a few mom & pop stores on her way home and found one that had eggs. Thank Goodness! Whew. She just secured her place on the nog list. So, the cooking will commence this evening.

Oh, small aside…when I came home from the store my kitchen was flooded with water from my dishwasher. (FYI- there is a drain cover in the middle of my kitchen floor, that is where it came from) I immediately called our manager and they got someone here in like 20 minutes. Fastest response time in Doha. He got the drain unclogged and then informed me that he was surprised that it has not happened sooner. Apparently, there was an issues with the concrete guy coming after the plumber while they were building and there is a lot of extra concrete piled up in the drain pipes. There is also speculation that they put too small of drain lines in. They are coming tomorrow to re-route my kitchen drains to the pipe out the rear of my villa instead of the one in the kitchen. Hopefully, no more floods!

So, once again I have a bunch of crap to talk about and I want to make it interesting, but I don’t want to do in depth on all of this. So some of it will be so I remember it later.
We had our Administrative Manager come from Pittsburgh and stay with us 2 weeks. We all had to have a 1 on 1 meeting with her. All I can say is wow. Carol, Connie, and I named her Hypertalker. This girl says so much in such a short period of time. Wow. Plus its very ADDish…she is all over the place with her thoughts and comments. She is definitely a blonde, however. We were talking one day and one of us said it was ‘hump’ day. She stopped the conversation and asked what the heck we were talking about. She did not know if it was a reference to something or a sexual innuendo of some sort. She had no idea that the rest of the world calls the middle of the work week hump day…I didn’t even know how to respond. Luckily, she did calm down a little week 2 and was much more tolerable. If I had to put a reference on it for you all, Imagine hanging out with a slightly less intelligent Marcie (Gore-Clinton-McClintic-Coats-Kerry-Edwards),that provides the same level of work, but on speed and with ADD. Very high energy…
So, our Executive VP of my division came over for a board meeting. They fly over once a quarter for these things. It is hard to believe that they are in town for about 24-48 hours…that is not long enough to even figure out where you are. However, they had a nice lunch for us when they got here and we all got to hang out with them. He informed us all that our division is rapidly expanding. They are looking at opening hospitals in Ireland, Cyrus, Italy, maybe even some more in the Middle East not to mention some things they have going on in the states. He said that great opportunities would be available to good employees in the coming years. The Ireland project is going to need a lot of administrative help, so that excited me. I could probably do Ireland. I never thought I would like international assignments, but if I found one where it is not sunny and 70 degrees everyday and there is stuff to do, I might consider it. Plus I am really starting to look at a Project Manager position (The person on location that runs the project) as an opportunity down the road. Many things to look forward to. I would probably still like the opportunity to fix a certain service in West Virginia, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

On to work. Our medical director who works with our project has recently re-wrote the protocols and now we are doing a full staff protocol rollout. When you have over 700 staff, this takes a few months. They are getting new skills and drugs, and they are also losing some skills and drugs. They did the EMTs first and everything went pretty well. Now he is onto the Paramedic I’s. Those of you that are confused, Paramedic Is are kind of like the US equivalent of an EMT-I. Actually, they are like an EMT-B with more responsibility and not much more training. A dangerous mix. Most of them are Tunisian anesthesia technicians that were supposed to be good at intubation. Through our new random chart audit, we learned that not only can they not intubate, they do not realize when it is out, or what to do to fix it in a timely manner. So, now these guys can only intubate dead people (in cardiac arrest). Everyone else is getting a King airway, which is kind of like a Combitube-basically idiot proof. Well needless to say these boys are irate that they took skills away from them. However, evidence does not lie. They started arguing that they are skilled in this and they should not take this away. We basically got them down to “Our job description says you are a Paramedic I. Paramedic Is do not intubate. If you do want to intubate, you can probably find a job that will let you” (We didn’t actually say that, but we did) They are really mad, cause the EMTs can now do the same skill. Ahh…the joys of consulting. If you have not figured out we are phasing out Paramedic Is. Soon everyone will be trained to an EMT-I level or they will drop to and EMT level if they cannot pass the course. This will really help the system evolve.

I finally found a poker game. I met a guy at a party and he got me into this game. Tournament style hold ‘em every Thursday. It was the most multinational, random game I have ever played. The house was HUGE. There were 4 bedrooms on the first floor. A living room, foyer, a poker room the size of mom and dad’s living and dining room (which included a bar and a bathroom), a pool room, and the kitchen was detached from the house in the maid’s quarters. It was impressive. The hosts were a very nice older Texas couple, that you can say were very Texan. The husband I think works in the oil business, so no wonder why he has such a big house. They have food, alcohol, etc. I brought a bottle of Jack to give and they told me not to bring any more alcohol, to just drink theirs. They would not take any money for food. The kicker is, they do this every week. Great people. Anyway the poker room has a bar, couches all around, 3 tables set up, TV, music, a snack table, very cool. I played with guys and girls from China, Lebanese, Syria, Texas, Arkansas, New York, Maylaysia, and South Africa. 4 of them were Muslim (obviously, not very devout) Very cool group. The guy from Arkansas used to be a Medic in the states in the early 80’s. He was shot while on duty and his wife made him find a new job. So he went to work for a natural gas company and now makes more money than I could probably count doing medical and safety consulting. He has worked all over the world. They play extremely fast. 8 minute blinds, they have a lot of levels, but once you get to a certain level those blinds skyrocket. I was doing well early caught rockets a couple of times and had some big pairs, and hit the flops but could never get any bites. I made a few scores even when I had the nuts some of these boys would pay to the river and then fold…thanks a bunch. Anyway, I came in 5th out of 13 for my first trip not too bad. They usually pay out top 4, but since they only had 13 they paid out top 3. So, either way I was on the wrong side of the money line. Looking forward to playing with them again. I think some of my hesitation was that we were playing so fast and it has been a while since I rounded. Oh well, I get back in the swing of things.

To follow the previous paragraph, what would be better to tell you that the next day after poker I went to church? I did. There is a place here called the Grace Fellowship and I was looking for someplace that had a Christmas Eve service that I could attend. I wanted to check it out beforehand, so I went with a couple that I work with. It was Ok. It was held in a Villa that the group bought and they are trying pretty hard. It was actually pretty packed. They do not have a resident preacher (it’s non-denominational) so when there is not someone in town, people sign up to do certain Sundays. This guy that talked today was OK, but after his message he kept rambling. I saw more than a few people doing the head bob. It would be so much fun for one of the preachers that I know and love to make the trip over for a few weeks…(hint, hint…you know you have a place to stay). The couple that I went with have about a one year old girl and they invited me to lunch afterwards. Well…wow. There were 4 other couples that went to lunch with us and they all had kids ranged 0-4. 4 sets of families, 6 kids. 2 on the way. Me. That was an interesting lunch. The conversation was good and it is really nice to see some of these kids going to church and experiencing that plus, it is nice to see them so well mannered. It was a little of an overload for me, but I did well. I didn’t drop any of the kids that I held or that wanted to sit in my lap, so that is a start. Luckily I have Nick and Porter to thank for that training (well actually just Nick). I still have yet to meet my other boy.

I am getting longwinded, so I will continue this later. Have a great day. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Body Blast?

Ok guys, so here we go. A little update on the Middle East… First of all…it is really hard to get in the holiday spirit. It’s freaking 70-80 degrees during the day and mid 60’s at night. Guys are wearing their coats, which is hilarious, but still no help. Today was a day you are glad you are in the middle east. If it was like today for a longer period of the year, this might not be a bad place to live. It was around 72 degrees, dry (of course), clear, sunny, occasional slight breeze. It felt wonderful. No humidity. I actually went running last week (DO NOT tell my athletic trainer) and it felt awesome (and my knee only hurt a little the next day…although I did try to run on the dirt/sand instead of the payment to help with impact).
So, this last weekend was a busy one. I attended a Traditional Arabic get together at a friend’s house. She is an Arabic teacher and invited her class over for dinner and socializing. I walked in and it was like a Junior High Dance. Men on one side of the room, women on the other. (This is typical Arab culture.) There was very little movement between the groups. They had a huge feast which included cooked Pigeons, luckily by the time we got to the pigeons, I was stuffed. This of course was followed by sweets, which is another Arab necessity. However, it was cool as far as the guys that I met. I met people from China, Indonesia, Senegal, Kenya, Philippines, Egypt, and South Africa. What a collection at a party.
So after, I was invited to another party. The random West Virginia girl I met a month or so ago was having a birthday/Christmas party at her place and called to invite me. I am always up for a party, so I headed that way. Of course I drug Nurse C along with me in case the rest of the people at the party were weird. We tried to get there fashionably late, but we were the first ones there which was slightly awkward. However, we mingled and more started arriving. I met people from all over the US, South Africa, and 1 German! They were all teachers at the American School, Qatar Academy, or in Education City. It was nice to hear about problems that were education related and not Hospital related. However, some of their problems are similar (They get Inshalla-ed frequently as well) I also found out that teachers make crap around the world. Many of these people make about what they make in the states or a little more. The best part is that they do not pay taxes and they have no housing expenses. Crazy. Support your Teachers!
Saturday, I started out my day with what was called “Body Blast” a hell of a workout that uses light weights and high reps. Good workout…very tiring. That afternoon, I followed that up with a scheduled Massage at some Chinese Massage Parlor. All massages are gender specific (because of the country) so to answer some of your questions, NO. Afterwards, I headed to Connie and John’s because they invited Me, Another John, his wife (who was leaving the next day), and Carol to dinner. It was fantastic. That Scottish guy really knows how to cook. We had some Mushroom soup, Ham (yes. Really. It’s like moonshine, don’t ask) covered in a white wine sauce, veggies, homemade bread, followed by ice cream for dessert. Needless to say after that day, I was dead. It was good getting to hang out with everyone. Those 5 people are probably the most sane people on the project, so it is nice to hang out with them.
I truly felt like a consultant this week. Malcolm, who is EMS’s assistant director of Operations pulled me into his office (I am there frequently) to ask me about the status of the organization. He asked me about his management style, what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. I got to be very open and honest, which I enjoy. I was flattered because I think Malcolm and I are on the same wavelength, and actually I kind of feel like his equal. That being said, I really like throwing wrenches into their Executive Meetings, but I think they are glad when they realize that certain ideas needed some work. Malcolm, Penny (Executive Director), Shaun (Asst. Dir. Of Training), and Dr. Marc (UPMC Medical Director) and myself actually have a really good business relationship. We close the door and knock each other out, but we come to a solution and go forward with it. It is actually pretty cool.
So, on to work. I have moved to the communications center as my primary location of work. I am starting to shake things up there a bit. I have very little experience in communications, but luckily all that time hanging out at MECCA made me a little more intelligent. Plus, they are so far behind I look like an expert. I am trying baby steps now. Trying to get staff to type and talk at the same time, wear headsets, not use the portable radios or mobile radios on your desk, because you have a CAD system in front of you that works fine. Basic crap. I had a problem with the supervisor not using their pod and hanging out at another computer all shift. This gave him no idea what was going on in the country. To fix this, we disabled their passwords on that computer so they have to sit at the pod to work. Ahh, the little things in life. I am sure I will have much more for you on this.
I did start writing my Research proposal, I am hoping to get a little bit done every night so I can get it submitted to the IRBs (Yes I have to submit to 2. Qatar and Pittsburgh.) I am really anxious to get published and I think this study will show some results. We will see. I am going to go type that now, so I get off of here. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Performance Issues?

Hello again. I know it has been a while, but somehow it got crazy busy. I bulled my way through the EMS policies and got them approved. They have been sitting on the desk of the approval department since June, and we needed them. So I went in, had a few meetings and got all but one approved.

Then, the Director of EMS over here (who I basically consult for) wanted to teach these supervisors Performance Management. I agreed and was designing a class for them. Well, she wanted it done before the Eid holiday which starts Dec. 17 (it doesn't relate to Christmas, just happened to fall on it this year. So her and I went and met with the director of Performance Management. We decided that we would teach 2 day long classes to all of my supervisors and department heads Dec. 5 and Dec 6. (We just scheduled this last week) So, they usually team teach it and she was going to do the Lecture part of it, and I was doing to do the group work and exercise part of it. She called me on Monday and due to some corporate problems, she could not teach this Wednesday and Thursday. She asked if she could give me the entire lecture and I present it. So, I agreed. This brought out 2 things. One...I cannot believe that the hospital would allow me to teach a corporate class that I have never taken to a group of supervisors. 2nd...holy crap...I have one day to review slides and get my talking points straight. I hate reading from a powerpoint, I like when I teach to know my slides and know what is coming so I do not have to refer, but today was a little different. I had to make passes by the podium to see what was coming and to see if I was getting all the stuff they wanted covered. Needless to say, it was a headache and difficult to get organized, but I did it and I think the guys liked it. I have been told by numerous sources that I have a lot of credibility with these guys, so I hope to keep that up.

Other than that, not too much else to do since the 'rents left town. I don't want to talk about it...but I am glad that the WVU program is at a point where we are disappointed when we don't go to the National Championship Game. A BCS bowl is crap (yeah right!). It is nice that our program is at that level. My last point...no one in the country this year has stopped us. We have no one to blame but us.

On that note:
TARA NA MAMUMUNDOK - This is Tagalog (Filipino) for Let's Go Mountaineers...I love working with such a diverse staff.

Short Update: Since I have been in Doha I have been able to really read much more than I get to at home. Here is my list for the first 5 months: (In no order)

Qatar-Business Traveller's Handbook - David Chaddock
Ghost Soldiers - Hampton Sides
Islam for Dummies - Malcolm Clark
Living and Working in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia - Bob Hughes and Graeme Chesters
Don't they know it's Friday? - Jeremy Williams
First, Break All the Rules - Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman
Who moved my cheese? - Spencer Johnson
The Qatar Edge - Joey Osslan
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Leadership - Rudy Giuliani
All the President's Spin - Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer, Brendan Nyhan
Paramedic to the Prince - Patrick Notesine
Tales from the West Virginia Sideline - Don Nehlen
Digital Fortress - Dan Brown

Thats all for now...I will talk to you later! Cheers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quick Random Post

So, I forgot to put this down the other day, but it is too funny and I have to include it.
I was looking through the staff roster the other day and came across a name that made me laugh hysterically. Do you think his Filipino parents were witty or is it just a random occurrence? Decide for yourself...

Edgar Allen Hoe

How great is that?

Cheers!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Do they speak American in Qatar?

Well, they came, they saw, they conquered. The family got about as much of the Qatar experience as you can in one week. It was a busy, fun, great time with some people that I love dearly. It was some of the best money I ever spent.

Saturday, Nov. 17

This was Jet Lag day. It was nice because I was able to get up and get a few things done before everyone emerged from the bedroom. It was after lunch when we got up and I decided to show the family the mall. (There is not much else to do in Qatar) So we went for some easy supplies, and they got their first taste of Arab culture. Mom didn’t believe me that the food spoils over here in just a few days. (There are no preservatives) She found out a few days later when the bread, tomatoes, etc was all bad. Anyway, we followed that up with a trip to Nando’s where we got an Espetata. This is basically a big Kebab that they bring on a big spear that hangs over your plate. Not real traditional, but fun none the less. Afterwards, we did a drive through town and headed to the Ritz for a quick tour and some tea. Soon it was back to the villa to relax and have a few drinks. I was so proud of the family, this did not help their jet lag any…but they all got up at 3:30 am to watch the game with me. Very nice.

Sunday, Nov. 18

After sleeping in a bit, I headed to work to tie up some loose ends. I came home and we hung out. We headed to Turkey Central for some traditional Arabic food for dinner. My co-worker Kevin and friend Rana joined us for the dinner. It was a nice time. Afterwards, we headed to the Souqs…which is the traditional marketplace of the old desert. This is where you barter for everything, and no price is set. It was a fun time.

Monday, Nov. 19

I headed to work for an 8:00 meeting and came home at lunch. We headed to the desert via Gulf Adventures for some kick ass dune bashing. They picked us up at 2:30 in the traditional land cruiser. Our driver was in a thobe and of course was named Mohammad. We had 2 other cars with us, one of which was Dr. K’s family and our Trauma Coordinator. We headed for the dunes. We stopped while they were letting the air out of the tires and took a short camel ride. Then we headed to the inland sea. We were able to see Saudi on the other side. Never thought my family would be within sight of Saudi Arabia. They took us to the camp where they have traditional tents set up and they provide dinner. It was a awesome night and the camp was right on the gulf. It was lit by many tiki torches and had a really nice ambiance to it. This was definitely a highlight of the trip and a recommendation to anyone that goes to a desert country.

Tuesday, Nov. 20

Since I was a nice host and let my family sleep in every day, I headed to work for the morning. This let them enjoy the pool and relax during the morning hours. I came home in the afternoon and we headed to Harley shop. Had to get some destination shirts and other items…lord knows with this traffic I am not riding anything with 2 wheels in this country. That evening we headed to the Ritz. We had a fabulous dinner at Porcini’s which is an Italian restaurant. It was a very nice highlight. Afterwards we headed to Habanos in the Ritz, which is a Cigar bar. Needless to say, Dad was in heaven. They had a Latino band playing some random music, which actually set the mood pretty nice. Hussein came and picked us up…

Wednesday, Nov. 21

I took this day off. We of course hung out in the morning and headed to Thai Chi for Lunch. It was nice to get Mom and Carrie experienced on new foods. Carrie and I went for a swim and then we headed to Majalis for dinner. This is traditional Arabic food, where you sit on the floor in a private room. We had Lamb chops, Hummus, Vegetables, Bread…so good.

Thursday, Nov. 22

I worked all day. Being a business person let me put it like this…if I accrue the equivalent of 2 hours for every 8 hour day I work, and I accrue 8 Hours for every 8 Hours I work on a holiday, it makes sense for me to take another day off during the week and then work on the holiday. I got home and the family was at the pool. Enjoying the nice weather and facilities. We all went back and got dressed, we met John and his wife, Connie and her husband and went to Garvey’s for the evening. This is the British style pub in town that is not too far from where I live. We knew the girl singing and it was a nice time. Carrie actually said it felt more like home. We had some traditional fish and chips…mmm so good.

Friday, Nov. 23

We all got up and headed out in the city. Friday is the best day to drive around and get random stuff done because everyone is at the Mosque (kinda like Sunday Morning in the states). So we went to the Cornice and around the city and saw the random landmarks, fountains, etc. Carrie got numerous random pictures, then we tried to drive into the desert so I could get here a camel crossing sign, but with all of the construction, they had the signs down or moved. We ran out of time. At 2:45, Hussein showed up and took us to Connie’s for Thanksgiving Dinner. There was about 20-25 people there with about nationalities represented, it was awesome. A really good experience for the family. We had all the traditional food with some kick ass pumpkin soup. That is a must try! Our Filipino secretaries brought over their karaoke machine and it was on from there. We sang and partied until late that night.

Saturday, Nov. 24

It was a short, sad day. Everyone was up early, packed and out the door. We had to leave at 9:00 because their flight was at 11:30. We said our goodbyes and it will be February before I see those wonderful people again. The rest of the day was doing laundry and laying on the couch. I have to stay up late tonight thanks to the time change for the game, and the next 3 days at work are going to be killer.
That was a great week, and like I said before a week full of great memories I will remember for the rest of my life. I truly have a great family and I love them all dearly. I apologize to all of my friends and others I have not responded to in the last couple of weeks via email or phone. The impending arrival, work craziness, and visitors I was not able to get back to everyone. Hopefully this week I will be in touch with a few people every night. Talk to you all soon… Let Go’s WVU…Let’s build on the present we got from Arkansas. Cheers!

Pics of the invasion...

Dune bashing in the desert...
Dad on a Camel

Prior to our dinner after the dune bashing. This is a traditional Bedouin tent

So, they wanted a "No Sunglasses" Picture. So we are probably all squinting. This is on the Cornice, the big Pearl fountain.


The Family in Doha

Saturday, November 17, 2007

West Virginia Invasion

So, to all of those wondering...they are here. Mom's first trip out of the country, and it is to the middle east. They got here safe...so all of you wondering, relax. (Although I think Mom is still looking for the Eiffel Tower) When they met me just out side of the airport Mom stated it was "Just like beach weather". Since I have the smallest car on the face of the Earth, I got Chaker to go with me to the airport because I knew the family would bring lots of luggage. They actually were pretty subdued with it. Anyway, Chaker loaded up all of the luggage...and the family rode with me. We took a slightly strange route home and they got to see Doha traffic up close.
Adults in the front seat are required to wear seatbelts. However there are no car seat laws...at a stoplight, we looked over and there was a kid standing on the center console with a metal knife and fork in his hand. Mom was amazed...welcome to Doha.

Like any Weyen function, last night turned into a drunk fest. Carrie and I stayed up till about 3:00am, Mom and Dad made it till about 1:30 - 2:00ish. Lots of Jack Daniels, John Smith, and Killkenny. I went really traditional with them last night...we had Pizza Hut for dinner. (Don't worry, it was planned that way)

Well I am up and they are still in bed. I am going to read the paper and watch some tv. Talk to you soon.
Cheers!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Doha Endurance

video

A team of these guys ride for 8 hours...isn't that crazy? Usually if they wreck, they get right back up and keep racing. These guys are moving...

Endurance Race Pics

Check out the packed stands! This is the middle of the race. About 1000+ support staff, 160+ EMS providers...and about 200-500 spectators.

These pods are spaced out along the track. Track people, EMS, officials, etc. These guys hang out here for 8+ hours. (EMS rotates their guys!)


So, being with the EMS Director, I could get close. These guys are about 12-25 feet from me.


You know you have money when the race lets you use BMW SUVs as Medical Response Cars. That is our head of scheduling. These guys loved it!

Mountaineers? In Doha????

Ok…so here I go again. I know I start out most of my posts like this…but it has been crazy busy. I have been pouring over polices all day long reading, retyping, correcting, etc. so when I come home, I do not want to type anymore. Hopefully that will be over soon. Actually, Julie finally sent me the book she has been working on for like 6 months and I am supposed to be reading it…but since it is electronic it is going to have to wait a few more weeks.

So, we had a tussle with these dang radios I am trying to get installed. Actually, I inherited the problem. It was not mine to begin with. Anyway, our Trauma doc…who I like…even though he is from Alabama and is a Tennessee fan… caught me at a meeting and told me the radio was not working (we installed in last week). I knew this, however I was just informed about 10 minutes prior to his rant. I told him I was on it and he kept coming back to this freaking radio crap. I had to basically say “What do you want from me…short of calling the emir himself I am doing everything I can” Moving on…our radio guy showed up after the meeting and we took the radio back to the shop, fixed it and had it back in service in about 30 minutes. It was a simple fuse problem. When putting it back in, the ER director rolls through with our Trauma doc and something came to light. First, that they would be getting very little information from that radio as we are in the stages of training 660 staff to properly use it. This is going on for a few months. Second, the channel was programmed wrong. It was still usable, just incorrect…a programming fix which could be done the next day. This led to an impromptu meeting in his office that included a hurried call to the assistant director of EMS who hurried over, our radio guy, trauma doc, me, and some other guy who is worthless. To make a long story short…he basically wanted us to suspend the entire training that we were doing to teach our entire staff how to use the radio in 3 days. This basically put me, the EMS guy, and our medical director into an uproar. Turns out that with scheduling and instructors, it is not feasible. Also, the funny part is…the Trauma team is supposed to be teaching all of the nurses in the country how to answer the radio…and they haven’t even begun…so who were we going to talk to? Sorry this is kinda jumbled…and I left some stuff out…but now I can remember it later.

We have a new communications guy from Pittsburgh that came to town for a 3 week assessment. I tried to show him around the first week and we went to dinner. After leaving dinner, we were in basically stopped traffic. The guy in front of me took his foot off the brake to inch forward, about 2 seconds later I was rear ended. Very light, no damage. It was by a Qatari. However, you know he was texting or playing with his cell phone and saw the guy in front of me start to move and just assumed that I would ride his ass like everyone else in this country does. Freaking idiots. I am sooo glad there was no damage to either car or injuries.

I did go to a bar last week that made me feel like home. It is called Garvey’s…it is a UK bar and the clientele is mainly white ex-pats. (There has been grumblings of discrimination…trust me…it happens at this bar..) They had a band from the UK that would mumble stuff into the microphone and the crowd would go crazy. It was kinda cool. Had some fish and chips and some beer. Nice change of pace. Not too busy, etc. Anyway…the funny part of it was that I met a girl from West Virginia there. What are the odds? You know me…wearing WVU crap. Anyway, this lady noticed my WVU stuff and came over to chat. She is a school teacher, is from wheeling, and has been here since 1993. Are you kidding me? That is way too long to stay in this town. She did tell me how much the place has grown and how different it is now. It was really cool catching up with someone from WV. Don’t you love the Randomness of Doha? This is truly the new melting pot of the world. I interact daily with people from so many countries. It is not uncommon for a day to go by where I talk with people from 10, 12, even 15 different countries. Crazy…

This is more random. So I have been keeping up with the workouts, exercise, and trying to eat right. One of our Doctor’s wives now has a cardio kickboxing class on Sunday nights. She definitely kicks your ass. Her husband is there too and there is only about 4-6 in the class…so I don’t feel too weird. However, it is a great change from my daily workout routine plus it gets the job done. Also…some other friends at UPMC have starting going to spinning class on Monday nights. I have joined in this as well. It is a different way to ride a bike, but it challenges you and like before is a good change of pace.

So this morning…the power was out. That is easy for me to figure out because my CPAP stops working. (Kinda hard to breathe with a mask on that is no longer giving you air) It sucks when the entire house runs on power. No water pressure (we all have our own pumps), no lights, no TV, etc. Plus today was foggy here. Apparently that happens in the winter. Thick, dense fog…it lifted about the normal time you would expect, but a really sudden change when you are used to looking out every morning for 4 months and see blue skies an bright sunshine.
I am currently getting ready for the WV invasion this weekend. It is going to be fun. Hopefully mom will not get sick when we go dune bashing and Carrie and I do not get arrested for chanting Let’s Go Mountaineers out the window at 3:00 am…we will see! I will talk to you all soon… Cheers!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Masa Il Kher

First, EMS finally got there website up and running. They were supposed to come to me for editing issues prior to launch, but we went ahead and launched it. Next week I get to spend a day editing it to make it grammatically correct. I even made the site...I am teaching on the training page...check it out.

http://www.hmc.org.qa/qas/


So, I know it’s been a while…but it has been crazy. I am in the thick of things now. I am kicked it into high gear. The supervisors told they have noticed a change, the people at R and A (Regulatory and Accreditation…an entire department that is supposed to work on policies that have let 40 of ours go for over 4 months…sound familiar) do not like the timeline I have imposed on them. We are kicking some ass. I figure that either I will get stuff done or I will get deported…either way, I win!

Ok, first some insights into the country. Everybody hates regulatory agencies, I myself are included in that mix. However, when you move to a 3rd world country (which I firmly believe Qatar is…A friend of mine put it as a 3rd world country with a lot of bling) you see the benefits of regulatory agencies. You cannot get your car’s body worked on over here if it is damaged unless you have a police report. Even if you back into a pole at the mall. However, you can pass numerous cars going down the road that do not have tail lights, the doors are tied on, shooting out tons of exhaust, etc. When you buy an electrical appliance, you have to take it out of the box before you leave the store to see if you need to buy an adapter before you go home. Kids are bouncing around the car like it is a playpen, yet EMS gets complaints that we did not treat well enough last month when some local got into a wreck and their kid was ejected 50 feet and died. You think addressing is bad in WV? You have no idea…this is a slippery slope. If the road has a name, and if it has a sign, and if the people actually have numbers outside of their house, you might get an address…but more than likely not. We are starting to address this because someone finally realized that it is jacked up. Information from home phones will soon come up when you dial 9-9-9 like in the US. Information will also come up when you call 9-9-9 from a cell phone. All phones here have GPS capabilities…and that information is supposed to be transmitted immediately to the 9-9-9 center when called. We will see how that works out. No one has addresses because all mail in the country goes to PO Boxes…actually they are out of PO Boxes now and there is a waiting list. Instead of adding more, they just make a waiting list. Until then…you get no mail.

I spoke of RNA above…but here is the reader’s digest version of what happened. We submitted them in June to the department (before I got here) The director when on leave (for over a month)…then the Assistant Director went on leave…then it was Ramadan, then Eid…then when I approached them about them..they had no idea where they were. The finally looked at them the day before our meeting which I had to schedule to get some of these jackasses working. These policies were reviewed numerous times and compared to JCI standards again and again. We have new protocols that are going online basically the 1st of December…many of our new protocols (that were approved)…related to policies. Like Death in the Field, Undeniable Death, Medication Administration, etc. These have to be in effect before them. This RNA group told me that we had to wait until Jan until an actual JCI person looked at the policies. Whatever. I gave them a week to approve 10 policies at a time and I am going to set up camp in their office to make sure they get it done. It is going to be hard to move a certified West Virginia redneck from your desk without help. We will see what happens.

More work stuff…our Medical Director (another UPMC guy) and I just completed a very comprehensive document that I think would be very beneficial to do at Mon EMS. It is called the 4R document. Recruitment, Retention, Remediation, and Release of needed staff. We analyzed EMTs, EMTIs, Paramedics, Supervisors, Communicators, and Critical Care Paramedics for Australia, South Africa, US, UK, and Canada. We analyzed every part of what was wrong, why we needed it, what we need to continue operations, including salaries. It was really difficult and challenging, but I think it really gives administration something to sink their teeth into. We all know you have to use smoke and mirrors with them to get stuff done, but when you have weeks and months of research to present and defend everything…it is a very good weapon to have in your arsenal.

Ok…so one more work related item before I get to me. We had a guy the Head of Engineering that was very helpful to the UPMC project and everyone else at HMC, a good British guy. We are doing some actual physical changes in addition to the flow and process changes. This guy has been here 25+ years and is a really go to guy. The only problem in an Arab world is that no one will make a decision without the consent of their boss. This causes major issues as he was very integrated in many of our projects and his assistants and stuff were not. Last weekend he was on the treadmill at his gym and he collapsed with a massive infarct. He was Asystolic when EMS got there. That is a huge loss for not only the corporation, but the project and the hospital as well. This guy was doing so much for so many…and now no one knows what all is going on. The moral of this story is to delegate. In all that you do, make sure someone knows a little about what is going on so they can carry on if you need to. Tell your next in line about projects, tell your sister where you keep your will, teach your wife to write checks….etc. Sorry…I digress….Anyway…a huge loss for all.

Good news for egg lovers….

So last week after work one day I went to Rydges with a Dr. that I don’t get along with too well…(actually I called him a dick in a recorded, minuted, meeting)…and another nurse. It was OK, but there is only so much I can handle of I am better than you stories. The big kicker is that I know the way around…I am in the field working with supervisors 2 days a week…We were heading away from our house and it took me 5 minutes of arguing with him that we were going the wrong way home. He kept saying..if we stay on this road we will get home…I was like “If you stay on this road we will see Saudi, the US, and Hawaii before we ever see home” Anyway…the fish and chips were great and the nurse and I found we had a similar like for 2003 Harley’s…He plans on buying one when his contract is finished.

So, last week I went to Oktoberfest held at the intercontinental. It was a freaking blast. They had every type of food you could imagine (German, that is)…German beer and wine, a band that kicked ass and was in the crowd. They had a guy that would chug the 1 liter beers all night long. It was absolutely awesome. I am going to post some pictures and video. You will enjoy. Too awesome to list all of it.

Lastly, you would be surprised how much certain people keep up with US politics. The Australian guys are always talking to me about Bush, the Presidential race, etc. They know very deeply some of the things going on there…and it amazes me that they know it better than some people that actually have a stake in the US. These guys stopped by my office and were talking about the fires, I got emails if I knew anybody in the bridge collapse. That just amazes me. I couldn’t tell you who the PM of Australia was or what the first thing going on down there is. I guess that is just reinforcement that the US has the eye of the world on it…and we need to take that responsibility seriously.

Well, I am going to go watch some TV…then maybe a swim. Have a good day. More to come soon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

WashingtonFlyer.com

So, why I was staying at the Ritz, I met this freelance journalist and her photographer boyfriend. They were doing a story on Doha and its new flight from DC (hence DC flyer). Anyway, she sent me the link and I copied the article for you so in case they get rid of it. So the main point of this is that I am mentioned in the article as an "Emergency Medicine guy"...so read and enjoy. Also, after she left she called me to get the price of gas and the price of water...you see that mentioned as well. Cheers!

http://www.washingtonflyer.com/article/2007/november_december/east's%20eden

East's Eden
Doha, Qatar, makes its opening salvo as the next big travel thing, looking to prove that big bankrolls for education, science and  art can bring forth many happy returns.

by Melanie D.G. KaplanNovember/December 2007


One of the locals I got to know during my visit to Qatar was Abdul, a big, jovial man who drove my photographer and me over 60-meter-tall sand dunes at up to 50 miles an hour. Accessorizing Abdul’s thobe (the traditional ankle-length white shirt) were a diamond-encircled watch and sparkly cufflinks that could only be described as bling in the United States. He wore a gurta (long headdress) and white sandals, drove a 2007 white Nissan Patrol and played ’80s pop music on the radio. A small bottle of cologne sat in the driver’s-side door pocket, yellow prayer beads hung from the grab bar, and A-B-D-U-L was spelled out in silver bubble-letter stickers below the dash.
“You happy?” Abdul glanced back at me in the rearview mirror after we went over a series of steep dunes and my stomach was somewhere between my shoulders. Yes, I assured him, I’m happy.
The desert safari, also called dune-bashing, is the most popular tourist attraction in the state of Qatar, a peninsula the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island that borders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and juts into the Persian Gulf. It’s not a safari in the typical sense of the word (although one can see the occasional fox or camel), but it’s the best way to see the natural side of a country that is, essentially, one big desert.

Photo: Melanie D.G. Kaplan
Abdul driving in Doha
When I first arrived in Doha, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’d heard all sorts of remarkable statements: that 30 years ago, Bedouin tents filled this now construction-laden city; that Qatari women spend $3,000 a week on cosmetics; that one-quarter of the world’s cranes are at work in Doha; that the country earns $50 million a day from ExxonMobil alone. Hearsay, no doubt, but the more time I spent in the capital city, the less unfathomable the comments seemed.
For sure, Qatar has pockets deeper than most Americans can imagine, thanks to its huge reserves of natural gas. This little Islamic state, just 36 years old, is ruled by an emir and has a per-capita income of nearly $62,000, one of the highest in the world. It’s also one of the fastest-growing economies in the Middle East. Cranes hover over Doha like praying mantises, and buildings rise at an amazing rate. The Doha Olympic Games Committee announced in September its bid for the 2016 Games, and the first phase of the $5.5 billion New Doha International Airport (www.ndiaproject.com), which will be managed and operated by Qatar Airways, will open in 2009. The airline, half owned by the government, last year unveiled its $90 million premium terminal at the existing airport—complete with spa, martini bar and 24-hour medical clinic.
But although Doha is on a building spree, it categorically does not want to be the next Dubai, the U.A.E. city of superlatives known for, among other things, having one of the world’s largest indoor ski resorts and building Burj Dubai, set to be the world’s tallest manmade structure on its completion next year. Instead, Doha sets itself apart from its Middle Eastern neighbors by investing heavily in education, science, sports and art, and hoping that when the construction is complete, tourists will come. Hummers are Hip
“If you ask me, things are changing very quickly,” Abdul said as we sped along a flat stretch of desert. “You go to sleep, you get up, there’s a new building.” Abdul said he makes this trip to Khor Al Udaid every day, and I doubt he does it for the money. He seems happiest once he’s left the paved road, deflated the tires and entered a land of never-ending brown-sugar-colored dunes. We drove in a caravan of four vehicles—filled with tourists from Japan, Spain and Ireland—and tore across the sand. Local outfitters, including Gulf Adventures (Jaidah Tower, 8th Floor; +974/431-5555; www.gulf-adventures.com) and Arabian Adventures (+974/436-1461; www.arabianadventureqatar.com) offer half-day, full-day and overnight tours to the desert in four-wheel-drive vehicles. (The SUVs are the latest models, of course, but different than what you’d see on the street. I learned that in town, the Hummer H3 is the SUV du jour—replacing the recent fave, the Porsche Cayenne. And that H3 may be cheaper to drive here than anywhere in the world: Gas in Doha is about 83 cents a gallon, one-third the price of bottled water.) Abdul, who works for Gulf Adventures, says the tour operators must be licensed and never trek out to the dunes alone, in case one of the SUVs needs to be rescued from a giant sand dune. But the desert is wide open for thrill-seekers who want to venture in by their lonesome. “Here, nobody asks for license,” he said. But, he added, it’s risky to drive solo: “If you make your car like this”—he flipped his wrist around so his fingers faced up like a dead bug—“it’s your problem.”

Photo: J.C. Short
A caravan on desert safari in Khor Al Udaid.
Abdul talked with admiration about change in Doha and the emir’s master plan for development. There is a lot of buzz about Education City (+974/492-7000; www.qf.edu.qa), a new 2,500-acre campus in Doha where Cornell Medical School, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University and Texas A&M are already teaching Qatari and other Middle Eastern students. Out of a Qatari population of 907,200, foreigners comprise a significant chunk of the work force, which makes the population wonderfully diverse. I met a Kenyan spa director, a Sri Lankan driver, an Egyptian concierge, a Canadian public relations associate, a South African technology consultant, a British masseuse and an American emergency medicine specialist, who told me he’s earning six times what he did in the States.
Beyond the Gulf
Being a visitor in Doha is surprisingly easy. English is universal, and the exchange rate of the currency, the Qatari riyal, is fixed to the U.S. dollar at QR3.64 per dollar. The sun shines year-round, and winter months bring weather in the 70s and 80s. (In July and August, the mercury can hit 120 degrees with 87 percent humidity.) Service is impeccable. But Qatar is still in its infancy when it comes to tourism. You won’t find a historic district or cultural center as you might in European capitals, because development and modern business have trumped all, often at the expense of older structures.
But make an effort to meet Qataris, and you’ll find the heart and soul of this city. Begin at the souks, the traditional markets in narrow alleys where you can bargain for anything from spices and shawls to water pipes and swords. The largest and most popular is Souk Waqif (off Grand Hammad Street), but the gold souk, the fruit and vegetable souk and the camel souk (where locals buy camels for wedding ceremonies or for meat) are also worth a visit.

Photo: Melanie D.G. Kaplan
View from the Four Seasons Hotel.
The Corniche, a 4-mile-long promenade along the Persian Gulf (known in Qatar as the Arabian Gulf), is a popular stretch for walking and seeing dhows (wooden boats traditionally used for fishing and pearling and today used for day trips and evening cruises). The warm Gulf is ideal for all kinds of water sports: fishing, diving, water skiing and sailing. Both Gulf Adventures and Arabian Adventures, in addition to offering desert safaris and water excursions, have good tours of the city (which usually include the Corniche and the markets, among other attractions) and trips to the camel race track and oryx farm. Prices range from about QR75–QR300 ($20 to $80).
The city’s one golf course, Doha Golf Club (West Bay; +974/483-2338; www.dohagolfclub.com), is home to the Qatar Masters in January and is open to the public. Spectator sports include horse and camel racing, motor sports and soccer games. Al Jazeera, the government–owned television network, is headquartered in Doha, and visitors can set up private tours of both the Arabic and English stations, with their impressive state-of-the-art studios and robotic cameras. For tours, email press.int@aljazeera.net for the English channel or imr@aljazeera.net for the Arabic channel. Finally, the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Arts (+974/485-9888), which will house one of the world’s best collections of Islamic art and textiles, is situated on an artificial island off the coast of Doha and is scheduled to open in March 2008.
If you want to get out of the city, pack a picnic basket with goodies from the souk and have your driver take you up the coast about 50 kilometers to Al-Khor. The coastal town used to be known for its pearl fishing, but today, it’s popular with Qataris as a peaceful respite from Doha. The harbor is dotted with fishing boats, and the beach is perfect for relaxing or walking. When you’ve had your fill, stop by the local souks.

Photo: Melanie D.G. Kaplan
Greeting one of the regulars at the camel souk.
If you have time for another short day trip, head up to Umm Tais National Park (www.doha-2006.com), the state’s first, established partially as a legacy of the Asian Games (hosted in Doha in 2006) and to help offset the environmental impact caused by the event. The park, about an hour from Doha, is an uninhabited island on the northern coast of Qatar; visitors can see mangrove forests and wildlife, including flamingos, lizards, crabs, birds and nesting turtles. If you go, stay ’til dark—locals say it’s worth the trip to Umm Tais just to see the magnificent sunsets over the park.
An Eternal Desert
At some point during our ride, “We Are the World” came on the radio. Soon we stopped, and Abdul pointed out where we were on his GPS, on the bottom tip of Qatar. Then he pointed to the mountains in the distance, across the Saudi border. We continued our drive and eventually saw the giant Inland Sea, so blue and unexpected it could have been a mirage. The glowing sun was setting behind the dunes, so we headed back to the paved road, inflated our tires and drove north to Doha.
GETTING THERE Daily nonstop flights to Doha, Qatar, are available on Qatar Airways from Washington Dulles International Airport.
On the ride back, I fell asleep—the heat of the desert and trudging through the sand had exhausted me. I awoke as we drove along the Corniche, past Doha’s ever-changing skyline. I wondered how much it would be altered in the next year or five years, and I felt grateful that some things—like the vast, magical desert and the sparkling Persian Gulf—would never change. And I hoped there would always be spirited Qataris like Abdul who love to show off their country.
I was still groggy as we pulled up to the hotel. But Abdul was as alert and animated as ever. “OK! We are here,” he said. I got out of the SUV and thanked him. “You happy?” he asked. I smiled and nodded, thinking about my desert trek and the blast of air conditioning that would greet me in the hotel lobby. “Yes,” I said, “I am happy.”
Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Doha (West Bay Lagoon; +974/484-8000; www.ritzcarlton.com) sits on its own island and boasts Bulgari toiletries and a spectacular 2,000-crystal chandelier in its lobby. The Club Lounge on the 23rd floor has floor-to-ceiling windows, making it the perfect spot to watch what look like tiny Tonka trucks zipping around manmade islands, moving sand for new developments. Standard doubles start at QR1800 ($495) through May.
The Ritz-Carlton also manages the new Sharq Village and Spa (Ras Abo Aboud Street; +974/425-6666; www.sharqvillage.com), which has low-rise Arabic villas designed to look like traditional Qatari villages. The rustic Six Senses Spa—the largest in the Middle East—has separate entrances and lounges for women, a prayer room, meditation room and a signature treatment that includes a four-handed massage. The royal villa, called Beit Al Shoukh, can be reserved for just under $28,000 per night and includes an airport pick-up in a Rolls Royce, five butlers, a chef and a driver upon request. (Rumor has it that Saudi royalty reserved the villa before construction was finished.) Standard doubles start at QR1800 ($495).
Four Seasons Hotel Doha (The Corniche; +974/494-8888; www.fourseasons.com/doha) is located on the bay and has its own marina, beach and several outdoor pools. The Spa and Wellness Center has a private spa suite for two, a hydrotherapy lounge and a therapeutic ice chamber in the locker room. Standard doubles are QR1300–1600 ($357–$440), including breakfast, through April.
The W Doha Hotel and Residences (with a Bliss Spa), the Hilton Doha, the Renaissance Doha and the Courtyard by Marriott Doha will all open next year, followed by the Four Pointe by Sheraton Doha in 2009 and the St. Regis Doha Hotel in 2010. Don’t bother looking for hostels or budget lodging in this city, but low-season discounts (usually June through October) can be significant.

Eating, Drinking and Hubbly-bubbly
On their days off, Qataris eat a three-hour lunch, followed by a three-hour dinner. Food consumption in Qatar is a serious social activity. A local explained that if you go to a Qatari’s home, he will present a table overflowing with food—the best and the most he can offer. Restaurants follow suit.
Try lunch at Al Liwan (Ras Abo Aboud Street; +974/425-6666; www.sharqvillage.com) at the new Sharq Village, already a popular destination for locals. Weigh down a plate from a spectacular spread of Qatari and Lebanese dishes like hummus, tabouli, baba ghanoush, grilled vegetables and manakish (small breads filled with cheese or meat), and still have a spread of meat, fish (hamour is the local cod) and stews to tackle, followed by desserts and tea.
The top hotel restaurants are excellent, like Il Teatro (The Corniche; +974/494-8888; www.fourseasons.com/doha) for Italian at the Four Seasons, or La Mer (West Bay Lagoon; +974/484-8000; www.ritzcarlton.com) for French at the Ritz-Carlton. You can order beer and wine at hotels, unlike at the local joints, but that’s no reason not to venture out of your inn. Turkey Central (New Al-Nassr—Al Merqab Street; +974/443-2927) is located in a long strip center, and the entire bustling downstairs is devoted to takeout (BMWs and Land Rovers line up, blocking the street, waiting to pick up their barbecue chicken shish tawouq, kebabs and lamb pie). The second floor feels like a cafeteria with its fluorescent lighting, but the food is delicious, as are the fresh juices. Two can eat like royalty for under QR50 ($13.70).
For more ambiance, try Assaha Lebanese Village (Grand Hamad Street; +974/435-5353), which is decorated to look like a traditional village with clotheslines, stone masonry and old sewing tables serving as dinner tables. The menu is huge, and you can’t go wrong with chicken shawarma, followed by puffing on an apple-flavored shisha (a water pipe, also called “hubbly-bubbly”).

Getting Around
Traffic accidents are common in Doha. SUVs speed around ubiquitous roundabouts, taxis weave, and it’s not unusual to see impatient drivers climb curbs to circumvent obstacles. But being a passenger isn’t nearly as scary as being a pedestrian. Be forewarned: Doha is not a walking city, nor is it one for the tentative driver.
Taxis are inexpensive, but not always easy to find. While hiring a driver may seem excessive for those coming from the United States, it is customary in Qatar for residents and visitors alike. They will stop anywhere (ideal if you want to tour the city and stop at a museum, a market, a restaurant and a coffee shop). You can hire drivers for about QR60 ($16.50) an hour, and it will save you a lot of time and frustration trying to hail a taxi. Doha International Airport is located east of downtown, five to 20 minutes from the major hotels.
Keep in mind that the work week in Qatar runs from Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday make up the weekend, and on Friday—the holy day for Muslims—most businesses are closed.
Shutterbugs, beware: Qatar is serious about limiting photographs. In general, don’t take pictures of the airport, security officers or women in traditional dress. Keep an eye out for “no photography” signs, and when in doubt, ask permission first.
Also remember: When in a Muslim country, keep the public displays of affection at bay; if you use your fingers to eat, do so only with your right hand; and avoid showing the soles of your feet.
Finally, cover up. While Qatar is known to be more accepting of Western dress than other Muslim countries, visitors should still err on the side of conservative attire. Women should cover their shoulders and knees. It’s OK to bust out the bikini on the beach, but on your way to and from the surf, cover up that itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The end of Eid...

So, Eid finally ends today. Everyone can go back to work and maybe we can get some things accomplished...(yeah right...it’s the middle east!) Anyway, I do have a couple observations for you.

First of all, one of our nurses, always finds this one place to park near the hospital. It is always open and it is not marked or anything. So, she parks in it every day. This week she went to her car after work and there was a note under the windshield wiper. In really bad English "You must move car. This Emir parking spot, big trouble" So, the reason no one parks in the spot is apparently it belongs to the Emir. That is assuming he ever comes to the hospital...which I have never heard him come here, plus if he gets sick I think he goes to London or the US.

Anyway, so one of the Department Heads I work with asked me out for coffee the other day. I was doing nothing in the evening, so I joined him. I thought it was just for coffee, because I made a beef stew and it was in the crock pot. (I ate on that baby for like 5 days…mmm) Anyway, when I met up with him he was wearing normal clothes. Pants, button down shirt, etc. He introduced me to his 5 kids the youngest daughter (like 4-5) he made her give me a kiss on the cheek. Anyway, his wife was in a full Abaya, Hijab, and Nicab (Full black outfit, with head covered and face covered…only the eyes were showing) She stood off to the side and did not speak to me…he also did not introduce her. That was wild. Actually during the entire dinner, he only told a story of the wedding and the process. He never actually said his wife’s name. We went upstairs for what I thought was coffee, but he ordered steak and spaghetti and made me order food as well. So I ordered and appetizer because I had food at home. About halfway through his meal, he started cutting pieces of steak and portions of spaghetti and putting them on my plate. Saying I needed to eat (kind of like that grandmother we all have had…never think you get enough food)…I had to tell him that I had to meet one of my co-workers for dinner later so he would stop trying to feed me. Anyway, I was OK with all of this and I thought we were done…nope. We sat and talked a while longer. Then he said it was time for coffee…so we ordered coffee and sat there and finished it. As we were getting ready to leave, he gave me a bag that had sweets and dates in it he brought from home. It was a gift for me. We went and found his family who were eating McD’s (still baffles me that mom takes the kid and he went with me) and I talked with the kids a couple of minutes. I told them all goodbye and they either shook my hands or gave me a hug. His wife did say ‘Have a good night” before I left and I returned the salutation. Mansour walked me to my car where he shook my hand and let me go. It turned out that I thought I might be gone an hour more or less, but I was out for about 3 hours. Needless to say, dinner was nice and hot when I got home….

So, some of you saw the news article that I sent out about the missile that was accidently shot from the American base and landed without incident at a farm in Qatar. I know, isn’t that amazing…A FARM IN QATAR? Who would have thought?
Anyway, there was some speculation about the time of launch. There were conflicting reports and we finally got to the bottom of it. However, our initial reports and timings led us to believe that the US was shooting at the new EMS helicopter. The helicopter was down near the US base when it was supposedly fired, however that was not the case. It was actually fired earlier in the night. Reason #347 I am not getting on that chopper.
Oh, and in related story, those that know me really well will love this. So they have been flying this chopper now for weeks doing training and it flies everyday from the airport to the helipad at the hospital. So the mechanic came to drop off some pictures and being the good mechanic he was decided to check a few things on the bird before leaving. As he opened the engine cowling there was a swarm of bees inside that would rival most honey producers. They were not aggressive, but they were there. So they decided to start up the chopper and get them to go away. They started the bird and ran it at full power for about 3 minutes. The bees swarmed off and were buzzing in a swam a few hundred feet away. As soon as the chopper turned off…they came right back and moved in. They could do nothing to get them away, I guess the queen was comfy in her spot. So they had to fly the thing back to the airport (which the bees followed) and they had to spray them with engine cleaner to slow them down. They then had to vacuum them all up to get rid of them…how crazy is that? I should have pictures tomorrow.

So yesterday I was shopping for the family…since they are coming I figured they should have a bed and stuff…plus I have allocated money left over I have to use. I stopped at Starbucks because I got a coupon for a free drink at the hospital. I sat down at one of the big comfy chairs that had another one right across from it. The place was just about empty…just me and another table or 2. However, this Qatari came and sat down right with me then asked if it was OK. I don’t mind…it was just unique how they will do, say, and get whatever they want. So, he sat across from me and talked on his cell phone and I just sat and looked out the window. Ahh…the Arab culture.

It was also wild to see true nannies in action. This couple had 2-3 kids and were sitting near me at the mall. (I ate dinner there…it was late and I didn’t want to have to cook) This family had 2 Filipino Nannies. The mom and dad sat down and the kids ran around. The 2 nannies went and got everyone’s food. They brought it back and mom and dad ate. They didn’t even attempt to help deal with the kids. The nannies fed the kids and tended to all of their needs. As soon as dinner was over, the mom and dad picked the kids up and started walking down the mall. The nannies had little if any time to eat…they cleaned up after the family. Got all of their bags. Then tried to catch up…it was amazing to see how disconnected and dependent these families are on hired help.

I have some more… but I am tired of typing…plus IT’S GAMEDAY! Enjoy!

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet, Simple, Freebird can you Gimmie 3 Steps?

So, this is a little off the mark for my normal postings, but since I have such a wide and varied audience I thought I would this would be fitting for today. This topic is very near and dear to my heart....read on....

Back in 1964, 4 guys started a band that would come to be known as Lynyrd Skynyrd. They named it after their high school gym teacher whom they all did not get along with. After finally getting a record deal in the Early 70's this group came to produce some of the greatest anthems in Rock and Roll. They were one of the pioneers of Southern Rock, a term that did not exist when these guys started playing together. Lynyrd Skynyrd made such an impact on the musical world that is still going strong today. They used a unique configuration of 3 lead guitars, a bassist, drums, and a piano; definitely not typical rock and roll set up.

The band that started Southern Rock was tore apart 30 years ago today. On October 20,1977 at 6:42 PM a chartered plane they were on ran out of fuel and crashed into the Mississippi swamp just outside of Gillsburg. 4 Members of the band perished in that crash: Lead vocals Ronnie Van Zant, Guitarist Steve Gaines, Back Up Singer Cassie Gaines, and their Assistant Road Manager Dean Kilpatrick, along with the 2 pilots. This started a difficult time that saw the band try to get back together and break apart numerous times, trying to carry on the legacy. Untimely deaths by Alan Collins and Leon Wilkerson did not help as well as personal issues by Ed King and Artimus Pile.

The band carries on today in a little modified fashion. The lead vocals are taken care of by brother Donnie Van Zant, the 2 remaining original members Billy Powell and Gary Rossington try to keep the music playing. The music now has a southern flavor, but is nothing like the original. Skynyrd has sold over 23 million records (according to RIAA 2004) and was a 2006 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

So, take a moment or two today and get out that old CD or LP and think about one of the greatest bands of all time. How fitting "Simple Man" and "Freebird" can fit into your everyday life, even in this hectic world.

I think Ronnie and the others would be happy to know that 30 years after they sang "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?" they are still in the minds and hearts of many.