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.