Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Teacher in the Desert

A Teacher in the Desert
              "You're so brave!" I heard that phrase over and over when I told people that I had decided to give up teaching in Pennsylvania and accept a teaching job in Qatar. You're so brave! The decision to move to a Muslim country was not a decision I made lightly. I had grown up hearing the same prejudices against Muslims that other Americans grew up with. But, I reasoned they can't all be terrorists. After all, we Americans are not all Timothy McVeighs, nor do we all fit the stereotypes that citizens of other countries have of Americans. I did my research, checking out what it would be like to live in Qatar. I even tracked down people who had actually lived there. The result to my every inquiry was a positive one, so I packed my bags, sold my house, stored my belongings, and boarded a plane for Doha. 
            At the end of August, I deplaned in Doha, Qatar's capital and its only real city. As I stepped down the ramp from the plane, I learned what "hot weather" really means. I felt like a piece of meat tossed into a boiling stew. The temperature can climb to 122 F during the summers in Qatar.  In practical terms what this means is: I could leave an unfinished cup of coffee in my car in the morning before school and return at the close of school to find it still hot; when I left my car sitting in the school parking lot (or any other parking lot) for more than a few minutes, I needed oven mitts to hold onto the steering wheel when I got back in; when I wore metal earrings I had to be careful not to turn my head when I first got in the car -- the earrings heated up so fast, they'd burn the sides of my neck if I turned my head so that they touched my skin; and the seatbelt! Well, try to imagine how hot the metal fastener on a seat belt can be when heated to 122 F!
     An employee of the school where I was to work met me at the airport. He had a sign with my name on it. He took me to my new apartment which was quite cold! I was to learn very quickly that the interiors of buildings in Qatar feel more like the North Pole than the frying pan desert.
NEXT: SMALL MATTERS OF ETIQUETTE (In other words, what I could and couldn't do in a Muslim Country) 

Yes, there are camels all over the Middle East.
They become road pests just like deer do here.
The camel races in Qatar were a hoot. Eventually,
I will describe them in this blog.


  1. My wife taught with Judy in Qatar and I taught at a sister school there. We got the same comment about being "brave" for going to the Middle East to work but we did not feel that way at all. Except for one short period of time we felt safer in Doha than we would have felt in any major city in North America. The life-style in Qatar was as comfortable, if not more comfortable than what we experienced in Canada; the people were very protective of us and always tried to make us feel at ease. I think the closest thing to danger was caused by the heat! The best thing about Qatar and Dubai, where we now live are phenomenal places to travel from!

  2. It is certainly true that Qatar and Dubai are great places to travel from. Europe, Africa, and Asia are all easily accessed from the Arabian Peninsula. That's one of the things that attracted me.