Friday, May 3, 2013

Ring Day

Senior rings were awarded recently, and it was especially fun to see some of my current students receive theirs.  I'm so thankful for the diversity that this campus brings to our university, and I'm honored when I get to meet a family member (I got to meet several this day).  I'm only beginning to understand the pressures and expectations these particular students face, and I'm proud of them.  I'll attend my first commencement in a week, and some very special students are graduating.  It will be a joyful and sad night.  They'll go on to great things, but I'm so sad to see them go.  Being part of such a small campus means that these relationships are much closer than they are with 50,000 undergrads.

Trip to Souq Waqif, Late April 2013

I'm constantly amazed at how things here remind me of things in the Tex/Mex world.  That little donkey could easily be in the Mercado in San Antonio, Texas.

Mmmm...crepes for dinner...Three years ago, these were exotic.  Now they are an anticipated and required treat.

The baby macaws.  This pair was hilarious.  There were a bunch of them around.  In fact, some were free-flying from other shops over to see these who had been put out for fresh air more recently.  And they were all yelling that trademark macaw sound, "brrrrrrrock!"  So when the one in front here would yell, he would sort of lift his wings just a little, with the force of the noise-making effort.  And that would bump the guy behind him, who was trying to take a nap.  And when the guy behind got bumped, he go "brrrrrrrock!" too.  This went on for many repetitions (from bird screams, opens wings an inch, bumps back bird, who opens eyes and screams then closes eyes again).

The African Grey babies.  The pet souq here is a source of great frustration and mixed emotions.  Historically, the animals have been in terrible conditions. Now, I would say it's a mixed bag.  These birds were well cared for (fresh food, fresh water, a guy who cared about them and was doing some hand-feeding), but the cats and kittens around the corner were in horrible shape.  A lot depends on the individual pet owner and shop manager. In general, the pet souq still needs better regulation or guidelines.

John wants a Military Macaw (the green one), but those beaks scare me and we don't have any business with another chicken.

RPH: Watch for Pedestrians

Trip to Chilis



Raptor Typing

We were at the dentist.

We had already paid, and I was trying to enter the 6-month appointment date into my smart phone. I am 42 years old. I have reached the age where some new tricks are just not worth learning.  Put most of the smart phone tricks into that category.

The counter is one of those that is chest high, so my phone was in an awkward position.  I type on the touch screen with two fingers because when I try to use my thumbs, I always end of hitting the wrong letters and then that damned autocorrect goes wacko.  The other day, this led to a text message that said "A rhino is hairless and grumpy."  This is not what I meant to say.

So I'm standing there with all three kids (and Hannah is almost always talking, bless her heart) trying to enter the damned dates into my phone by doing the touch screen thing with each of my index fingers.  At which point, Hank launches into hysterical laughter, exclaiming that I look like a t-rex typing with little tiny arms (my arms are at an odd angle due to the counter).

That was a month ago, but now it has turned into a daily mention of "Mama's raptor typing," accompanied by crazed two-fingered punching motions as the elbows are glued to the front of the torso (simulating very short arms).

This is me trying to study while Hannah swims. This is what life comes to.  Have you ever had a cat come stare at you intently until you feed it?

 This is raptor typing over a bowl of noodles.  I wish you could hear the sounds he's making.

And so in honor of this smart assiness, this is what I've bought the big boy for his birthday.  I'm going to set it up in the dark, so he doesn't know it's there:

It's 70 inches tall. 
And I'm going to tape a cell phone in its hand.

The Childrens. They Grows.

This is two of the people, almost two years ago on the Greek island of Santorini (oh em gee...unbelievable gorgeousness!), posing with the tiny olive tree they bought.  The tree was named "Finona" (a girl tree, apparently) and smuggled back to Doha in a backpack. This was no small feat, as it required living through the rest of a cruise (perched in the tiny, round window), time in Athens, planes, trains, and automobiles, airline security in Athens and in Istanbul, and being trapped in a backpack for a very long time.

And this is Finona today.

Of course, young Master Hank is also the exact same height as his father.  
Trees and childrens.  They grows.

The Princess and Her Pony

Well, until recently, two of my three children did not know how to ride a bicycle.  Jack had to learn two years ago for a school trip.  They didn't learn when they were younger because our house was on a street where the speed limit (the sign was in our front yard) was cut down to 30 mph coming out of a stretch of 50 mph.  Except most idiots thought they should be going 60-70.  Do you have any idea how hard it was for me not to stand in my front yard screaming obscenities and throwing bricks at these speeders?  And it wasn't just idiot high school kids.  It was idiots of all ages.

So Jack learned to ride in about 38.2 seconds.  He wanted to do it, had good balance skills from other stuff, and so just got on the bike, wobbled once, and took off.  When some friends moved back to the states, we were lucky to get one of their little kids' bicycles and a set of training wheels.  So Hannah had gotten used to those.  Then John moved them to an angle, so when she was riding properly, they wouldn't touch the ground (and they made a horrible scraping noise, so you could tell when she wasn't properly upright).

So on 5 April 2013, the training wheels came off.  And this is what it looked like:

Prepped with helmet, elbow guards, and very strange multi-colored outfit.

This is, literally, the very first try.  



She did have one fall, about 15 minutes later, all the way at the other end of the street.  She shed a tear, but had no serious injuries and picked herself up and came roaring back down the street.  Sweet success.

Now...who's that other child that has never riden a bicycle....?

Oh Em Gee: The Daddy-Daughter Dance of 2013

Hannah has thoroughly enjoyed Daisy Scouts this year.  Our leaders and group are outstanding, and after a number of years helping with Cub Scouts, I can say that with sincerity.  So this weekend is the Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter Dance, which we have been awaiting with great anticipation.  The Correspondent just return from two weeks of a business trip back on the other side of the world, and he was an amazing sport to come home last night and be ready for the dance this weekend.

Part of the problem, however, is that even almost three years later, I cannot keep the days of the week straight.  In my head, I now call the first day of the work week "SunMonday." It's really Sunday but it's pretending to be Monday.  Well, I originally had the DDD marked on my calendar as FriSaturday, but then something late last week confused me, and I moved it to SatSunday (that's tomorrow).

So the day went something like this...recovery from late evening aeropuerto pickup, traffic, dinner...then grocery trip...then to the florist to order the special surprise I had planned for the Daddy and the Daughter...then home with some sushi, which was lunch...then it was supposed to be beverages at the pool as The Correspondent felt the effects of jetlag (which really kick in around 3 PM).  At 3:15, we were meandering over to sit and stare at nothingness with our Tervis tumblers.

We get to the pool, and another most excellent Dad is there and says to us, seeing that we're just arriving, "Aren't you going to the dance tonight?"  This sets of a frantic re-checking of emails, which leads me to realize my FriSaturday mistake.  So now we have roughly 1.5 hours to get the royal couple ready.  The first thing I do is call the florist and plead: "I am so sorry--I had said I would get it tomorrow at 2 PM, but actually I need it today!"  In response, "what time Ma'am?"  Me: "in 30 minutes."  And this is literally what the guy said back "Oh! Em! Gee! We will start right now!"  If nothing else, having a Filipino florist yell "Oh! Em! Gee!" at me over the phone was full of awesome.

The Correspondent, bless him for his patience at my scheduling ineptness, went to work prepping himself for his tux.  I got the girlchild through the shower/hair wash, painted her nails (all 20), put a little bit of powder, mascara, and lip stain on her, and left her sitting in her bed with her hair drying as I ran back to the florist (having pulled a pair of oversized chinos over my skirted swimsuit.  Awwwwkward).

This week, I have been trying to behave myself in traffic.  No cutting anyone off.  No yelling obscenities in multiple languages.  Letting people go in front of me (as long as they have their blinkers on...that's the least you can do, really people). Well, all that traffic karma paid off, as I got from my house to Carrefour and back to my house in 22 minutes.  That must be some sort of record.  I also gave the Oh Em Gee guy a big fat tip for dropping everything else in order to prepare my order.

Back in time for the hair dryer, a little curling of the ends and trimming of the bangs ("fringe" for the Brits), and then the stepping into the dress.  Off they went, leaving about 20 minutes late, which means arriving 30 minutes late due to traffic, which counts as perfectly on time in the Arab world.

The boutonniere and the fresh-flowered headband were my gifts to the royal couple.  Of course the two flowered items don't match. One is purple and the other is pink.  But they were prepared in 25 minutes by a really sweet florist guy, who had to drop everything else because of my date mix up.  
Oh Em Gee.  
This is Doha. 

She was over the moon about this makeup.  Let's hope she never resorts to the awful blue eyeliner and caked on eye shadow that someone wanted to wear circa 1984. I blame Duran Duran.

In her chariot, off to the dance.

Somehow, I'm still wearing my chinos over my bathing suit...sigh...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Extra Durable and Shining

This morning Your Correspondent, along with the Middle Boy, went on a desert ride on his new "Hero Jet Gold Extra Durable and Shining" bicycle (Middle Boy on his new "Titanic Fashion Bike").  We stopped off for a few minutes to watch some guys play cricket in the sand (It's Friday, and most of the workers get their only day off today).  It was very enjoyable, especially being out and about with the boy, and felt relaxed and natural.

Until I realized we were discussing cricket tactics watching Indian guys play the game in the desert of the Arabian peninsula.

We're a long way from Texas.  And now we've been here awhile.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Walk to the Castle

We can't leave this place without going on a walk to the castle ruins...

Down the lane.  Thankfully less muddy yet muddy none the less.

Through the woods. Some of them look exactly like the dark forest in the Harry Potter movies.

Over the burn bridge, this time on foot noting how the boards  look questionable.
Reminding self to drive over them  quickly. No pausing to hear a crack.

Rock walls in the barn yard covered in life.

Across the paved road and towards the castle/loch.

Up to the fortress...carefully.

The heathens have breached the gate!

Proof that he does, indeed, come outside every once in a while.

Inside the ruins, evidence of how the structure was built, including supports and grooves for floor structures.

Nature trumps manly pursuits.

Built in 1240...almost 800 years ago...Thinking about the souls that have stood looking out this window.

View from the ruins out at Loch Awe.
On this trip, we laughed at how many pictures we took of "nature" and how few we took of the towns and the people.  I guess our normal life involves an overload of the latter and so we were obsessed with the former.  There is, in fact, plenty of fascinating "nature" in the desert, but in the city there is less. And we are as guilty as normal about not being explorers in our own backyard.  I loved the trips we took when we first got here, and we need to go back to the Arabian Gulf shore.

Walk Up the Hill

Every window in the cottage had a spectacular view.  At the top of the stairs were two windows that opened like hatches out of the roof, which was good because when it was raining, the window then shielded your head.  I liked to just stand and listen to the absolute silence enhanced only by the often constant breeze.  It was so quiet on this hill that at night my ears would ring very very loudly.  Coming from a place where noise--the roar of traffic, the blowing of the air conditioner, the vocal stylings of the bird--is relentess, this level of ringing silence was heavenly.

So one morning I was standing at the top of the stairs with the window open, listening to the breeze when I witnessed this act of courageous and inspirational accomplishment:

And I figured, if Gilgamesh can climb a hill, then why can't we?

Thanks to the eldest boychild, I had waterproof walking boots.  Especially since one of my two pairs of shoes and two of my three pairs of pants were caked in mud and the washing machine did not work.  So the younger two, Your Correspondent, and I gathered ourselves up and set out to conquer the moors.

One of the cool things about heather is that when it dies, it forms a ground cover of a sort of mesh on top of the sogginess.  So if you step on red clumps of heather, your feet don't sink into the mud. As we left, I wondered which of the smaller two would be the one to either tumble down the hill or fall into the mud...

 So up the hill we went.  Judging from the bottom, the climb to the top looked rather treacherous, especially for us flatlanders. In fact, that fence over to the left was a big help at certain points, to keep my footing or balance.

Growing up around Texas ranches also helped me make sure that I grabbed the fence in between the nice sharp barbs rather than right on top of them.

The kids scrambled up the hill just like kids are expected to do, while the two elders plodded along.  We've been walking some around the compound loop this fall, and I was so proud that we made it to the top here, that as I took the last few steps, I exclaimed loudly, "Well, that was a lot quicker and frankly a lot easier than I expected!"  At which point, Your Correspondent pointed out that, indeed, we had only just scaled the first of about six big hills we had to climb.

That's called a "limited perspective."

As we climbed higher, we came upon several sheep carcases.  Some poor Gilgameshes had not been successful in their epic battles, and I found myself really wondering what was lurking up here in the dark.  [Aunt Julia!  We really contemplated trying to bring you back this sheep skull for your art projects, but then we couldn't really fathom how we might explain that at airport security...leftovers from dinner?]

The top left photo above is of Finchairn Castle ruins.
And you know I cannot resist posting one two more panoramas from this walk:

View from the top of the walk.  Lots more moors to explore.

View from part way up.  The mists!

Walk in the Woods

The ground was like a saturated sponge, and if you stepped in the mud, you might get your shoe pulled off of your foot.  As you can imagine, we don't travel with "wellies" since we live the desert...but here's a wonderful thing about having a growing 14 year old: his feet are bigger than yours.  So when he remembers to bring his "snow boots" (fleece lined rubber lace-ups), you can borrow them from him for a walk in the woods.  Your Correspondent is always prepared and so had appropriate footwear with him.

Thanks to Hank's boots, we had a lovely walk through the woods during a pause in the rain...

Appropriately attired for walking in the country.  

Looking back towards the cottage (just out of the shot to the left).

Lots of rain = litte streams everywhere and very full burns!

Somehow this reminded me of the Texas hill country.

A landscape full of Christmas tree forests.

Fuzzy headed and no make up. Like a bear in the woods.
Double rainbow along the way.  Dude.
And the path led to the Loch.

Back up the hill to the cottage.
Blue sky and blue water to welcome our return.