Wednesday night February 18

Every once in a while, something happens to this Caucasian North American somewhat Christian woman that just cannot be explained.  It is so outside of my realm of experience that words would fail.  As you know, in traditional Islamic countries, there is no separation of church and state.  We live with Shari’a law here. But, there is separation of men and women.  All through their lives as girls and boys – children go to separate schools. Restaurants have a men’s section and a family section.  There are separate waiting rooms in medical clinics (as I noted in a prior post).  There is a separate lounge area for women at the ultra modern brand new high tech over-the-top Hamad International airport.  The glass is frosted so no one can see inside.  The spas and beauty salons are all ‘women only.’  Men not allowed and either solid doors or frosted doors and windows prevent anyone from seeing inside.  Our library (along with every other building on campus) has prayer rooms and ablution areas.  One for men, one for women.  We have male and female cafeterias. (But our classes are mixed.)

Well, one of those ‘female only’ events occurred on campus Wednesday night that was organized by the students association to which all female faculty and mothers were invited.  Labelled as a ‘Traditional Wanasa Night,’ formal attire was required, but cameras were forbidden, as were children.  I was told by my colleagues who had attended in the past that it wouldn’t matter what I wore, I would be upstaged by our students.  And I was.  Again, and again and again.  I was not allowed to take pictures as the girls were without their abayas, niqabs and shaylas.  But there they were in plunging necklines, diamonds and crystals, glittering makeup, tiaras and highly suggestive clothing.  The purpose of the event was to attract the eyes of some of the mothers there, who might select you as a possible wife for their son.

I can’t say anymore.  I can’t share pictures.  I can’t describe what happened.  Frankly, I was in culture shock at so many levels, it is impossible to describe.  You – yes you who is reading this – can’t even imagine what I saw.  I’m still shocked.  If I say any more than this – the decency/morality squad – the ones who can fine me, punish me and deport me, will have my figurative neck.

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Mauritius – February 5-14

I just love my 7 weeks vacation.  When I add that to the two Eid breaks, it’s  9 weeks in a year.  Mind you, I don’t get a break at Christmas, but I guess that’s the price.

This last week, we had a one day national holiday on February 10th – Sports Day.  The government is trying to increase the physical activity of its citizens/ residents and trying to set it self up at the same time as a world class sports venue.

So, but taking 4 days vacation, I got an 8-day/9-night vacation out of the deal.  My vacation goals this time were:

  1. Go somewhere I’ve never been that is not easy to get to from Canada
  2. Go somewhere I can totally relax
  3. Go somewhere ‘normal.’

I got all of that at a resort in Mauritius.  It was a 6+1 hour overnight flight from Doha via Dubai.  I left at the end of the work week, on Thursday night and arrived in Mauritius The next morning.  I’ve eaten well (too well), tried great rum (too much), enjoyed the spa (too expensive) and the sun (I got my full dose of Vitamin D during an aquacize class the first day).

I stayed at the Club Med Plantation d’Albion – one hour from the airport on the other side of the island and a half hour south of the capital Port Louis.

It was beautiful.  However, Mauritius has become a bit of a flora/fauna experiment gone wrong.

Mauritius was once the home of the now extinct Dodo.  The first colonizers (Dutch) in the 1600’s prized this flightless, turkey-sized bird for it’s meat.  And guess what – it was named the Dodu (with means stupid), because  it did not run away from man, It could not fly and laid its eggs in a nest on the ground.  An unfortunate recipe for disaster.  The Dodo had a role in distributing the seeds of a beautiful white barked tree.  The last few remaining on the island are more than 400 years old.  There are no others.  It too will go extinct soon.

The land there was cleared for the purpose of sugar cane production and all the labour came from India, Africa and China.  The makeup of the island reflects that now and I had the privilege

of visiting a Hindu Temple which had as its backdrop a sacred lake.  It was just days before a major festival and people from all over the island were walking to the lake (from kilometres away) to make their sacrifices to Shiva.  It was beautiful and so colourful.

There’s too much to write about and I think the pictures will help explain what I saw.  Enjoy!

My view from my room IMG_2868 IMG_2873 IMG_2875 IMG_2896 IMG_2906 IMG_2915 IMG_2918 IMG_2926 IMG_2930 IMG_2939 IMG_2956 IMG_2978 IMG_2979 IMG_2980 IMG_2981 IMG_2982 IMG_2983 IMG_2996

More of the weird and wonderful – Doha (Medical) Clinic

In the last 36  hours, I managed to catch a head cold and by the end of the work day, knew that I was going to have a rough night.  Knowing this, it meant I had to ‘face’ Doha Clinic.  Welcome to free healthcare provided by the ruling family.  I had dealt with Doha clinic before and the experience was quite unsatisfactory.

There are two kinds of health care here. (Maybe three)  First, there is the healthcare the ruling family and its kin gets (5-8%).  Then there’s the rest of us (the 92%).  And, if you show up at a hospital or clinic and you’re an identifiable expat, you get a different level of service.  Based on the numbers of people moving to Doha every month (50-55,00 newly sponsored workers and most of them being male labourers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh), the system is bursting at the seams.

Most doctors’ offices that I see on the streets are dermatologists or plastic surgeons (all who want your money).  There are no family doctors or general practitioners.  There are ‘clinics’ around the city that are part of the medical infrastructure and anyone can walk in to any one of them.

When you arrive at Doha Clinic the place is crowded and noisy.  There are two buildings, each about 3 stories high and an emergency drive through.  You walk up to a receptionist and explain your problem.  You are then sent to a floor or to the other building.  You walk up to another receptionist and present your QID (Qatar ID card) and health insurance card.  You pay the visit fee (in my case 50QR or $15) and get a ‘ticket stub.’

My ticket stub said ENT7-16.  Ear, Nose, Throat Doctor #7, patient #16.  A specialist.  The same thing last time – a specialist.  There are no general physicians. and with each visit a new doctor.  Next time I go, I might have a different issue, resulting in a different specialist.

(I have yet to figure out how to have continuity of care.)  And, each visit seems to push my personal boundaries of privacy.

For example, why did the ear, nose, and throat doctor want to know if I was married when I had a garden-variety cold and all I wanted was some super-strength decongestants?  Why did I need to be questioned about why I was single and had no children?

Anyway – I get ahead of myself…

After paying the QR50 fee, I am TOLD to wait in the women’s waiting room.  Apparently, women and men can’t co-mingle in the same waiting space.  This happens in every government office or public building – two separate spaces.

It’s a zoo inside.  The room is packed and I’m the only caucasian.  I’m the only person who is not wearing black.  There are little kids terrorizing other little kids.  This is common everywhere else I’ve been – movies, malls, restaurants, etc.  The nannies that come with the mothers to tend to the children are not permitted to disciple them without being disciplined themselves.  (Disciplining of the nanny would also mean potential deportation.)  So the nannies cleanup the spills and sit quietly while the mothers chat on their bespoke phones that are held up to their niqabs and don’t worry about their childrens’ behaviour.

I came prepared.  I had a book and a bottle of water with me and was ready to wait out my turn while children crashed into me and kept an eye out for plastic clues being flung across the room.  There’s a monitor with lists of all the specialists working that night and what patient number is being served.  ENT7 was at patient #8.  I was #16.  I finished my book while waiting.

Remember I told you I want to the clinic after work?  Well, at about 5:20ish, two of the women in the room whip out their prayer mats, and facing Mecca, start chanting, kneeling and praying.  Where did these mats come from??  Do they carry them around all day, along with a compass in the event they are away from home during one of the call’s to prayer? How did they know it was time to pray, both at the exact same time?  (I think it’s an app on their smartphones, myself.)  Indeed, the English Language newspapers print on the top right of the second page the daily prayer times.  It couldn’t have been comfortable or contemplative given the announcements, phones ringing and kids screaming.  Those carpets didn’t look very thick and we were in a hospital/clinic waiting room.  I don’t understand…..at so many levels…..

I just have to write this stuff down or I’ll forget it, or it will become ‘normal.’  One day I’ll stop noticing the weird and wonderful and I wouldn’t want to do that!

I really do love my job

And one day, I’m going to write about what a perfect fit it is for me.  Who duh thought that an Albertan – working mostly with people with Newfie accents – would feel so grateful for the opportunity?  All that said – I need to explain why the blog hasn’t had so many updates recently.  January was the beginning of a new semester, with a raft-load of students who have research assignments.  It’s also closing in on the end of the fiscal year.  Why are these things important?  Well – I’m the Instructional, reference and collections librarian.  It means I have primary responsibility for giving information literacy and research techniques sessions in classrooms to our students.  It also means that I buy a lot of the materials for our library.  My calendar below pretty much explains it all.  I’ve been in classrooms almost continuously trying to explain why ‘copying and pasting’ is unacceptable and results in academic misconduct.  I’ve been trying to explain why Wikipedia is, at so many levels, unacceptable as an academic source and in the workplace.  Did you know, for example, that most articles on Wikipedia are written by white, male North Americans?  Talk about bias!  Anyways, explaining these principles to our students and acting as a resource to them is pretty much my job.  And I love it!

But the first month of each semester brings its challenges and this clip from my calendar explains what’s happening in my life.  And yes, my work week begins Sunday morning and ends Thursday night.

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Now you understand why I have a vacation planned starting Thursday night …….