Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Where trouble melts like lemon drops, high above the chimney top, that's where you'll find me (Judy Garland)

Rambling Man (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 10 part 8)

Wozza goes to Doha.

Qatar and its main city Doha were huge unknowns. We had no idea what to expect.

The internet can only tell so much and the initial one day induction by Cognition people in Auckland didn't provide me much light and shade either.

It was a big adventure. I was living my Dream Big mantra that I'd shared with my students at Stratford High School.

Jade, Jacky and I arrived in Doha in November of 2009 and were met at the airport by one of my new in-country bosses - Colin Donald. He took us to our new apartment in an older section of Doha - close to the famous Souq Waqif. 

Apartment 704 of Legends Hotel Resort and Spa, Corner of B Ring Road and Najma St., Najma District, was to be our new home for the next 8 months.

Wozza with Deno and our translator (photo
by the world famous Graeme McFadyen)
Initial impressions were on the whole pretty good - Colin seemed to be a good guy, the heat in Doha was okay at 25 degrees, and the apartments were modern and spacious. The cleanliness of our place wasn't up to Jacky standard though so we spent the first few hours cleaning. My working life started with interviewing prospective Principals with Colin (CJ), Graeme McFadyen and Dene Bright (Deno) in a swanky hotel. 

I still have no idea what this was for really as nothing came of the process, but we did the interviews over three days as we were instructed. These first work days were all a bit of a blur really - given the culture shock, the working with translators and finding my place in the scheme of things.

Luckily Deno was a dryly hilarious Aussie bloke who I immediately had rapport with, Colin was laid back and cool and I knew Graeme already.

While I was doing this, Jacky and Jade were learning more about Mall culture, taxis, and how women are regarded in the Middle East.

Wozza with Andie, Reem and Rami
Given they are both blond, very attractive women, and in Jade's case feisty with it, the transition wasn't an easy one.

When we walked down to the souq in the evening there were no other women around, local or otherwise. Jade and Jacky attracted a lot of attention and Jade especially hated that.

Breakfast with the team (Ian next to me)
After a couple of months Jade decided she'd had enough and needed to head back to NZ and get ready for university life in Wellington. This was after we'd been camel riding on a desert safari in a beautiful part of Qatar's border with Saudi Arabia.

Michelle and Gavin have helped look after each of our children during these transitional moments and Jade also had Samantha in Wellington (she'd moved into a flat) so we felt relatively relaxed about things. 

She started at Victoria but quickly realised she wasn't doing a course she liked nor did she like Wellington, unlike Samantha. Instead, she decided to go to Massey at Palmerston North to do nursing.

Colin was the leader of our Leadership Project team - a mixed bag of people from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with some local translators thrown into the mix. Half the team were preparing for a big project that was in the planning stages, the other half (including me) was delivering professional development to a group of 80 to 90 Qatari Principals who had been fired by the ministry. They were pretty grumpy - they had to attend our sessions to get paid!

We were working in a marriage venue called Regency Halls - two huge halls with a smaller hall attached. We were in the smaller hall!

John Lambert and I were joined by Karin (a.k.a. Barbie) and/or Aussie Di with Refka and Reem as our translators. Hilarity ensued!

Colin, Wozza, Deno, John and Deno's son.

It's impossible to describe the atmosphere and the craziness that happened on a daily basis (two days we worked from the office to prepare sessions, and three days we delivered seminars).

A few memories - watching some Principals being dropped off at the entrance to sign in (to get their pay), then immediately walk through the venue to where their driver picked them up. The female Principals were very much in a minority - about 15 of them and they could not mix with the men. Breakfast  happened after the first session - exotic foods that took me forever to get used to.

At Regency Halls with my bros.
It occured to me as I was writing this post that I had blogged about all this stuff at length back in 2009 - 2010 (a sample can be found here, including some images of my co-workers like Barbie). Re reading my entries was a hoot - just go to Blog Archive (bottom of the right hand column) and dial into 2009!

After the course finished with the Ministry Principals I was seconded onto another team (called National Professional Standards) - again delivering PD to Qatari leaders with Andie and Aussie Ian Smythe with Rami and Reem as translators. 

It was still cool but not as much riotous fun as the John led team. Eventually that contract ended too and by the end of June 2010 we were back in at our house in Stratford, New Zealand.

It had been a blast! Doha was an experience, an adventure and a half, with some amazing people and some challenging times with no professional regrets!

Love and peace - Wozza


Christine Ryan said...

Disappointed there's no picture of Barbie!

Wozza said...

Put a link on for you to an earlier post, Christine. Enjoy!