Friday, January 29, 2010

Life is a mystery (Madonna)

Jacky has returned to Doha safe and sound. I've been holding on waiting for her return.

She's pretty tired from such a long flight.

Though I'm sure that fairly soon she'll be hunting down those bargains again in the souqs.

I've managed to provide for myself in a reasonable fashion in her absence.

And I've kept myself busy at work to provide for the family.

But I've really missed her TLC.

It does feel a bit strange not having the family here with us. But we take comfort knowing that Jade will adjust to her new surroundings. And, after a time, she will be adopted by some new friends.

Ka kite ano. Love and peace - Wozza (and she who must be adored)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can't you see the light in my eyes (Todd Rundgren)

The presentations have continued from our teams at Regency Halls (see last post for details). Before I get into some more photos of the action here I am with an awesome bunch of Qatari leaders, aka The Honey Bees (formerly known as The Killer Bees) - left to right - Mohammed, Mohammed Rida, Kalfan giving the thumbs up, me in Beatle tie and Adel.

And so on to the action, beginning with Kalfan who led the presentation for the Bees

The Falcons in full flight with one our translaters - Refka from Tunisia - in the foreground.

Some of The Wolves are seen putting the finishing touches to their model of a solar powered e-caravan (or 'smart-bus') before Khalid did his presentation on behalf of his fellow Wolves (another of our translators - Reem from Iraq - is on the right, along with Dene's left ear and Karin's back).

Ka kite ano/ma'as-salaama for now - Wozza

Monday, January 25, 2010

A home that's girt by sea

It's Australia day and the office Aussies are celebrating so I thought it appropriate to share this clip with the blogosphere (thanks to Colin for the link).

Love and peace (especially to the Aussies today) - Wozza

It's all about chemistry (Semisonic)

I've found that certain types of people create a unique kind of cohesive bond when joined with like minded others. This is a rare phenomena in life. In sport it's also rare. I've supported Arsenal since 1970/71 and the amazing double winning team. I could tell at that early age that this was a snergistic team of talented individuals under a superb coach. Arsene Wenger's mighty unbeaten side of a few years ago are clearly another.

I've only experienced this a few times in my own life so far. The four examples that immediately spring to mind: the English department at King John School 2004-2006; the group who made up the 1999-2000 UNITEC post grad diploma class; The Te Kanawa House staff at Macleans College and the Eden Football Club seniors' team - both 1986-1989.

These are the special ones. That's it. Only four, and believe me - given the huge number of sports and teaching/leadership teams I've been a part of - there are plenty to choose from.

What makes them special? The unique chemistry comes from a peculiar, indefinable quality that creates both an (often) understated common purpose, and a unique combination of personalities who bloom in this new environment.

In the four groups I've highlighted there was a variety of oddly shaped pegs included, but all without exception were united by being in the group. It's a lot like John Lennon said of Mick Jagger's snippy comments on The Beatles. Basically it was a - don't knock us - you're not part of the family sort of message delivered in Lennon's best caustic manner.

I like to think that the whanau who read my Wozza's Place blog are a similar bunch of like minded souls. They hinge on me - I've defined a sixth group.

I think this is partly why social networking sites have become such a huge deal in such a short time - we're redefining our own networks and creating communities in our image and we're loving it.

That's all a long preamble to me introducing a seventh group - the Ministry of Education Principals' group that the Cognition team presents to (this includes presenters, translators, the Qatari leaders).

It's a fascinating bunch of people. They/we are united, yet there are clear differences within the ranks. For one we (the four presenters) are distinct as a group and as individuals. I was going to write that we (the four) are native English speakers - but even that's not true with Karin's Afrikaans background. A second sub set of the we (presenters) is the interpreters (Refka, Hani, and now Reem). They come from all over - Tunisia, Syria and Iraq and are all as vastly different as the presenters are.

Then we have the Principals and Deputy principals - on the surface a disparate bunch but once accepted by the group you are 'in' and woe betide any 'outsider' who tries to alter the equilibrium. I must say I'm feeling very at home and accepted now in the group. It did take a while but after a few presentations a change seemed to take place and a different feeling of belonging entered the relationship.

One of the activities I've been involved in has had a lasting affect on the organisational culture of the whole group. I asked them to give their table groups a name. The nine teams re-branded themselves and have since developed deep affiliations with the name. A very interesting phenomena in itself. For the record they are (men's groups first): Happy Faces; Wolves; Tigers; Falcons; Stars; Killer Bees; (then women's) Candles; Development Team; and The Queens.

This week Karin and I have presented the group with a challenging activity where each of the teams has to present their ideas on an environmentally friendly project for a school. Here are some photos of the teams at work (by the way - I checked carefully with each person that they were happy for me to share these photos with Cognition and my blog). First up are Stars with their model of an eco-friendly playground.

Spokesman for the Stars in the presentation was Mr Ghanam

Spokesman for the Happy Faces was Mr Mohammed

Here are the Stars putting finishing touches to their work.

The Tigers group made an impromptu table sculpture.

This is The Happy Faces team with their model of an eco-friendly rooftop garden

The Wolves at work on their solar powered structure.

The Stars presenting their ideas to my co-presenter Karin Weise

The Falcons at work, predicting victory.

The Killer Bees table in discussion during a planning session.

More photos will be added after the remaining teams make their presentations.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There's a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore (Split Enz)

The Gulf Times is a fine little paper. It has entered our lives on a semi daily basis and certainly aces pretty much every NZ paper I can think of. Yeah okay - make that ALL OF THEM! The sport pages (5 in colour every edition) contain daily columns on all main winter American sports (NFL, basketball and ice hockey), a page on world football and the premier league, with the other three on miscellaneous sports of interest to ex-pats - tennis, golf and cricket dominate at the moment. It's a joy to read every day.

The front pages are always divided into Qatar news, the Arab world, Americas, Britain, Indian subcontinent, Europe, east Asia, and a page headed 'World'. I really, really like this format. Imagine for a sec if the NZ Herald tried this approach! It would never happen, of course, because NZers are far too insular to accept the idea but just imagine getting a reasonably complete view of world events every day. What a revolutionary concept for a newspaper!!

Being an ex-pat Kiwi in another part of the world is always a treat - we get to see what the world thinks of us (if indeed they ever do). Recently the office Kiwis have had stories like the topless NZ teacher to put up with. Tonight's Gulf Times is a case in point. It will give plenty of ammo to the office ockers or should that be (kn)ockers (ho ho ho).

Here we go - item on page 16: William leaves New Zealanders star-stuck mentions that William received 'a haka, or challenge, from a group of bare-chested warriors in grass skirts'. Triffic. And that was the high point of the article.

It got better - two items on page 19: Britain still main source of NZ migrants was a dreary but mercifully short space filler showing that NZ is still a refuge for poms escaping blighty.

The second article - Claws out over Air NZ's 'cougar' advertisement was the real hoot. Dene will have a field day and rightly so cos the response to a bit of a funny ad campaign (an ad aimed at middle aged women who prefer younger men) shows NZers to be, not only small minded, but a mirthless, miserable lot as well. Yeah - that's a good impression to give the world.

What's next? Probably a story about a sheep that's been lost for years and has a huge fleece (what's that? They've done that already? Oh goody).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sugarpie, Honeybunch - you know that I love you, I can't help myself (The Four Tops)

(Warning - long sentence approaching): I'll attempt to slot this entry into the blog a few days after the 'oo titled post cos it features some random and personal thoughts on being a 'bachelor' for a week (and, I hasten to add, is prefaced by the mighty Temptations - Don't want nobody to feel sorry for me - naw I ain't askin' for no charity).

First up - I don't like it (the being alone bit) and, (second warning coming), I will be wallowing in self-pity for a while yet. Hey - I'm entitled. I've got two more bachelor weeks to suffer through before Jacky flies back.

With all that in mind - here's Eric Carmen with the theme tune.

The main problem is the empty-pit-of-the-stomach feeling that comes when I realise no one is there when I get home. Clearly my chi is not flowing freely. It has always been this way.

When Adam and Jacky returned home when we were in the UK, Jade and I were hopeless. When I went into Samantha's room in Stratford after she left to go to university I felt it intensely. When Keegan moved out to go flatting? Same thing. When I left Jacky and Jade at the Doha airport a week ago - you know it came creeping back in as I walked away.

Each night I return to the apartment and no Jacky - that feeling is immediately there. And now everytime I go into Jade's empty bedroom here, it sneaks up on me as well. I did warn you about the self-pity thing right?

I think I know why. It's about balance. That chi thing. The natural order in my life is thrown when those key events have happened.

Here's David Gray to conclude my wallow. Everytime I play his albums I get a melancholy 'missing England' feeling so I've been listening to him a lot of late. I could play anything but here's Flame Turns Blue.

Love peace and here's to a return of chi (make mine milk and one sugar please)-Wozza

Friday, January 15, 2010

There aint no cure for the summertime blues (The Who - live at Leeds)

Highlights of the week have been Jade's success in her NCEA exams, a terrific home cooked meal in Lynn and Dene's apartment for the 'bachelors', an amazing book and some long walks in the glorious Doha sunshine.

Jade rang on Thursday morning with some great news - she'd passed NCEA level three, gained her University Entrance and even picked up some merit and excellent passes. I confess a mixture of emotions - mainly huge pride but also sadness in that I missed being with her to celebrate in person. She can now look forward to those wonderfully self-indulgent university years! Magic!

I maybe haven't made too clear that the building we live in is also home to the large contingent of fellow nutters who work for Cognition in the Leadership team. On the fifth floor - Di (Aussie) and Karin (South African); seventh floor - Jacky and Wozza and Maureen (NZ); and the eighth floor has the rest - Colin (NZ), John (NZ), Dorothy and her husband Russell (Aussies), Lawrence (NZ), Dene and Lynn (Aussies).

Lynn and Dene decided to host the temporary bachelors of the building (our collective she-who-must-be obeyeds are elsewhere at the moment). Great minds think alike and we all wore football tops for the occasion to socialise and eat our 'licious roast chicken or lamb (with mint sauce!). Mmmmm - real food. Here's the crew - Dene (shirt: Tigers - some obscure AFL team I believe), Colin (Aka Big D in his high school regalia), John (ABs of course), and the group shot with me and Mitch celebrating the greatest football time the world has ever seen!

I've been reading like crazy lately. The last was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (bought last weekend from Al Jarir Bookshop - the only really decent bookshop in Doha - the one that stocks Mojo). Not sure how I haven't come across him before. The Alchemist is very special - a fable about following your dreams. It's deceptively simple but very inspiring!

And finally - the walks. Yesterday I wandered down to the corniche and then took my time to get to the City Centre mall. In total it's about an hour walk but I stopped often to read (currently it's Haruki Murakami's After Dark) and watch the people passing by. I also snapped a few views along the walk.

All the exercise in the gym and the walking has made me feel a lot fitter. The old knees are a little creaky but the achilles are feeling good and the calf muscles are getting back some actual muscle after laying dormant for a decade. I have weird calves huh.

Yesterday ended with a lovely sunset over Doha.

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh let me be your teddy bear (Elvis)

It's all been about me lately hasn't it. Time to step back a bit and present some stuff by others. First up is Jade. She is seen here racing up a sand dune at the Saudi Border a few weeks ago. I'm sure she won't mind me sharing her athletic prowess with the whanau.

Before she left she made a teddy bear that is destined for the family ledge (our version of the pool room). At the moment, however, he resides beside my bed.

Adam recently sent me some pictures from his fashion shoot for Jay Jays with Jenna.

He's also been to Taupo visiting some old haunts it appears.

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tonight we'll meet at the dark end of the street, you and me.

Day 5 w. J. (feels like longer!!) and it's about time I wrote about Coronation Street isn't it. Not sure how it's taken me so long. My proud obsession with Corrie is well known and I was a tad worried before coming here that I'd have to go without the best damn programme in the world for a while.

Orbit/Showtime has come to my rescue. As soon as we arrived we decided that we needed the 5 billion channels that O/S provides (I think it's about 500 or so with about 300 being in Arabic). Imagine my delight to discover 5 of the 200 were Sports channels (all the UK football, NFL, sevens etc etc) and Coronation Street was on five nights (Sat, Sun, Mon, Tues, Wed) a week on a Showseries channel.

From what I can work out it's about 4 weeks behind Britain (in early December an episode centred on Guy Faukes' night). This, of course, is HUGELY improved on New Zealand's pathetic 18 months behind effort. This has meant some readjustment as new characters (who IS that guy with Gail Platt now? Where'd he come from?) and new relationships have emerged (Steve McDonald and Becky from Roy's Rolls fame takes a bit of getting used to).

I'm pleased to say the writing is still top notch. A recent episode with Roy, Hailey, Becky and Tony Gordon had us all spellbound (I won't spoil the fun for NZers with plot exposition). I know that sounds daft if you're not a fan but it really was superb writing and acting. Trust me.

And if you haven't started yet - it's never too late to join us int snug for a milk stout (boy - that dates me!).

Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Now what's that smells like fish oh baby? Really would like to know (Hot Tuna)

It all started innocuously enough. Aussie Dene rang me with, "We're off to find the fish and veggie markets - fancy joining us? And you can drive."

"Yeah - sounds great", I said. Little did we know that the day would end with an escort to Doha's Air Force base and a telling off from the men with guns!

First up though - the markets.

I got my Qatari driving licence last week and had asked Dene for a drive on Friday, the week's quietest day, to get used to driving here (left hand drive cars/right hand lane driving). We made our way to the markets without incident and had a look around. The photos, of course, give you no clue to the smell! The fish (a dizzying array of species on offer) can be bought cheaply and then taken to a special room for gutting/filleting - you can imagine the noise and smell can't you. I wouldn't have been able to get Jacky through the front portal.

The veggie market is conveniently placed next door; much more sedate and sensory-friendly. Jacky will need to sit down before the next bit - I bought some vegetables. And I bought some fruit. Yes indeedy - I have not been abducted by aliens. There is no pod outside in the corridor. I got some nice firm kiwi fruit (yes - I do listen to you Roger and yes - I did eat them) and some fresh broccoli. Who'd a thought it eh - me buying fruit and veg - what a turn up (geddit)?

And so to the drama. Dene and Lynn's son, Mitch, is keen on planes (keen is an understatement - for comparison - I am keen on the Beatles, Keegan is keen on films, Jacky is keen on horses - you get the idea) and he asked to check out the Doha airport. More specifically the start of the airport where the planes begin their approach to land. So we went there. Now, how three literate people (okay two were Aussies but that doesn't excuse me) can miss big signs in red saying - "No Photography!" is beyond me - but we did.

As we waited for a plane to arrive so Mitch could photograph it - we noticed a military police jeep in camouflage colours speeding towards us. The young man had no English so he took our IDs and made it clear we should follow him to the base. We did (we're stoopid but we're not that stoopid). Dene reckons I looked terrified and I guess I did - the men wearing sub machine guns probably had something to do with it.

At the base we were interviewed by the duty officer - a thoroughly decent man who could see we were genuinely sorry for our transgression. He offered us Arabic coffee (the best I've had here incidentally), some pastries and a cup of tea. I politely declined his kind offer to stay for lunch and we made our exits in very shame-faced fashion.

As Homer would say - DOH!!