Sunday Morning, 11 November

“Sunday morning, rain is falling/ Steal some covers, share some skin/ Clouds are shrouding us in moments unforgettable/ You twist to fit the mold that I am in” – –Maroon 5, “Sunday Morning”  

“You came in with the breeze/ On Sunday Morning/ You sure have changed since yesterday/ Without any warning” – –No Doubt, “Sunday Morning”  

“Everyday is Saturday night,/ But I can’t wait for/ Sunday morning, Sunday morning” – –K-OS, “Sunday Morning”

11:56 AM. I am sitting in my reading chair next to my living room window, looking out at the overcast sky over my coastal neighborhood and the Arabian Sea. It rained earlier. My windows were drizzled with water, but they quickly dried. Now, I can hear distant thunder. Flashes of lightning momentarily efface the shadows of my windowsill.

Normally, this fall semester, I have to teach on Sundays. However, several weeks ago, I received an email from Qatar University (QU) stating that classes on Sunday, 11 November and Monday, 12 November would be suspended to ease campus traffic during the fall graduation ceremonies. 

I read the email three times to make sure that I didn’t misread the information. Soon after the email was sent, there was a flurry of Whatsapp group messages as my fellow QU instructors tried to confirm the email’s directive. Did you see this? Is this true? Hamdullah, a four day weekend!

“Strange,” I thought as I went into my last class of the day. In the first few minutes, I started to make smalltalk with my students about the suspension of classes.

“Yeah, teacher, the Emir will be attending the men’s graduation ceremony.” 

Ah, now I see. The government and QU probably want to tighten security during the Emir’s appearance. That’s why they’re suspending classes. Still, two days off are still two days off. I don’t like to look a gift email in the mouth.

12:04 PM. The sky has darkened to the point where I need to switch my lamp on to illuminate my living room. Rain starts to batter my window and streak down like my apartment was built underneath a waterfall. Thunder drums in the distance. Preemptively, I go into my bedroom and place a towel against the bottom trim of my balcony doorway.

I received good news last week: my request to move from my current apartment, 1906, to the apartment at the east end of hallway, 1905, had been approved by housing.

The previous week, I had to make an appearance during a housing committee meeting in order to present my request to the committee.

“Salam alaikum, gentlemen. Thank you for meeting me today.”

“Waalaykum salum. So, why are you requesting to move to 1905.”

“Yes, as you all know, the corner unit, 1905, is larger than my current apartment. My apartment is fine for a single man, such as myself; however, this December my sons will be visiting me, and I need more space. In addition, I would like my mother to come stay with me during February, and my apartment isn’t conducive to her staying with me for a prolonged period.”

“But, your current apartment is two bedrooms?”

“Yes, but my boys are 19 and 17, so they are quite big. Plus, my mother is 67 years old, and I don’t have enough room for a dining room table in my current apartment. How am I to properly dine with my family when they stay with me?”

“Ok. We will let you know about our decision in a week.”

Well, the week passed, and I eventually received the news that I was hoping for. Maybe I could start moving into my apartment next week and be settled so that I can throw a dinner party around the time of my 42nd birthday.

12:15 PM. Water is slowly streaming down my window. The rain pitter patters. The sky outside is still quite grey. The boom of thunder has slowed down as has the bursts of lighting. But, in a few minutes the volume of falling rain starts to surge.

Last Wednesday, I received a Whatsapp message; it was a screenshot of a QU email clarification. Basically, the email said that faculty and researchers did not have to report to work on Sunday, 11 November. However, Monday, 12 November was still a work day, despite the female graduation ceremony.

I shrugged. Classes were still suspended. So, what was I supposed to do? I guess I could come to campus, check my mailbox, and then sequester myself somewhere in order to grade student writing assessments—I was planning to do this anyways, sans the conspicuous visit to campus.

12:22 PM. After a brief surge, the streamlets on my window seem to be slowing. The sky is turning light grey. I get up from my chair to check the towel on bedroom floor. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning strikes down in the Arabian Sea. I wait for the sound of its thunder to catch up. Seconds later the boom from the lighting reaches my apartment.

Friday afternoon, I host the bi-weekly GURPS session of my roleplaying group. In my group, currently, there are two Brits, three Americans, and one South African. Despite being from different locations around the pond, we all grew up consuming fantasy and sci-fi culture.

Our GM is running late, so the other players and I make chitchat prior to his arrival. We discuss J-Lo’s visit to Doha. According to social media, J-Lo is helping to promote the grand opening of a mall and is making a special appearance. If you spend 500 QAR ($137 USD) at the mall, you earn a wristband so that you can meet her in the special luxury node.

“So,” I ask, “what waning celebrity would you be willing to pay 500 QAR in order to meet?”

Somewhere in Doha, J-Lo is being ushered around and a crowd of Qataris and foreign residents are squeezed against a barricade in order to get a glimpse of her.

12:25 PM. The rain seems to be ending. However, lighting is becoming more active and striking down more frequently off in the distance. The sound of rain has been replaced by the sound of my air conditioner.

Early Saturday, I can’t sleep. Going into the weekend, I took a long nap and destroyed my sleep schedule. Plus, I keep thinking about a veggie fried rice that I want to prepare for a Thanksgiving dinner party that a pair of my colleagues are hosting at their villa. They’re Canadian, and their Thanksgiving is in October, so they must have split the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving; that is why we’re celebrating the holiday on 10 November.

I get up and retrieve the white rice from my refrigerator. I break up the cold clumps with my hands. Next, I grab some kimchi and start to mince up the spicy but bitter fermented Napa cabbage. Then I drain a cabbage, carrot, and red pepper slaw that I made last month. The vegetables are brined but sweeter than the kimchi. Finally, I thaw out frozen corn and edamame in my microwave.

I heat oil in the pan and start building my veggie fried rice ingredient by ingredient, placing each cooked element into a large mixing bowl because the growing meal would overwhelm my largest frying pan.

When the ingredients are finished, I beat some eggs and cook them into flat, spongy omelets. Then I cut the sheets of eggs into strips and top them over the fried mix. While the food is cooling, I sit in my living room and sip some iced tea. 

Pictures and videos of J-Lo’s visit to Qatar appear in my Instagram feed.

12:27 PM. The sky is quickly becoming brighter, and the edges of clouds are becoming discernible in the sky. The aqua and blue color of the Arabian Sea has returned. Also, new ponds of water have formed in the empty construction lots around my apartment building.

After making a brief appearance at the Thanksgiving dinner party and dropping off my veggie fried rice, I am driving over to Education City in order to attend the Longines Showjumping Competition at Al Shaqab Equestrian Center. International riders have gathered for the finale of the Longines tour. 

At the competition are notables riders like Jessica Rae Springsteen (daughter of Bruce Springsteen), Athina Onasis (granddaughter of Aristotle Onassis and heiress to the Onassis fortune), and showjumping bad girl, Danielle Goldstein, who is bucking the decorum of the sport and letting her feather-adorned hair flow out behind her riding helmet as she competes.

I stay for an hour and enjoy the pomp and spectacle of the event. However, I haven’t eaten all day and want to rush back to the party to consume potatoes and turkey. A colleague of mine from Mississippi shared with our Whatsapp group pictures of three turkeys he had been smoking on the grill all day. I didn’t want to miss out on the turkey because I spent too much time at the showjumping event—plus, I didn’t have a horse in the competition.  

12:33 PM. The rain has noticeably stopped. There are a few distant booms of thunder. 

I made it back to the Thanksgiving dinner party to grab the last two smashed potatoes and two smoked turkey wings. I sat down, and an Iranian colleague was resting on the couch, digesting his meal. He has been working at QU for 12 years and told me stories of the when he arrived and the compound we were at was entirely populated by QU staff.

These were all people that I didn’t know and had left well before my arrival at QU last summer. Still, I enjoyed hearing him reminisce about the old get-togethers.

That’s the unfortunate thing about an expat community: you become close to people, but eventually you go, or they go. What can you do, though? That is the bargain you make when deciding to work and live in Qatar. Still, I’m on the recent arrival end of QU staff. Maybe, if I stay for 10 years, I will regale some newbie with tales of love and loss when I first arrived in Doha. 

12:51 PM. Most of the color outside has returned, and I hear the commotion of my neighbors and honks of street traffic, instead of thunder booming. 

I have two more days before I need to return to work. 

There is a pot of smoked turkey stock cooling in my refrigerator. 

I am going out with some friends from work tonight, and must run some errands and take a nap before meeting up with them. 

I am curious to see if the rain has caused flooding in the city and if it disrupted QU’s carefully planned graduation ceremony. 

Even though today is actually Sunday, tomorrow will more likely feel like Sunday morning.

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