Top 10 Posts from the Past Two Years

The other day, as I was preparing a new post for my blog, I noticed that WordPress had congratulated me on 100 blog posts. 100 posts? Seems like only yesterday that I arrived in Doha and started writing my original blog, My Days in Doha.

In recognition of my 100 posts milestone, I thought that I would write a top 10-posts post recapping what I consider to be the most interesting or noteworthy entries of the past two years.

First Blog Entry

First picture in Doha

On August 26, 2017, I sat in the Chicago O’Hare airport waiting for my connecting flight to Doha, Qatar. I had a 12-hour layover to wait and think about the enormity of my decision to go abroad: I was about to spend the next three years living and working in Doha. And, to be honest, I was a little terrified!

The first entry of note is the OG, succinctly-titled post “First Blog Entry” from my first blog platform. After arriving in Doha, it took me a week or two to muster up the courage to compose and submit my first-ever blog post. However, one of the goals that I made for myself when moving to Qatar was to make sure that I wrote on a regular basis about my experiences abroad, lest I forget the details from my cultural adjustment period. In addition, I believed a blog would be a good way for family and friends to keep abreast of my activities. 100 posts later, I hope that I have fulfilled my two initial goals for blogging.

My Days in Doha: Retrowave Edition

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.

During my first semester in Doha, several important events intersected in a very intense period of time for me: moving into permanent housing, taking my driving test, and passing my formative teaching observation. In the post, “My Days in Doha: Retrowave Edition,” I document this experience interspersed with retrowave graphics. (Cue synthwave music mix.) This was around the time of Stranger Things season 2, so an 80’s cultural aesthetic might have imbued itself into my cognizance at the time. To this day, when I am driving home to futuristic Lusail City, with the orange-purple setting sun to back, I still feel like I am in retro wave concept art.

Days of Creativity Past: On My Creative Evolution

Rather than live in the artistic shadow that my brother Francis started to cast, I went askew and channeled my creative energies into other endeavors.

I wrote this blog post during my second semester in Qatar. By this time, I was much more adjusted as well as settled, and I had just taken my first winter break trip to Spain and Morocco. Instead of detailing what was taking place in Doha around me, I (for whatever reason) chose to look inward and write about my impetus for creativity. My creativity narrative was intertwined with the artistic development of my younger brother, who features prominently in the post. Also, I (again, for whatever reason) thought it would be amusing to keep making X-men allusions. This post was quite popular with my readers on Facebook and, to this day, is one of my most viewed posts from my original blog, My Days in Doha.

Penchants at an Amusement Park & Springtime Amusement Park—Doha, Qatar

Two illuminated prongs tower in the distance. I trod towards them. Your placid eyes follow me—easygoing and open to adventure, curious about the promises that I offer.

Many people might not realize this, but I majored in Creative Writing during my undergraduate years at University of Wisconsin Madison. I wrote a poetry manuscript for my capstone project. After graduating, when asked why I didn’t write poetry more, I liked to tell people, “I got good enough to realize that I was no good!” Still, two decades later, the fancy to dabble in poetry here and there sometimes bubbles up.

“Penchants at an Amusement Park” isn’t the first poem that I wrote for my blog, but it is one of my better forays. Later, I revised the poem some more, retitled it “Springtime Amusement Park–Doha, Qatar,” and submitted it to a travel writing website. The site published the poem and then inexplicably took it down. No matter. Had I stayed on the poetry-writing path after Madison, I would have been well-acquainted with the many shades of rejection one can encounter in life.

Letter to My Sons about the Importance of Travel

Back to my original task, providing you two boys with some advice. Here it is: Don’t be afraid of travel, and always try to make it a priority throughout your life. Well, why? Let me explain.

This is another one of my more popular posts from my first blog. In order to inspire myself to keep writing, I was experiment with different genres. At the time, there was a lot of reprehensible behavior taking place in the US in regards to travel bans and anti-Muslim rhetoric, so I wanted to write an epistle. However, every time I want to write something that is politically pointed, I balk — maybe because I don’t have the energy to be negative or angry. So instead, I decided to write a letter (epistle adjacent) for a very specific audience (my two sons) about something that I value (travel). Out of political horseshit, I was able to germinate a post that was a bit more uplifting and wouldn’t be drowned out by the barrage of unceasing reprehensible behavior that has been going on since day one of current presidency. (Deep breathes and think happy thoughts.)

Car Buying and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a car loan in Doha, must be in want of a car.

Towards the end of my second semester, as people were preparing to depart from Doha, I started to get more interest from people wanting to sell me their car. I very much felt like a bachelor being wooed, like Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s novel. From this spark of inspiration, I decided to see how far I could run with the joke of comparing my car buying escapades with Austen’s most aloof and eligible man of marrying age. It was quite fun searching for excerpts from Pride and Prejudice to remix and incorporate into my post. This entry ended up being one of the more humorous posts that I wrote.

Photo-Essay of Three Summer Trips

After a couple month hiatus from blogging, I am having a difficult time resuming my writing routine—which is too bad because I traveled to three interesting destinations this summer….

During my first year in Qatar, I started taking photographs on a more regular basis. There was more interesting subject matter for me to document when I went abroad, compared to when I was living in the Midwest. Additionally, a friend introduced me to Lightroom and encouraged to work on editing my photographs more. Then, over the summer, I took three trips: a road trip to Canada with my mom and sons, a layover in London, and then a week-long stay in Sri Lanka over Eid al-Adha.

When I was finished with all my summer adventures, I didn’t know how to resume writing. Where to start after all experiences? However, throughout the summer, I had taken pictures the entire time and spent time editing them. It made sense to compose a blog of curated photos from my summer. Now, instead of uploading my travel photographs to Facebook, I try to create blog posts with galleries of my photos, so I don’t inundate people with albums of my pictures. This post was the first of my photo-specific blog posts.

8 Ways of Saying Qatar

As we lie in bed,/ you teach me the pronunciation/ of the country’s name in the Khaleeji dialect./ The way is to blend the T and the R sound.

This was one of my more ambitious creative writing blog posts — inspired by the Nabati poetry tradition, various experiences at the time, and the many ways of saying the name of the country. At some point in the future, I wouldn’t mind workshopping this post some more and submitting parts of it for publication.

Rainy Days in Doha

While [the students] were occupied with comparative and superlative adjectives, I slipped downstairs and stepped outside. Lightning and thunder kept going off in succession, and there was a light sprinkle of rain.

This was my last really popular post from my second year in Qatar. After this post, I noticed that my readership dropped off precipitously. Maybe the oxymoronic subject matter of the post captivated readers, then Facebook changed its algorithms, and my posts weren’t getting the same exposure after this. No matter. I would blog about my experiences in Qatar even if my only readers were my mom and myself.

My Days in Doha – Final Exam

4. In the Gulf and some other countries, there are no rules for pleading for a _____.

The last post on my top 10 list was quite favorable with my colleagues in the Foundation Program Department of English — especially the ones who had taught or were teaching ENG 250, like me. It was the end of the semester when I wrote the blog post, so I was in the midst of final exam preparations and invigilations, which became the fillip for the post. Basically, I took an ENG 250 practice exam, and filled it with content and questions related to what was professionally and personally going on at the time. This post received more likes and feedback from my colleagues here than I usually receive, and I was especially proud of how I was able to adapt all sections of the practice exam with my information.

Honorable Mentions

While this post was meant to be a top 10 list, here are two other recent posts that deserve honorable mentions.

Subject: Safety Tips to Guard against the Dust Storm

IMPORTANT! The Health Clinic advises faculty members to take the following safety precautions against dust storms which can pose health hazards such as sinus allergies, respiratory infections, and dystopic anxiety.

Lately, I have found enjoyment in using emails that I receive and subverting them with my absurd addendum (very much in the spirit of the texts found on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. When I first received this email, I was so amused by the genuine advice but odd subject matter — from my Midwestern POV — that I had to toy with the writing. After this experiment, I have remixed several other emails, even turning one into a sonnet.

My Days in Taiwan (Part 1-4)

[D]espite getting ready to move, preparing for a wedding, and hosting a parent, when I told Amanda that I was planning on visiting Taiwan, she was adamant that I stay with her and Simon in their studio apartment — though she warned me ahead of time in a carefully prepared pros and cons list detailing what was in store for me.

Actually, this isn’t one post, but a series of posts that I wrote recently while traveling throughout Taiwan. As I mentioned before, around the middle of my first year writing on my first blog, I noticed in the analytics a dramatic decrease in my readership. I thought maybe it was due to changes in the Facebook algorithm or possible because the novelty of me living in Qatar had lost its luster to my friends and family elsewhere in the world. Then while in Taiwan, I wrote four posts about my trip around the island and created photo galleries of all my pictures. Suddenly, the amount of people viewing my blog spiked again. Long story short, people want to read about new and exotic travel experiences, not about the slow normalization of life in the Gulf.

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