Notes from IMPAQT Trip to CMU-Qatar

3 odd things I saw

-Lots of women wearing full Abayas at dinner (I expected fewer women to be fully covered for some reason)
-An *amazing* marketplace called the Souqs. I kept on thinking of Chinatown in San Francisco, which has a lot of culturally Chinese buildings and products which are actually bought and used by people of Chinese extraction. It was like that, but with Qatari, or more generally Arab, culture. Very cool.
-The bay. I don’t know the name of it yet, but there is a bay about half the width of the San Francisco Bay and it divides Doha. I felt like I was back home when I looked across it and saw city lights.

3 odd things I heard

-Several of the students we ate dinner with loved Fudruckers and Five Guys (quintessentially American upscale burger places). I think they have some of them here in Doha, or have tasted them while visiting the US.
-We asked the students who were eating with us to order for us and they did so in a mixture of Arabic and English—it was fun trying to follow the breadcrumbs of English to guess what they were ordering for us.
-The servers were all Filipino (said our hosts) but their manager appeared to be of Arab extraction. It was oddly parallel the Bay Area’s racial divides.

3 odd things I thought/felt

-I had an amazing time chatting with the students who were eating dinner with us. Like I presumed, we were more alike than different. I couldn’t help wondering if I was being too extroverted—my automatic response to being tired and trying to adjust to a new environment is to talk a lot, smile a lot, and listen a lot. I kept wondering if I was violating cultural norms.
-I particularly had the above feeling when I had my passport and visa checked upon entry into Qatar. All of the customs officials were young, pretty Qatari women wearing black gauzy (but opaque) Abayas with glittering rhinestones on the trim. I started chatting with my customs officer as if I was at the Greyhound counter in Richmond, VA. I didn’t think until later that I might have made her uncomfortable.
-I would love to buy some of the light, long dresses I saw on sale at the Souqs. They looked both modest and comfortable—something which is hard to achieve in Western fashion.

Food notes:

I love lemon/mint drink (iced blended lemon juice with sweetener and mint). I learned the “Iranian” way to drinking tea from my Qatari hosts. You pour the tea from the glass hour-glass shaped cup into the deep saucer, put a lump (not square, but lump) of sugar on your tongue, and drink the tea over it. For us hot-wimps, it made the tea much easier to eat. Then our hosts teased me for eating so much sugar—they drank their tea in Qatari style, straight from the glass.

Inspirational Quote:

Shakti Gawain – “You create your opportunities by asking for them.”

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