31 March, 2008

My Good Name

When I returned my rental car at Doha International Airport this morning, the gentleman at the car rental agency asked me for my good name. It took me a good five seconds to realize that I am talking to a south Asian and that by requesting my "good name," he is simply asking for my first name.

I got in to Doha International Airport at 19:20hr last night. Processing through immigration was a snap. I paid my QR 100 (roughly USD $27) and quickly proceeded to the city with a rental car. People I encountered were kind and helpful. My occasional use of "salaam alaykum" got me plenty of good will and lots of smiles from the locals. I checked into the Doha Ritz Carlton (gratis with points from my credit card. Woohoo!) and had an uneventful walkabout at the City Centre Shopping Mall. I checked my email when I got back to my room and watched Good Will Hunting on the tube until I passed out at 01:00hr Doha time.

One may ask why would an American in Qatar spend his only night at a mall? First, I wanted to get a carry-on luggage with wheels. So I went in search of dinner and my bag. I found a rather likable luggage and also ate a chicken whopper at the City Centre Carrefour. It was a bad meal, but mission accomplished. Further, unless I have the time to visit the desert, it seems that shopping is what the locals do for fun here. So when in Rome . . .

But back to my impression of Doha. I feel like I am in an Arabian version of Las Vegas (sans alcohol to facilitate business and fun). Doha is lined with newly-paved and broad boulevards; the new skyscrapers are fantastic!. As a big fan of modern architecture, I'm highly impressed.

But the city is about more than the buildings. Although I see Qataris with elegant and flowing white robes and keffiyehs walking and driving their SUVs about, I see more Asian service workers and North American and European business travelers.

I'm not sure what the future holds for these migrant workers. While they volunteered to be here for work, it seems regretful that they are not a part of the Gulf region's identity. Their status reminds me of the Turks in Germany; they're there but there's no there there. But who knows, maybe they don't want to stay and prefer to make a quick buck before returning to India, Pakistan, the Philipines, or China. But it is indeed quite a contrast. While Doha depends on these imported workers to function properly, it was striking to see the legions of migrant workers herded onto buses like cattle - their faces hardened by days of hard labor under the hot Gulf sun.

I don't mean to sound so down. I just typically get reflective and melancholic as I approach the end of a good trip. A good friend once commented that I get melancholic when I am drunk. So perhaps I'm intoxicated from the pleasures of traveling.

Tomorrow is back to Washington, work, and studies. But I remind myself to be upbeat. After all, I just booked my air travels for my plan to move to Buenos Aires in January. I am very excited about the Argentine plan L. and I hatched in Aqaba!

29 March, 2008

The seven-pillared worthy house

As my the post in my serious blog stated, I've been traveling in Jordan visiting L. We had a amazing time at our short stay at Wadi Rum. While it was great fun climbing and scrambling up rocks, and rolling down sand dunes with L., the highlight must be our time with the Bedouins. It was an incredible cultural experience to be invited for tea at their home. Our time at the Rum was that much more special because our guide M.'s nephew married an American girl from the Seattle area. Listening to tales of their lives in the desert and N.'s ordeal in marrying a Bedouin was amazing. M. and his nephew showered us with tea and N. showed us a DVD of her wedding. I cannot say that I agree with all their customs. But our Bedouin friends broke into the biggest smiles at the drop of the hat and were the best host one can ask for. I was overjoyed that they invited me and L. into their home and permitted us to enjoy their land if it were my own. I will treasure this experience and hope to come back in the near future.

I'm also happy that M. gave me a nickname. He called me something like "avrit." He said it's something like a jeanie (you know, out of the bottle) because he saw me scrambling up rocks on all fours. I'll have to earn my reputation next time I return.

I love you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands

and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To gain you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house,
that your eyes might be shining for me
When I came.

T.E. Lawrence on Wadi Rum

04 March, 2008

Thoughts about Missouri

She's been a lot of things over the last ten years. Missouri has been, most of all, a sweet little girl - a joy in my life. She's loyal, goofy, clean, hates poop and going to the bathroom, dependable, greedy , best beggar, funny little face, pillow hog, whiny girl, chick magnet, puppy who loves to cuddle, always kicks or headbutts you in the face if you try to hug or kiss her, fishy breath, happy little girl, rocket dog, bright sunshine at the end of the day, smiley girl, mousy dog, little prairie dog standing on her hind legs to beg for food, anti-big dogs, anti-any dogs, scaredy cat, loud mouth, growl and wag her tail at other dogs at the same time, kissy girl, and so much more. I miss her so much.

02 March, 2008

Missouri passed away this morning. Much in her usual fashion, she did not trouble anyone. She was happy and bounding down the hallway one second, and quietly expired the next. Missouri was a cheerful, considerate, and loyal little girl. She went without suffering and she is in a better place right now. I'm so numb at this moment I'm at a loss for words.