...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the start of the top 10

Here is the start of my top 10 list from the trip to Qatar (in order, but not really in order)

10. Visiting Al-Jazeera - I sure wished we could take more pictures...Al Jazeera was (not surprisingly) setup similar to US news and broadcast rooms, with a main newsroom just behind the main studio. It reminded me a lot of the main studio at WTMJ, in the round and with video boards. The question and answer posed about the Bin Laden tapes was very well worded - the difference between news and propaganda is what makes them air a tape. News only.

9. Qatar Philharmonic - For being a very 'young' group as far as performances go, this was one of the highlights for me during the trip to listen to. I think all of us agreed that a more formal performance space was needed, with tiered seating. But from a musicality standpoint, they performed well and with much emotion.

8. No one runs - This was an item I noticed early on during our visit. I saw no one run the entire time I was there. Everyone walks. Even when they're in a hurry, they walk. Now driving, on the other hand, is a bit nuts. But it was honestly a bit refreshing to understand that there was no need to run about for anything.

7. Flight Experiences - I wasn't very happy about my bags being missed on my first transfer through London, but the experience of flying Club World was one of the best that I've had. Good food, very quiet, and being able to stretch out flat to sleep? For an 18 hour flight experience it was well worth burning the frequent flyer miles. And I got to sit in the cockpit.

6. Learning Space Visits - I was very impressed overall by the variety of learning spaces I was able to visit. I will post several below. Most employ a similar tiered approach that you find in the US, but often at a much steeper angle. I'd be interested to hear how well students are engaged in learning activities when they seem so far away from the instructor.

Final five to come!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday – on my way…and back

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s just something about flying that I really enjoy. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m up in the air heading to a fun destination. Maybe it’s the movies I get to watch while I go. Or…maybe it’s the fact that I’m disconnected from life with no Internet and no real way to communicate for a brief time. No matter what, I enjoy flying. I think it’s also the people I meet along the way that make it so fun too (Hallie, you are one of the best!).

I was fortunate to be able to take part in the Oryx lounge experience on my way out of Doha, which ended up being a pretty nice area to wait for a plane in. Other than the fact that the Internet conked out on me, it wasn’t bad.

The plane ride up and over from Doha to Bahrain and on to London was actually kinda fun – the flight attendants I had on the upper deck were quite the pranksters, and would send drinks up the lift to each other and joke with Bob the Engineer and the crew down below. I even got to do something I didn’t think I’d be able to, after I asked:

I had a nice chat with the captain and first officer too...they were very happy to show me around!

Sian (Char) and Michelle were quite fun – would definitely fly with them again! (and I hope they check out my blog for this picture)

I got some good sleep on the way over, and upon arriving to London headed up to the BA lounge. Now, that lounge experience was even better. Food and drinks on demand, tons of wine and snacks, free Internet, I got a massage, and…I got to take a shower. It's too bad they don't offer these types of services to everyone who flies, because I really think more people would be less cranky after long flights. Would you pay $50 to get access to a lounge after your long flight? I would.

Soon it was time to board, and off to Dallas. I was a movie machine on this flight, watching GI Joe, Time Travelers Wife, and Public Enemies. I even had enough time to work on the computer for a while, thanks to my seat having a power plug. Throw District 9 in there on the way over to Doha, and I think I got my fill of films. The food on this particular flight was good too. I had a Spanish white wine with dinner, which was salmon, salad, and a chicken Marsala type dish that was not too spicy. And I was successful in staying up so as to try to get back on a normal schedule.

After landing in Dallas and going through customs, my bags made it this time and I moved to American Airlines check-in to get them on the plane to SD. After a quick bite to eat, my plane to SD lifted off on time, and I fell asleep. I remember putting my head back, and I was out. I woke up with about 20 minutes left to land, very groggy, and yelling at myself inside about why I did that so my system is off. Anyway, i made it home and will now try to sleep myself back into a normal routine. I hope.

Stay tuned...top 10 from the trip is coming!

PS - just saw the news hit that Osama sent another tape to Al Jazeera. When we were there we asked about that...apparently they vet all the tapes they get from him to see if they are news worthy or just propaganda. Guess this one made it through.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

a quick note...

Just a quick note while I'm stopped over in London - made it here this far without any problem, got some good sleep on the plane and took a quick shower, and soon will be departing for Dallas. I will post some pictures and other notes once I'm back in the States.

I hope my bags make it this time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday evening pre-departure

The day is winding down, and already the sun has begun to set in the west. The day went rather quickly today (of course), one of the few in the last two weeks that I had no other obligation or requirement. I enjoyed being able to sleep in a little, but have now managed to pack up most of my things to get ready to head out.

I didn't figure on getting out and about today due to it being Friday, but mid-afternoon lunch ended up being a trip back to Souq Waqif and what has ended up being one of our favorite eat places across from the Moroccan restaurant. While it was nice to hang out with Steven and Peter for lunch, it was a tad bittersweet not to have Jacqueline, Laura, Christine, or Grace along. Or Sara. Or Christina. Or any of the rest of the USD Team. I hope their flight is going well.

My trek to the airport will be in a bit, through London and Dallas before landing in San Diego. I will be blogging while going and will recap when I land. I will also plan to do a trip recap, or 10 most notable trip points later Sunday into Monday.

After we're all back, our trip is still not complete. We have a final culminating paper to hand in, as well as a planned presentation for our colleagues at USD.

The rest of Dubai Thursday

After meeting up with our taxi's, our first stop was the Burj Khalifa! At a little over 2700 feet, it is now the world's tallest man-made structure ever built. Having been in Chicago during the reign of the Sears Tower, this was special for me to be in the place where the newest tallest building is. We were looking very much forward to seeing it!


We tried to get tickets ahead of time (since they have an educational 'hour' in the mornings), but when we arrived and showed them our email correspondence, they turned us away. Apparently the only way to get tickets right now is to actually show up to the Burj and get them onsite. Paige took the lead and tried to convince them about where were from, and showed our print out, but to no avail. And, as luck would have it, they were sold out until the next day at night.

Thankfully, they have a "rush" ticket you can buy to go up the tower if you don't have a reservation, but you just pay more. Even though it was a tad bit more than any of us really wanted to pay, hey, it's the tallest building. And it's in Dubai. And we're here now. So I guess we better just go up the thing. :) And so we did! Honestly, the pictures pretty much say it all but don't do it justice (it did remind me of being on the Sears Skydeck though):

The elevator trip was fun too...140 floors in one minute. I think they said 40/m per second. And yeah, you could kinda feel yourself moving a little up there. :)

After our experience up, our big group broke into some smaller teams to visit the rest of the city. Some chose a bus tour, but a small group of us decided on a hired cab tour instead, since it seemed cheaper and we could stop along the way whenever we wanted. Khalia offered the suggestion of her driver from the morning ride, and so after a quick phone call we had our ride. We grabbed a quick Fatburger lunch, and off we went with our cab driver Malik to see Dubai.

Dubai reminded me a lot of some of the larger US cities I've been to. While the buildings here are very large and seem to be everywhere, Dubai as a whole feels very western. Large major highways, traffic, everyone in a rush...a bit of a contrast from the time that we've spent in Doha. It really amazed me too how many cranes we saw all over the place - so many buildings. No wonder they have a problem filling them.

Our first major stop was the Gold Souk, next to the famous Old Souk. Even though everyone is pretty much shopped out, it was worth a stop. The only problem were the prices. $8000 for a bracelet??? Um, no thank you.

We had to make a quick run back to the hotel to pick up some luggage, so that gave me a chance to get in touch with Ben Artz! He is teaching over here in Dubai, and we were able to connect over the phone to do a meet up near some shops after our hotel stop. Once we got to the smaller shops, I walked outside and here was Ben coming up the walk! It was very nice to chat with him, and was the first time I had met Kate as well. It's fun to have friends all over the world, even in Dubai!

And the shopping was good too...here's "Team Malik":

Realizing our time was fleeting, we finished up our last of the shopping and hit the road for the Burj Al Arab, the big sail-looking building on the water that costs a fortune even to go inside. We were able to hop out and take a few pictures. And I learned my lesson about picture taking - don't take one at the expense of a moving vehicle. :)

Having a little time left, Malik took us toward the Palm and the Atlantis resort. The island itself is completely man-made and reclaimed, and part of the three major Palm islands in Dubai. The condos located on the Palm are amazing...and also expensive (in the millions). Didn't see a lot of people though...Malik said the recession has hit particular hard here. We did take a few pictures though while we were there, including one with our driver (that will be posted later). Fun time.

Then it was off to grab a quick bite and to the airport, where our flyDubai plane was waiting for us. The only fun item from our plane ride back were the two guys who sat next to Paige (in the seat that was supposed to be mine but she sat there when the flight attendant told her to) and decided to start talking in Spanish about her and how cute she looked. But when the conversation turned a bit sour, they didn't realize Grace was sitting behind them when she spoke up in Spanish and gave them a bit of a wrangling, which completely embarrassed them and made the whole back part of the plane clap. Those guys should have known better than to be on an international flight and not think that someone might understand what they were saying. Ha!

Quite the whirlwind day, but we all agreed that it was well worth it. A majority of the group though was not looking forward to packing and leaving at 3am. I hope that naps were had by all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wed night/Thursday morning...in Dubai!

We're off!

I'll do my best to try to recap our evening into morning, but suffice it to say it was fast.

We got picked up at Salmryia to head to the airport, and it was crazy busy. Thankfully Paige was already there when we arrived, and after a quick meet-up we got 'stamped' in for our flight (how they approve it I guess). Next line was passport control - kinda long, and very busy. After we managed to make it through those lines, it was time to grab some food. Also a bit of a challenge in this airport. You order, and then you go to another counter where you have to jam together to try to give your receipt ticket to a cook guy who takes it back and gets it together. Not very efficient at all, and was NOT a fast process.

While we were still getting food, our gate call occurred, so off we went to the gate for another check-in line before the waiting area and our shuttle bus to the plane, a new 737 that reminded me of a Southwest plane. On our bus ride to the plane we shared with the locals our success in the newspaper - apparently our work in Education City had made the Gulf News and The Peninsula, including a very large color photo of our group in one. One guy we talked to in broken English (and a few other confused people) could not believe we had made it in the paper. I think they thought we were celebrities.

The plane for FlyDubai was very nice, but full. Our ride was short though, only 45 minutes max before we touched down in Dubai!

We all quickly ran to passport control (free for the first 30 days for US citizens) and then to the exit. Along the way we decided to see if our hotel had a free shuttle, and Grace did a great job of getting that called and arranged for us from another terminal. A few of us taxied over and made it to the hotel for check-in, and boy were we impressed. The rooms were honestly spectacular. Big, multiple bathrooms, nice middle meeting space, and the beds were just too comfy. My room had myself, Christine, Jacqueline, and Paige - the others were in the other large room we had.

The funny story from this part of the adventure was our food order (since Paige was hungary and we were a little bit). She called down to room service since everything else was closed and when the order was finally placed, the nice gentleman on the other line referred to her as "Ms. Bakken" to confirm her order. She played along so as not to confuse the guy, which of course got a chuckle out of the rest of the group when we had a quick team meeting before we slept.

All I know after that is when the food was gone and we were all in bed, it didn't take long to fall asleep. We awoke to buffet breakfast in the lobby (included) which was fantastic. Full spread, made to order omelets, bread, cheeses, meats, etc etc. After a quick bite, we met our cabs at 7:30 and it was off to the Burj! (and hope that we could get our tickets to go up right away)

Continued in the next post...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hitting the road

The YPI is complete! A big thank you to my group for our work in getting our presentation put together and completed for all. It's a little sad that things have wrapped up on that front, as I've enjoyed working with both my Qatari and Maryland friends and colleagues. We will stay in touch, no doubt.

I'm out the door shortly for a quick flight to Dubai, before our day of touring begins Thursday morning. Should be fun (and probably a little crazy).

YPI Culmination Day

Greetings from our culminating day at the YPI!

This will be a short post, as we are transitioning from small groups back to our larger group, but I wanted to offer a quick update on how things have gone so far.

After a brief morning introduction, each of our inquiry groups was given an opportunity to present our findings from each of our Student Affairs interest areas. I really appreciated the chance to hear how each of the groups finalized their research areas, and developed action steps that we can share with our Qatari colleagues. My group was the final one to present before lunch, and I know we were very relieved to be completed with this particular portion of our day. Presenting in front of your colleagues is a very valuable experience, but also a little nerve-wracking. Go team! :)

The view from the front (as I started our group presentation):

Team "Student Development" (Nada is running the Ppt):

Right now we are about to begin our final group recap, including final action steps. The last two weeks have been very long, but so very rewarding for us and our Qatari friends. I know that I will certainly miss our Student Development group, but I know we will keep in touch in the coming weeks and months to hear how Qatar continues to develop and grow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday – YPI Day #2: Ohhhhhhhhhh Sugar

I’m sure you’re wondering about the title of this post. Here’s the short of it:

What do you say when you’re downtown Doha visiting the Pearl, and the car starts to pull away from you with no seatbelt on yet and one leg out the door?

Ohhhhhhhhhhh Sugar. :)

Several of us were able to head downtown and visit the Pearl tonight, a man-made island of reclaimed land now home to some very high-end residences, shops, and entertainment. It’s probably the most desirable place to stay in Doha, but it’s also the most expensive. No doubt in the next several years there will continue to be major changes to it’s look as more buildings go up.

We also were able to visit a wonderful restaurant called “The One” for some pasta, as this is officially our last night as a group in Doha...so for us, our last supper together. Hard to believe things are winding down already on our experience. Just a side note, this particular restaurant is in the upstairs part of a furniture store that really reminded me of a Pottery Barn.

The bulk of our day was spent in our inquiry group, working hard to find outcomes and action steps for our topic around student development. This wasn’t always an easy process to balance group dynamics and our topic, but I think in the end we found common ground in our cause and came together to formulate some very important recommendations for the Foundation. We will culminate all of this work tomorrow with group presentations that will take up the entire morning, before we break out into groups for analysis in the afternoon. I’m excited to see all of the work that was put in by the groups, and how we’re able to coalesce our findings into final documents. But I need to be up early and out the door at 6:45am for final group work, so my evening will be closing very shortly.

After our day ends tomorrow, 12 of us will head to the airport for a quick jaunt over to Dubai. We’ll spend the day there on Thursday, and then fly back Thursday evening. More fun to come!

Monday, January 18, 2010

YPI: Day 2 (morning)

And....we're off! After a brief morning time hiccup, we're here and beginning our day of deliberation and work on our Student Development topic.

More updates in a bit...

Monday - YPI Day #1

Good evening, everyone!

Today we kicked off the Young Professionals Institute at Education City, working with our colleagues from the six campuses including the College of the North Atlantic and Qatar University. This will be the culmination activity from our time spent here in Qatar, working with each group on the major positions in higher education and student affairs. We hope that our work with our Qatari colleagues is beneficial as they continue to expand and grow their educational opportunities within the country. The Qatar Foundation and Education City seeks to continue to expand their offerings to students, and no doubt our work will be used to supplement their future growth.

I am part of the Student Development group, and I must say that our group is probably one of the most involved. We have to take into account a certain part of everyone else’s group (including commuting students, role of family, student leadership, etc) because they all come back to influence how student development works.

Our day started off with a quick pre-meeting with Denny and Paige, and then we were off to our rooms to begin our work. A main portion of our work involves identifying the key focus areas within our specific topic, evaluating and solidifying key outcomes we want to consider for continued discussion, and formalizing a recommended plan of action we will share in a final presentation on Thursday. Our key focus areas include overall development, professional development, multicultural competence, and co-curricular involvement.

In our morning work we discussed our group’s direction, and in the afternoon began to work in earnest on our list of key areas to being to narrow down and discover outcomes. While we didn’t make it through our full document, we will finish that portion in the morning and move forward with our desired outcome list. We had a very lively discussion, and I have no doubt our good work will continue tomorrow. Laura was not feeling well later this afternoon, so I hope she’s well enough to join us tomorrow…seems like we’ve had a few little bugs going around the group the last two days.

After we were through with our work for the day, a group of us took to the Souk for some downtime and shopping. The day is winding down…more group work tomorrow, and my brain is tired.

Yes, this is a dressed up rabbit from the souk. No, I did not ask or barter for a price.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday – final campus immersions

The final stops of our campus immersions were today at the College of the North Atlantic and Qatar University. These are both institutions which follow a much more traditional Qatari cultural perspective, and have segregated portions of their campuses. As a result of the more traditional approach in their educational model, I won’t have very many pictures to offer to this post that contain students, as that is something that is not allowed for us to do during our visit. But I will try to offer a few samples of the places we were today so you can see where we were.

The College of the North Atlantic (CNA) is a Canadian based University out of Newfoundland that came to Qatar in 2001. They offer a range of programs in diploma and certificate format, including Health Sciences, Dentistry, and Information Technology. One of the most interesting parts of our visit, besides our time interacting with the student activities staff, was the 3-D modeling system used by their medical staff to do training on anatomy and physiology. They described it to us as the most sophisticated system in the country right now, and that most doctors come to do training there and go back their normal x-ray systems when they are done. Definitely a feather in their cap for their training offerings. Our visits to various parts of the campus were also segregated, with each section of us visiting the appropriate training and exercise areas designated for each group. I did enjoy their green soccer field, as well as their pool.

We also enjoyed our visit to Qatar University, the official state sponsored university in the country. They are by far the largest university in terms of enrollment in the country, with 8000 students (6000 guys, 2000 girls). They are also in a segregated format, although part of our discussions in the Q&A session of our visit involved questions about the future format of their clubs and student organizations. All of the students we spoke with, including the President of their college Business Club, are interested and excited to be working with us in the upcoming Young Professionals Institute that begins tomorrow, and exploring the many topics that are part of student affairs. Our tour of the campus was also segregated as like CNA, and included their outdoor athletic track and pool. Each group also was able to visit the Men’s and Women’s Student Activities area, where each set of students are able to be in their own ‘union’ with games, Internet stations, and snack area. Our small group of guys also made the trek over to the Women’s area, and as we entered the building to gain access they had to first make an announcement that men were entering the building and to cover up. Talk about being on the spot. : )

"The Guys"

All of us enjoyed being able to interact with our student counterparts, and all of us are excited to begin our collaboration effort tomorrow in the Institute.

We finished up our evening at Denny’s house with a nice pre-institute kickoff reception to wind down our evening. We certainly appreciated his hospitality and for bringing us together before our work begins.

YPI starts tomorrow early!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday - back to Doha

There were even a few that decided to go even more in the water.

The water was warm, so it wasn’t too crazy for them to run out and in. But I’m not sure I would have liked to be wet and having to drive back to Doha that way. No matter – how many times can you say you were swimming in the Gulf?

Shortly after it was back to the vehicles for our trip back to Doha. We had to make one mid-desert stop when one of the vehicles had a low tire, but we made it back to the checkpoint in one piece. Except…when we got back there one of our team members discovered that he had left his iPod back in the tent. Not good. So off his vehicle went to go back to the camp and retrieve the iPod. So, what did we do? Some more camel riding! How fortuitous for us.

Once the vehicle returned, we were very late and booked it back to the hotel where our homestay hosts were waiting to pick us up and take us home. Most were very happy to meet their host so they could go back, take a shower, and maybe catch a quick nap. My host, Steve, is a math tutor at Carnegie Mellon and he lives in a complex of condos near Education City. I’m also fortunate to have several other USD-mates staying in the same complex, so it will make taxi-pooling back here in the evening pretty easy. I have my own room, and Steve was very kind to let me do some laundry when I got back. We also went and grabbed some pizza for lunch.

After a quick nap (that was only supposed to be 20 minutes but ended up being almost an hour and a half) it was quickly get ready and head out the door to Education City and our stop at the Sheik Museum. The story on this museum is that it is the personal collection of one of the members of the Royal Family, who makes it available to the public to view. We were very fortunate to get access to see it, and there were many different artifacts and objects that he has collected. Including a number of cars!

And clothing.

He even has boats.

Our group waiting to depart.

Our next stop after the museum was the Villagio Mall again for a quick bite to eat before the Qatar Philharmonic Concert. This was one part of the trip that I was looking forward to. Our program for the evening consisted of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor for Piano and Orchestra, op. 16, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition arr. by Ravel for the 2nd half. If I was going to offer a semi-critique of the concert, I would have to say that overall it was very well performed. I enjoyed the octavos during the Prokofiev piece, and also the pizzicatos during the middle sections. The Concertmaster played well but without emotion, and his intonation could have been just a tad bit better, especially during his solo sections. The pianist playing the Grieg was very accomplished and had a virtuoso performance. And Pictures was well done, but could have used a bit more time to get some of the timings nailed down. The brass, though, shined throughout and the summative ending brought the audience to their feet. (and other than Jacqueline’s camera flash going off during the middle of the first piece, it went without too much interruption).

And after a quick cab ride back, it’s now time to catch up on some sleep. We have more campus immersion tomorrow!

The Friday recap - into the night

Hello, all!

I will do my very best to give a recap of our safari experience, but I think it will be hard to put into words. We met at Education City to split into our groups per vehicle, with the intention being to have each vehicle be a different type of experience. Not knowing exactly what the experience was going to be initially made this a little tricky, but in the end some vehicles were labeled as “extreme” to “moderate”. I ended up in the lead vehicle with our driver Ali and our translator/guide from Qatar University, along with Susan and Beth.

From Education City we set out to the southeastern region in Qatar, where roads turn into sand and dune bashing fun. We made a brief stop on the edge of the dunes to release tire air and take a few pictures, and then it was off to the dunes! Our drivers were very experienced – Ali has no fear. Even though I think we were in a ‘moderate’ vehicle, what they were able to do with a Toyota Landcruiser was pretty impressive. Up and down the dunes we went, sometimes sideways, sometimes forward, and even one time backward.

One fun stop we made in route was up on the top of a very high dune, overlooking the Gulf and showing us a checkpoint and mountains in the distance looking into Saudi Arabia. You’re not allowed to enter Saudi without a visa, and women are not able to enter without being with a man, but it was still a nice view from which to look over.

One other neat aspect of these dunes were the retained lakes that we encountered...in the middle of the desert. :)

By 5:30pm we made it to our destination, a camp set up for overnight visitors right on the Gulf. While we were told this experience would be close to ‘roughing it’, it actually was very well laid out for visitors who don’t really know how things go in the desert. We had three large tents that were ours to divide space in, a large meeting area with tables and chairs, a fire pit, and even a building with toilets in it (although if you ask, most here would tell you those probably were the most scariest toilets you would have ever seen or tried to use). The tents had mattresses and pillows for us to use, and we were also provided sleeping bags (although those could probably be more classified as sleeping ‘shells’ because they weren’t at all insulated). A BBQ was prepared for us to eat, and soon afterward various groups took to playing games in the tents and partaking in a bit of shisha. Plus...there were camels for riding!

A camel ride!

Then, it was time to sleep. Now, normally this wouldn’t be such a problem, except that it gets kinda cold in the desert. Most of us defined cold as long sleeve shirts and a sweatshirt, but what we should have defined it as instead was several layers of shirt and maybe a light jacket with a hood. It was COLD overnight. I don’t get cold very often, but even I was cold. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, and was shivering so bad I must have shivered myself awake. Since I was up anyway, I got out of the tent and took a short walk…and was amazed by the number of stars I was able to see. Being always in large cities, it’s often hard to see the stars. Not out here. I wish I could have taken a picture because it is something I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t ever forget. After my walk, though, it was back to the cold tent. I tossed and turned in and out of sleep for the next bunch of hours until it started to get lighter and the sun began to rise. Several of us took the opportunity to get up and take some beautiful shots, as well as get in the water.

Continued in the next post!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday morning - off to the sand

Good morning!

In a few hours we will be off to one of our trip excursions for the night - a desert safari!

None of us really know what to expect on this trip, but I'm sure it will be quite the adventure.

I hope everyone has a great day, and thanks for reading!

Off to our hardhat tour (from yesterday)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday...and a first

Evening is now besetting Doha, the last prayer call just finished, and I am taking this opportunity to sit down and make my posting for the day. I say "a first" in the title, because right now is the very first amount of free time in our schedule that we've actually had so far this trip. We have this evening free, along with tomorrow morning until we leave at 2pm for our overnight desert safari. We've been going non-stop, and it will be nice to actually sit back and relax for a while. A group is heading out later on, but I might have an opportunity to meet up with an old classmate from WLC my freshman year who also just happens to be in Doha right now, so I think I will try to do that. We've really been going straight through for the past few days without a stop...one is needed.

Today we met with groups from Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M. All of the universities here in Education City each offer their own cultural flavor to Qataris and other students, and I've come to realize that a cooperation like this is almost unheard of in any other place in the world. The fact that students are able to cross-register between the campuses to fulfill requirements, and participate in co-curricular groups and activities together is something not necessarily found in the United States. While each campus continues to offer its students the chance to be a part of their own cultural flavor, I believe they are still mindful of the many different cultural requirements that exist in this country. For example, most students have never had jobs, let alone work-study. They aren't familiar with personal responsibility, in the sense of having a work obligation or home job. There is a much more narrow range of life experiences (such as cleaning or even filling a car with gas) from which to relate to, and so the campuses offer students a chance to get practice in western cultural responsibility. I would love to come back to Doha in the future to see and experience how this type of learning environment has changed and evolved.

When I come back, I also want to visit their new student center, soon to be completed this year. It's an amazing facility which we were able to tour this afternoon, complete with bowling alley, basketball courts, food court, shopping areas, and even a daycare center. It will be amazing experience for students and staff alike.

I promised some more pictures, so here are a few (has it already been a week that I've been here?):

The "flower pot" to the left contains other edible vegetable flowers...a unique idea.

A nice shot of downtown Doha.

Waiting for some Lebanese cuisine.