My Days in Doha: Retrowave Edition

Apologies for the belated blog post. I was busy this weekend; plus, I don’t have internet at my new apartment yet. The building supervisor tells me it will be about month. Inshallah. Still, I wanted to stick to my weekly regimen of blogging—better late than never! A lot has happened this past week. I hinted at what I had on the docket in my previous post of microblogs, but many of you might not be privy to how things panned out for me. So, allow me to take you back to last week in this Retrowave Edition of my blog.

[Note: if you would like to create your own retrowave text graphic, click here.]

New Apartment in Lusail City 

At the beginning of the week, I had my first hurdle to clear: I had to be out of my temporary housing in Al Safa Royal Suites and into my permanent housing in Lusail City. Once in my permanent housing, I would be closer to Qatar University (QU). My 45 minutes to 1 hour commute would become about 10-15 minutes each day.

QU provided me with a furnishing allowance in order to buy the furniture necessary to outfit my two-bedroom apartment. It was a modest allowance, but thankfully there’s an Ikea in Doha that will deliver and assemble furniture for a nominal fee, 100 riyals for delivery and another 110 riyals for assembly.

Upon receiving my furniture allowance, this set in motion the date at which I had to be out of Al Safa: two weeks! The week before I had to move from the hotel, I spent a Friday perusing Ikea locating all the items I had selected using my Ikea app. Then I had to take a day off of work in order to be available for the scheduled delivery date. However, I had my living room and bedroom mostly furnished.

Two days before I was set to move in, I made another run to Ikea. This time I bought much of the kitchen items that I needed: pots, pans, plates, silverware, glassware, etc. I also made a run to Carrefour in order to mix things up, but I wanted to get cleaning supplies and bathroom linens.

Then on the Saturday morning, I packed up my remaining items in my hotel, ordered an Uber, and checked out of Al Safa. The experience was mildly bitter suite, but I was looking forward to my true home for the next three years.

Oh, after I moved in, I made another run to Ikea to buy more furniture. This would be my last time shopping at the store for any major furniture pieces—my apartment already looked like an Ikea showroom.

Aside from needing to use Uber or asking my colleagues for rides, it was a pretty painless move. But, in order to truly to reap the benefits of my new apartment and being closer to campus I would need a car. And, in order to get a car, I would need to pass my driving test.

That was my second hurdle to clear for the week.

Driving Test

At the beginning of the week (Sunday), I had my driving test scheduled. If I passed, I would be granted a driver’s license and be allowed finally to rent a car. A lot hinged on me passing the test, so that morning, I woke up at 5am, prepared for my day, and waited outside my apartment building at 6am for an Uber. My driving test was at 7am, so I had about one hour to get from Lusail City on the northern part of Doha to my car school in the Industrial Zone on the southern part of the city.

There was one problem: because my apartment is in a relatively new development area, there aren’t a lot of people living or working in the area, hence there aren’t a lot of Uber drivers milling about my neighborhood at 6am. Additionally, Google Maps hasn’t updated its mapping of the roads where I live, so even if an Uber driver accepts my request, they often get lost trying to find me. 30 minutes later than planned, however, I was on my way to my driving appointment.

There was a second problem. At around 7am in Doha, people are heading to work. This creates congestions in various parts of the city, chiefly the areas where most people work, and especially in areas that have older road systems or are under lots of constructions. Though my Uber ride was halted at various times by the traffic, my driver was quite adept at navigating the stoppages. He even informed me that traffic wasn’t too bad because apparently K-12 schools were not in session on the day. This was news to me—I still had to teach at noon! Regardless, it took an hour to get from my apartment to the driving school plus the 30 minutes I spent waiting for my Uber. I arrived at the car school half an hour late. Things did not look good!

When I entered the car school, the security guard/entrance attendant informed me that I was too late. Driving tests had begun. But, he quickly added, talk to the captain. I then promptly headed to the captain’s room, which by now was familiar to me. This would be the third time I had to visit the captain for an exception. My first request for an earlier sign test date was rejected. I had to wait a month until my scheduled test. My second request for an earlier driving test date was rejected. I had to wait another month for my driving test. Things didn’t bode well for me.

I entered the room and explained to captain’s assistant that I was late for my driving appointment, but it wasn’t my fault. My Uber was 30 minutes late, and I got stuck in traffic. The assistant explained in Arabic my situation to the captain. The captain said something back in Arabic, and the assistant told me, “Ok. Go wait in the other room.” I was quite relieved at that moment. I wouldn’t have to wait another month for a driving test!

I made my way to the neighboring waiting room and sat down with the other stressed out men. Many of them had already taken the test and were worried about the result. A group of men were called to the front. Pass. Another group of men were called to the front. Fail. There was no sugar coating of test results. It was clear to the room right away what a person’s results were.

I was the last person to be called for a driving test. I was led outside and told to wait for 10 minutes in a parked car. My fate would be soon decided. Half an hour later…

I passed!

I paid the 250 riyals for the driving test and another 250 riyals for my driver’s license, which was issued at the school. All I had to do was rent a car—which I promptly did, with the help of a colleague, the next day.

The quality of my life in Doha significantly improved after this point. I was no longer a teenager who needed to ask his folks for a ride. I was a fully functioning adult, again, who could come and go as he pleased.

Nonetheless, I had a third hurdle to clear for the week: I had to pass my formative teaching observation.

Formative Teaching Observation

On Tuesday at noon, I was to be observed in my writing course by two Foundation Program English Department staff members.

Great. The class that I was assigned at the last minute before the add/drop date at the beginning of the semester. The class where I struggled to learn all the students’ names because they were so reticent to speak and stand out. The class where I have had to employ more classroom management because of disruptive behaviors. Ok, let’s see what I can come up with.

Thankfully, I was one of the last new instructors who had to complete their formative teaching observation, so I was able to glean the observation feedback from the previous instructors and knew what I needed to build into my observation. Student-centered activities, check. Minimize the teacher talk, check. Pair work, check. Indicate the learning objectives for the day’s lesson, check. Use technology, check. Noticeably take attendance, check. Use the overhead projector, check.

I mulled over ideas for my observation lesson for a couple days, and then the morning of my observation, I woke up at 6am and started finalizing my plan for the day. Two hours later, I had a lesson plan that I was quite comfortable with.

10 minutes before 12pm, I was in my classroom setting up, double checking the technology. At 12pm, my observers came in, and I was ready to go. There was only one problem: about half my students were present. Great, on the day that I was being observed, students were choosing to be tardy and make me look bad. The show had to go on, so I began teaching.

“Class, I want you to know that we have two guests in the room. However, they are here to observe me, not you. Please act naturally; I am the one who will be acting unnaturally.” I thought my wisecrack was funny. No reaction from my observers. 50 minutes later…

Class was over. I was able to integrate all the tardy students into the lesson, made it through all my planned activities, and dealt with the couple hitches that I encountered during the lesson.

Me: “Alright, there is only one mistake per sentence in this paragraph. Find the mistakes.”

(At the last sentence of the paragraph)

Me: “Oh, this compound sentence has two mistakes.”

Me: “Alright, take out your phones, click on the link that I sent you all, and complete the Google Forms activity.”

(Several minutes later students are happily tapping away on their phones.)

Good student: “Teacher, I can’t find the link that you sent us.”

Me: “Hmm, I sent the link twice. Oh, wait a minute. I sent the link to the wrong class twice.”

(Students are not-so happily tapping away on their phones.)

I received an email later that night. It was from one of my classroom observers. Attached to the email was my observation report. In it, there were a lot of very nice things that were said.

I passed my formative observation.

Fin

After my observation, I had two more days until the weekend. However, my energy for the week was already expended. Still, it was good to be in my new apartment, be driving again, and have completed two of three observations that I needed in order pass my probationary period.

As I drove to my apartment in Lusail City, with the sunset to my back, I was feeling pretty good about my last several days in Doha.

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