Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Doctor doctor give me the news (Robert Palmer)

I would have given long odds on my beating Jacky into a hospital in Doha but lo it came to pass.

The Al Ahli hospital is very flash (opened about 4 years ago) - more like a resort but let me tell you the people there are fantastic.

I had a double whammy of migraines a few days ago and my brain got really scrambled so I took a day off work and went to the docs.

Where else could you walk off the road into a state of the art hospital and be seen immediately by a top class GP, sent for a blood test (down the hall) and an appointment with a specialist (second floor) AND get a lovely coffee and a banana muffin from the cafe (we sat by the indoor waterfall for our elevenses)? Can't be too many places.

Jacky and I marvelled at the plush furnishings - for a second we thought we'd been teleported to Buckingham Palace.

The catch, of course, is that you pay for this five star treatment (luckily I get medical expenses for me and Jacky covered by my company). Cost was 300QR for a consultation and 100QR for a blood test (NZ dollar is very roughly a third).

Belated shout outs to Jeannette and Catherine and Sallie who all had birthdays earlier this month. I hope you were spoiled rotten! It also would have been my mother's birthday last week - she was born 23rd April in 1930.

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, April 23, 2010

Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown (Beatles)

Things are winding down (or up?) for the various work contracts in Doha. I'm kind of aware that I don't mention much about work in the ole blog. Partly that's because I get into a routine groove with the weekly work commitments and it becomes the hurley burley of life but it's about time for an update. This is partly inspired by my taking Aussie Dene to the airport yesterday so he could return to Perth.

A recap first though on events of the last few months or so.

You'll remember that I left the Leadership team in February to join the National Professional Standards' team (NPS). The Leadership team eventually ran out of work and has now been disbanded.

About a week ago Dorothy (aka Drothery) and her husband returned to Australia; Karin (aka Barbie) returned to South Africa: Lawrence (aka Larry) went to the UAE; Maureen went back to NZ and yesterday Aussie Dene (aka Deno, aka Mo) was the last to ship out. Of the original team (the people I joined in December 2009), that leaves only Colin (aka Curly) in the Legends apartment block with me and Jacky. Curly is working on a new project - the induction and exit survey of Cognition people into Doha.

(Johnny, Curly, Larry, Maureen)

(Deno, Wozza and Johnny - Drothery took the pics)

I remain in the NPS team with Andrea (aka Ande) and Aussie Ian as our boss.

We present our Professional Development workshops on Mondays (Accredited Leaders program - about 90 Qatari leaders) and Wednesdays (Diploma of Leadership program to about 50 Qatari Principals). Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent with our translators (Reem and Rami) and helper (Julie) getting the presentations ready.

Which brings me up to date. The place (Legends Apartments and our workplace at Al Khaleej) seems very different without my Leadership compadres. I'm sure Colin will be feeling the same things. There is a feeling of winding up (or down?) in the air. It's a melancholy mood - I loved joining these bizarre people from all over the world in the stew of Doha. We got on and we did some great work but halas (finished). The maple leaves have departed. Maybe we'll never meet up again. That's a bizarre thought (the use of bizarre is an in-joke because the word has absolutely no currency in Doha where everything is pretty much bizarre). If they're reading this while sitting by the pool sipping on a cold one I hope that whatever is next works out well for you, inshallah.

Be here now! It's ANZAC day (25 April) and Jacky and I are off to do some bizarre shopping. I need to find some dice for a game of Snakes and Ladders with 90 Qataris on Monday and I have some dry cleaning to pick up from Magic Laundry. Dry cleaning eh. The little men (that's John Lambert's term of endearment) who clean cars at the malls use no water in the cleaning process and they do a terrific job for 15QR. How does that work?

Next? We have a few presentations to go (four Mondays and four Wednesdays to be specific). That takes me until May 19 and some weeks of marking and annotations). Apparently we have a week of presentations to another programme around this time as well.

Our medium term future plans are a little uncertain. Although my contract is until July 31 I will take some accrued leave and we will return to NZ for a flying visit in July. Hopefully a new contract to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fall into place beyond that. One thing is certain we will not return to Doha - mainly for Jacky's sake as she can't work here but can in Abu Dhabi (UAE). All will be revealed in the fullness of time - just have to trust in that maple leaf in the meantime.

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy anniversary baby, got you on my mi-hind (Little River Band)

Needed to post today to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. The 21st of April 1984 in New Plymouth is a fair distance from 21st of April 2010 in Doha but the one constant is the love Jacky and I have for each other.

On the left there are a few photos of my immediate family. The quote from the John Lennon song Grow Old With Me accompanies the photo of me and Jacky (two branches of one tree).

In fact I will add this song here so that you can all hum along. I think it's one of his best and the sentiments are as true for us now as they were on that windy, rainy day 26 years ago.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

People, are you ready for the show time? (Ry Cooder)

I finished that book on silence a few days ago and have just now finished another book. I love reading and I find that my thirst for books is still with me.

This one was Showing Up for Life by Bill Gates Senior. I was again killing time in I Spy bookshop in the City Center mall when this one threw itself at me. The forward to the book did it - it was by Bill Gates Junior (aka Bill Gates III, the microsoft genius) and is as follows in its entirety:
Dad, the next time somebody asks you if you are the real Bill Gates, I hope you
say, "Yes." I hope you you tell them that you're all the things the other one
strives to be.
The book is wonderful (literally). I found it warm, rewarding, thought-provoking and challenging. Challenging? Yes - because I strive to also be all the things that my father was. It's a real challenge. Reading this book made me realise I still have a long way to go but I'm prepared to make the journey (or 'show up' as Bill Gates Snr says).

I particularly liked the story of when he was young he and his scout troop (under the inspired leadership of a scoutmaster) built a log cabin! The picture shows it to be solid and dependable but also with an aspect of flair and individuality about it. Much like Mr Gates Snr. Here's an excerpt from the book:

Another adult who provided me with powerful life lessons in showing up was our next-door neighbor, Dorm Braman. He showed up for so many things and accomplished so much in his life you’d have thought it would take two men to live Dorm’s life.

Dorm owned a cabinet-making business and in his spare time he led our Boy Scout troop.

He was a remarkable man whose showing up touched a lot of lives. In fact, even though he had never graduated from high school, after we Boy Scouts were all in college, Dorm ran for mayor of Seattle and won. Later, he was appointed by President Richard Nixon as assistant secretary of transportation.

In the early years when he was our Scoutmaster, one weekend every month — rain or shine — Dorm took us on adventures that ranged from laid-back camping trips to arduous twenty-mile hikes through the Olympic Mountains.

One year he even acquired an old bus, added more seats to it, and took all of us to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.

Far and away the most unforgettable memory I have of Dorm’s showing up involved the building of what we called Camp Tahuya and Sundown Lodge.

This adventure began when Dorm decided our Boy Scout troop was going to acquire its own campsite and on it build a marvelous log lodge.

The first step was to persuade the local Lions Club to back the idea and buy the troop the land. We named the place Camp Tahuya after the river that ran through it.

Once we had the site, Dorm taught us how to clear land, fell trees, and build.

A lot has changed since then.

At that time, we felled the trees by hand and sawed the logs into proper lengths using two-man crosscut saws, and hand-peeled and planed them smooth and to proper dimensions using hand-wielded adzes. We had one power tool — a circular saw powered by Dorm’s flatbed truck.

Building a log lodge is sweaty, gritty work. But this adventure proved to us that if we worked together long enough and hard enough anything was possible.

Every weekend for three summers we twenty teenagers, Dorm, and our assistant scoutmaster worked all day, cooked our meals over open fires, and slept under the stars.

After three summers of labor (plus that of countless weekends during the school year) we had our log lodge in the woods.

It was an imposing twenty-five-by-forty-foot structure with a main floor larger than most of our homes and a massive fireplace built by the father of one of the boys who was a stonemason. It had a large kitchen and a sleeping loft.

It is difficult to convey the extent of the work it took to build Sundown Lodge — or our sense of achievement in getting it done — to anyone who has never built a building from the ground up.

In the narrowest sense, it would be true to say that we learned to use a variety of common hand tools, build a complex structure, and grow calluses and a few scars where none existed before.

In a broader sense, we were witness to an example of visionary and inclusive leadership and the amazing power of people working together toward a common goal.

All the showing up Dorm did in our lives gave shape to more than a log lodge in the woods. It gave shape to a place in our minds where we believed anything was possible.
Next up - some more non-fiction: BIG MAN by Clarence Clemons (Bruce Springsteen called him that - as in, "The BIG MAN on saxophone")

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Isn't she lovely, isn't she wonderful (Stevie Wonder)

It's Jacky's birthday today so here's a post dedicated to her and her mum (Pat) and dad (Brian). I'm firmly of the opinion that birthdays are more special for the parents because they can actually remember the event.

So Pat and Brian will no doubt remember that in the year Jacqueline Frances Smith was born the Cold War continued to worsen when the Russians placed ballistic missiles on Cuban land just 90 miles away from the coast of Florida. So the world was on the brink of nuclear war and self destruction! To balance this JFK then set a goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Interesting times.

Folk music was evolving into protest music thanks to young artists like Bob Dylan and the birth of surfing music by the Beach Boys grew in popularity. Meanwhile in England the Beatles recorded the single Love Me Do. The new hit on TV for that year was The Beverly Hillbillies and the first of the James Bond movies Dr No was an instant success, some of the other movies released included West Side Story, Spartacus, and Lawrence of Arabia.

Popular Singers of the day were Chubby Checker, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Neil Sedaka, Roy Orbison, and Shirley Bassey (one of my mum and dad's favourites).

In other news - the US Airforce investigates using lasers to intercept missiles, 90% of US households own a television set, Britain and France agree to develop the Concorde, and the year saw the first use of silicone breast implants by Houston plastic surgeons (this gave rise to the popular saying Houston we no longer have a problem).

The major world political leaders when Jacky emerged were: Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, French President Charles de Gaulle, Soviet Union's Nikita Khrushchev, United States' President John F. Kennedy, United Kingdom's Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Nu Zild's Prime Minister Sir Keith Holyoake.

In NZ the speed limit was raised to 55 mph (88kmph), Peter Snell broke the world record for the mile and 800 metres at Whanganui’s Cook’s Gardens and in August of Jacky's year New Zealand heart surgeon Brian Barratt-Boyes became only the second surgeon in the world to replace a heart valve. The first such operation had been completed only a month earlier. At Auckland's Green Lane hospital Barratt-Boyes assembled a team that was at the forefront of heart surgery.

Quite a year huh? All events were, of course, eclipsed by the event which has rocked my world for 26 years.

Happy birthday Jacky!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Powdered down (Adam Purdy)

(A tad overdue) catch up on the chillun is required , prompted by Samantha's recent email and phone call. Here is a slightly abridged version of the email, starting with a comment on Adam's music...

I love all his music he throws at us all. Jesse does as well and we play it around the house quite a bit. I even blast it on the stereo at work after hours sometimes. I much prefer his instrumental stuff rather than the death noise he used to play in high school.

So news from the states...hmm lets see. work is going great, i'm having a blast working in the Castro and hanging out with some pretty awesome people and puppy dogs. Recent events at work include my fellow grooming assistant becoming a stripper at San franciscos first strip club 'Condor Club'. She is stoked, i have no idea why but hey its San Francisco and after eight months i have learnt that anything here goes.

Last week was spring break for students so my flat mates Peter and his girlfriend Sara rode the bus to Mexico for the week, Richard flew up to Seattle to spend time with his friends an Jesse and i travelled up to Tahoe for some snow shoeing and car camping. I got an extra day off work so we had plenty of time to explore the area of Southern lake Tahoe. There was soooooooooo much snow but it was really hot T shirt weather. I kept thinking of mum while i was there and of how much she would of loved to have seen all of the snow covered cabins up in the hills where the bald eagles live.

In other news: we are officially getting evicted from our house, ive since visited San Francisco Zoo, walked across the golden gate bridge, been to a few frat parties at Stanford university, Jesse hit his head on a table while playing indoor soccer at his brothers apartment in Stanford and we spent 4 hours in the emergency room- resulting in 14 stitches to Jesses eyebrow area, yesterday we visited the Palace of the legion of honor museum and admired works from such artists as Dali, Monet, Manet, Giotto etc, the weather is getting hot hot hot and we are off to the beach in a few minutes to play some frisbee and last but not least Jesse graduates on May 21st so we are leaving May 23rd for a roadtrip around the USA visiting places like Sacremento, Seattle, Canada, Yellowstone national park, Wyoming, Vermont, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, colorado to name just a few. Our roadtrip will last up until i have to fly out on July 8th. Univesity begins earlier than expected you see, July 12th to be specific.

The other three are fine and dandy - Adam is about to finish (successfully) with university. Like many he is questioning things right at the brink of completion but he will be satisfied when the last bit is finished.

Jade (in a freaky same as Fanfa pose above) is on her Easter break in New Plymouth. Was a funny feeling working through my Easter in Doha (as an Islamic country Easter is not recognised on the calendar) - first time ever for that but I received a great message via Annette's blog which helped.

Keegan is also fine - looking for a part time job to sustain him through his masters' thesis. More on that when he tells me the title of it.

Love and peace - W

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I just have to sing my hymns to the silence (Van Morrison)

Two events to talk about this week - one - a trip to the Al Jazeera network which is based in Doha, and - two - the purchase of a book. I know, I know - can you cope with this level of excitement?

First - the book. I went into the I-Spy bookshop at the City Center mall to kill some time while Jacky bought some more cushions (please - don't ask). I wasn't really expecting to buy anything - I have three books in the waiting room - The Damned United (David Peace) and Moab is my Washpot (Stephen Fry) were bought in the UK recently and Colin has lent me The White Tiger by Aravind Singh.

However, as I walked in, a book immediately caught my eye - it was the cover that you see on the left, and I was semi-hooked. It was the title (A Book Of Silence) and the picture that did it. I opened it up and read the first sentence (I try to never read the blurb if I can help it. I figure that if I'm not interested after the first sentence I will not be interested by the rest).

It is early morning.

MMmmm, good, and it was enough to make me want to read the second sentence -

It is a morning of extraordinary radiance - and unusually up here there is practically no wind.

That was it! Case closed. Halas. I had to read the rest.

It's not been disappointing either now that I'm eighty pages in.

She details the search for silence in the wilds of Skye and analyses silence in a refreshing way. Pure silence, of course, is impossible to achieve. Right now I am typing this in our silent apartment. Well, there is a kind of silence because Jacky is having a nana nap in the bedroom so the music and TV are off, but with the AC going in the spare room (we still call it Jade's room), Najma's periodic chirps, the sound of the keys on the laptop making their noises, the chair scrapping on the floor above me, the low hum of traffic seven floors below, the creaking of my chair and my body noises all combined (we won't dwell on that) - it is hardly silent.

Sarah's book acknowledges that state of 'silence'and analyses her obsessions nicely. She's a writer and that helps too. While I have been reading it I have thought of my own (romantic and periodic) quests for silence. I can't do it. When I lived alone in 1982 while attending Teachers' College I had to have (loudish) background noise to stay sane, yet I love the idea of being a hermit, cut off from communication and alone with my self. I'm sure it would scare the pants off me if I ever found myself in that situation. Still - it's fun to read about Sarah's experiences and thoughts on silence.

And second, Al Jazeera TV network (Al Jazeera means the peninsula and is, in my humble opinion, just below the BBC in terms of quality). I went with Colin and friends from Cognition (one of the translator's husbands is one of the boss bananas at Al J). It was a most impressive facility - state of the art equipment/technology - after I got in that is. The gate man had issues with me - a lack of paperwork combined with his huge Jabba the Hutt presence and sidearm had me a tad nervous for a bit. I realised as he sought the correct approval from inside that unlike NZ TV the media in places like Qatar is a powerful base which is a key target for any potential dissenting voices. I was very polite! And repeated my name clearly every time he asked me for it (which was a lot!).

Here are the photies - taken on my new toy (I have treated myself to a new camera - a Canon EOS 1000D with telephoto lens thrown in as part of the bargain).

I took this about 30 seconds before the Arabic presenters took up their spots. The photo below is of some of the robotic cameras that film the studio presenters.

A brilliant display area shows some of the history associated with Al Jazeera.

I was taken by this picture attached to a work station.

A control room in the Arabic language complex - there is a second English language complex as well as Al Jazeera documentary and Al Jazeera sports (which we couldn't visit - that one is more security conscious than the others for some reason).

Love and peace - Wozza