Thursday, September 28th – End of the Second Week of Teaching

Sample road signs

Morning

My alarm app was set for 4am, but I was awake for a half hour before it went off. While awaiting the ring from my phone, I gauged how my cold was proceeding. My throat was a little sore, but I could swallow; my nose was still a little runny, but one decongestant pill should clear that up; I had a phlegmy cough, but the cold had moved its way down into my chest and wasn’t causing havoc to my head like the previous two days. I was well enough to take my driving test and then teach.

Up and at ‘em. I roused myself from bed after assessing my health and fortitude for the day’s ordeals. I had to be at the driving school by 6am for my appointment. Then I had to be at Qatar University (QU) by 11am for a professional development workshop and to teach my three classes—I was somewhat prepped for my classes and needed to be at campus a little earlier so that I could make all my necessary copies.

I taught from noon to 4:20pm. After that time, I could make my way home, medicate myself, and then crash for the day. Hopefully there wouldn’t be a spike in my cold symptoms. Inshallah. I had packed enough decongestants and Tylenol for several bouts of colds while in Qatar. Even though I had my insurance card, and there was a clinic on campus that I could visit, having to navigate a medical setting in Qatar for the first time seemed like an additionally daunting task to my culture shock constitution. I had the energy to deal with only one unfamiliar Qatari institution each day, and today’s was the driving school.

Long ago…

Picture from long ago

Long ago—according to my boys, that would be the 1980s or 90s—a very important person (VIP) from Qatar visited Turkey, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US). He was staying in each country for some time and wanted the ability to drive. He had a Qatar driver license and didn’t think this would be a big deal. When staying in Turkey, he asked for a Turkish driver license, and the person at the department of motor vehicles (DMV) said, “No problem.” and issued him a Turkish license. The VIP thought to himself, “I will remember the hospitality of the Turkish DMV and tell the people back home about it.”

Next, when the VIP traveled to the United Kingdom, he applied for a UK driver license. At first the UK DMV, didn’t know if they should issue him a license straightaway—after all, in the UK, they drove on the other side of the road. However, the VIP persisted and was able to sort things out. At the end of the day, he had his UK driver license. The VIP thought to himself, “I will remember the slight confusion at the UK DMV and tell my people back home about it.”

Finally, the VIP traveled to the US. He thought, “I now have three driver licenses with me. This certainly proves that I am capable of driving in the US.” When the VIP visited the DMV in the US, he brought with him his three licenses. However, because he was from Qatar, he was told that the US did not recognize his driving abilities and was required to take a driving test before he could be issued a license. “But,” he protested, “I have been driving all of my life. I’ve driven in Qatar, Turkey, and the UK—and in the UK, they drive on the wrong side of the road! Here in the US, you have some of the best roads in the world with some of the best-behaved drivers. Have you tried using a roundabout in my country? Surely, I am more than qualified to drive in your country.”

“Nope,” responded the attendant at the DMV and went back to playing her Pac-Man handheld game.

Pac-Man handheld game (very difficult to get the high score!)

“Fine!” thought the VIP, “I will remember this insult at the US DMV and tell my people back home about it.”

When the VIP went back to Qatar and told his people about his experiences at the DMV in three countries, the following was decided: Turkish citizens could have their licenses converted, no problem! UK citizens would be given some runaround, but at the end of the day, their licenses would be granted—as long as they promised to drive on the right side of the road! And, people from the US? They would have to take driving tests, both theoretical and behind the wheel. They should be doubly inconvenienced for the way they treated the VIP visiting their country.

(I cannot verify the truth of this story. However, my Turkish colleague had her driver license converted immediately; my UK colleague will be able to get his changed; and I must attend driving school with other Americans.)

Interlude

Conan: “But, I have been driving for 24 years! I also have an international driving permit!”

VIP: “So? That doesn’t matter. Please go away and prepare for your tests. I have to try and beat my Pac-Man high score now.”

Driving School Waiting Room

I arrived at driving school by Uber at 6am and was told to wait with the other test takers. I was the only American in the group; the other six or seven men seemed to be from India. I spent the time reviewing a handbook with the road sign used throughout Qatar.

Driving Handbook

At 7am, someone checked our paperwork, collected payment, and sent us to another room on the second floor—where we waited some more! After determining that I would be there for some time, I decided to prep for my Elementary Writing Workshop course.

At the beginning of the week, I found out that I would be teaching three different courses, not two different courses! However, none of my courses started before noon, so I still had my mornings to arrive early at school, prep for the day, and attend the requisite meetings and workshops that I had to during my probationary period.

I have to attend eight workshops as a new faculty member and 10-12 professional development sessions for the Foundation Program. I was going to be ambitious and try to finish the lion share of these requirements by the end of October. So far, I have two new faculty workshops completed and seven PD sessions under my belt.

While prepping on my laptop, I knew the guy next to me was watching me assemble a handout for my first class. There wasn’t much to see in the waiting room: either watch the man next to you build an English worksheet or watch the room supervisor play a billiards app on his phone.

“Excuse me,” he asked, “Are you an English teacher?”

“Why, yes, I am.” I responded not looking over since I was in the midst of creating a handout.

We proceeded to have a side-by-side chat about my work and his experience studying English. I told him about some of the differences between American and British English, and then he told me about his favorite songs in English: “Bad” by U2 and “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead.

“Whenever I am sad,” he said, “I listen to ‘Bad.’ It always makes me cry. And ‘Fake Plastic Trees,’ the English in the song has different meanings.”

The Language and Literature major in me wanted to confirm his hypothesis about the subjectivity of language, texts, and interpretations; however, I thought I’d keep my response simpler. “Yeah, when I’m sad, I listen to Adele.”

“Who?”

Text Message from QNB

While sitting in the waiting room, I received a text message from my bank. I had received payment for the first 21 days of work at QU, for medical and shipping reimbursements (I had to pay $200 for third a check-in bag at the airport!), and for my no-interest car loan from the school. This was good news.

Driving School Theoretical Test

At around 8am, we were led from the waiting room to the computer testing room across the hall. It took me about 10 minutes to complete the theoretical portion of the driving test. I had to answer 20 multiple-choice questions about road signs in Qatar. I learned immediately that I had passed because the computer screen told me I passed, and in the waiting room, there was a computer screen that showed all the pictures of the people who failed the test and would have to take a class on road signs! Around five people failed the test that I spent the morning preparing for. I imagine they failed because they weren’t fluent in Arabic or English, or they probably weren’t used to computer testing.

Once I received my paperwork back, I went downstairs to schedule a driving test, and the earliest possible date was November 12th! What? I would appeal this date with the captain.

I entered his office and stood in his queue. Everyone else in line seemed unhappy with their driving test date, which was the same as mine. However, when it came my turn to appeal the decision…. Nope! (Which I interpreted as, “Go away, I have a Pac-Man high score to beat!”)

I didn’t argue and left the room. But I waited outside for a little bit and could tell by the crestfallen individuals leaving afterwards that they had received the same answer as me. No one was experiencing any leniency. Heh heh, good. I wasn’t being singled out or exempted. I would just have to wait.

Uber Ride to QU

From Industrial Area on the southwestern end of Doha, it would cost me about 45 riyals to ride to QU on the northern end of the city. Last time I was at the car school for my eye test, I rode a taxi with an inexperienced driver, which made for an aggravating experience. I have ridden enough Uber and taxis now to know that it is not a good thing when other drivers pass your car and if you have to give directions to your driver because his GPS isn’t working!

Map of the route from Industrial Area to QU

My driver, this time, was not a novice driver. He was a very pleasant man who had worked both in Dubai and Doha and, because of tough times in his sector (not sure what he said, and I asked him twice), had taken a job as an Uber driver. We had a pleasant chat about Asian Town near the Industrial Area where most of the workers lived, about the merits of Doha and Dubai, and about how the Metro that is being constructed in Doha when finished will devastate the taxi and Uber sector. At the end of the trip, the fare came to 43 riyals. I gave him a 50-riyal bill and told him to keep the change. He didn’t need me to give him directions from my phone once, and he let me rant about President Trump for a while.

Since I had passed the first part of my driving test and prepped for my first class at the driving school, I decided to treat myself to an early lunch: a chicken tandoori wrap and a large cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.

Working lunch

End of the QU School Day

After 4:20pm, my last class finished, and I was ready to head home. I met up with my colleague Turkan who finishes teaching about the same time that I do. We usually share an Uber or taxi back to the hotel. However, because of the Thursday afternoon rush hour, fares were double, and we weren’t having any luck locating drivers nearby.

I suggested to Turkan that we ask a colleague to drop us off at a nearby mall, so that we could shop for rolling bags, maybe get something to eat, and book a ride where there would be more drivers.

After approaching a couple colleagues, one of them said that he had nothing else to do for the evening. He offered to take us to the Gulf Mall, eat dinner with us, and drive us home. We ended up eating at a Turkish restaurant in the mall (because Turkan is from Turkey), and when it came time to pay the bill, our colleague swiped it up and paid for it. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful and hospitable my colleagues in the Foundation Program have been, and so as I continue in the program, I know there is a high bar that I must clear, but everyone that I work with is rooting for my success.

My serving of Manti

I made it home at about 7pm. Took a couple decongestant pills. Sent off a couple FB messages to my boys. Watched YouTube videos in bed until I was ready to sleep.

It had been a very long day!

And it wears me out
It wears me out
It wears me out
It wears me out
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