28 April, 2009 § Leave a Comment
It should probably be explained that much of the rancor exhibited here towards Qatar “University” is personal. I was offered a job here for the 2009-2010 year about six months ago by the person for whom I was working part-time, a job which I was planning on (and planning around) taking. In the middle of the spring semester, a point in time after which I was able to apply for other positions, the job offer was withdrawn without prior notice, explanation, or apology.
Despite my suspicions that it was a fake university, suspicions that formed when I first arrived here, it was really this callous, unprofessional disregard for me that polarized me against this place. While I admit that writing about it in a public forum is ill-advised and perhaps unprofessional, I am consciously refraining from including any details beyond what is surely uncontestable (and any details beyond those I would present to the very scorpion-woman who sent me the saccharine-coated pink-slip pleasantries that amounted to “get a life, but not here, please”).
That’s all fine, but there’s really a further foundation to my doubts in the quality of this institution. This is all besides the general feeling around here that despite the Western educational system’s centuries of development and trial-and-error requisite to a huge, established system of knowledge dissemination, the system can be purchased, for cash, and brought intact without any thoughtful contribution on the part of the adopters. Quality here is measured in new chemistry-department gadgets, parties are thrown when 30-year old departments are accredited by Canadian boards, teaching strength is counted exclusively in the hours spent in the classrooms built out of natural gas and oil. What I’m talking about today, rather, is the kind of farce that makes the late Armstrong Academy end-of-year recitals look like polished Broadway musicals; specifically, I’m talking about today’s activity that cancelled today’s classes for my program: “Ana Lughati” (I Am My Language), or “Arabic Day.”
First, exceedingly relevant to the discussion is the manner in which we were informed of the schedule’s change-up. An announcement was posted yesterday to an out-of-sight bulletin board in our program’s lobby about “Arabic Day” from 8:30 to 3:00, attendance mandatory, classes cancelled. Students were exhorted to arrive at 8:00. Some classes were apparently informed yesterday by their teachers, but mine wasn’t, probably due to my teacher not knowing. Sometime during the evening, the pan-”university” email list spat out a generic message about the festivities. I didn’t hear about “Arabic Day” until late last night. Erin and I begrudgingly decided to go instead of lying around all day; surely our fellow students would fail to show and we’d be certain to get the extra points. Everyone came, though, since no one really knew about it.
We filed into the main auditorium of the “university” where students were milling about, wrapped in their high-school cackles and sparkling cell phones. We sat down with two friends, although a few minutes later Erin and I were funneled to another part of the auditorium where we’d not face the temptation of talking to the males. After the would-be moralists left, we went back; no one noticed. Things didn’t get started until about 9:30.
First was a too-loud recording of the Qatari national anthem, cheesy in the tinny speakers and accompanied by an “inspiring” Power Point presentation. Next some Qur’anic readings, and then a presentation on something else, but I couldn’t pay attention because the girl, face totally obscured, who was operating the computer hooked up to the projector display kept editing (and not very gracefully, either) her Power Point slides with the entire gaggle of cheap chairs watching.
Then came a speech by someone important about the declining prominence of Arabic in Qatar. As he garbled on in educated Arabic about how the foreign-born domestic workers were eroding the dignity of the Arabic tongue with their habits of teaching their toddler charges their native language, and the inconvenience and dishonor of needing to speak to the waitstaff and common employees in English rather than Arabic, an out-of-the-loop servant from the Pacific Islands mounted the stage to bring the presenter a bottle of water. As the woman, with the discomforting non-expression of someone who doesn’t know she’s being talked about, placed the bottle in front of the man, he laughed heartily.
There was a break for food and syrupy juices. Thirty minutes later one of the organizers tried to get the attendees to return to their seats with no success; little did the cat-like herd of teachers, students, and various ambiguously important people know that what they were being rounded up for was a succession of poorly-made poetry slides, with comically over-the-top voices narrating a series of Arabic poetic meters, on the projector screen, with no human up front to deflect the boredom. More videos followed, then finally the pièce de résistance, a montage of still photographs of Doha, each on the screen for twenty seconds longer than necessary, looped together with mild, patriotic classical music, all of it a video clip conspicuously lifted straight from You Tube.
On the downward slope from that thundering crescendo of amateurism was the Arabic-translated theatrical trailer for the Oprah-approved film The Secret (the new-age life design that insists that all of life’s hoped-fors are obtainable merely by wishing them into being). The trailer was followed by a poorly produced video-taped conversation between three Qatari students about the method. It was around this point that I left, eschewing even the promised free lunch, something I would never usually do.
Most appropriately, on the way to the library to access online journals through my still-active University of Arizona account (since Qatar “University” does not subscribe to electronic academic journals), I passed the woman who had offered a job and six months later withdrawn it. A phone hung loosely out of her ear, but she was attuned enough to her environment to notice me, and match my forcedly enthusiastic wave with the kind of head nod and shoulder shrug I’d expect from a bitter, but time-healed, ex-boyfriend.
21 April, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve tried, but sometimes thinking of clever things to write is as fruitless as trying to get someone at Qatar “University” to do their job.
17 April, 2009 § 1 Comment
1. I went to the Al-Jazeera documentary film festival yesterday at the Sheraton. It was a typical Qatar University field trip (we left an hour late after milling around outside for forty minutes, one of the two bus drivers didn’t know where “downtown” is, and we weren’t given any idea of where anything was or how long we were going to be there). We were there long enough to watch one film, which was a 2-hour piece by the Al-Manar network out of Lebanon. It’s called قبضة النار and it is about the Party of God’s crushing, demoralizing victory over the armies of the Zionist Entity in August 2006. It came complete with hokey special effects for interview scenes, dazzling transitions straight out of Windows Movie Maker, and English subtitles that rival in their syntactic sophistication the emails I get from the Qatar University International Students Department (Amanda, we are noticed you to sent email from personal account, however it being a policy against ours to accept these emails of personal accounts, however despite, you send email second time, but we take emails from Qatar University account, official, for we are recommended you in NOTES to checking for your Qatarer University email on the daily scheme). Considering that I wasn’t even aware that Hizbullah had won that particular war, it was a fascinating piece.
2. I went to Amsterdam for a week for spring break. Besides falling victim to the new outbreak of bed bugs (as I saw in the American newspapers during one of my daily “let’s pretend I’m in America by reading what the American media are saying” sessions), I had a great time. I went with three friends and they all understood the appropriate tone for the trip. Usually I travel quickly, a day or two here, a day or there. For this week, we stayed in the same city, in the same hotel, doing the same things, for an entire week. I accomplished three major things that I can’t accomplish in Doha:
a) I ate pork. All the time. I ate bacon, ham, sausage, and other stuff that was also awesome.
b) I bought books. Considering that the Arabs pride themselves on preserving the Greek literary legacy, the peoples of Qatar at least don’t like books too much. Finding a good book store, like the one I visited on four separate occasions in Amsterdam, was as pleasantly surprising as being in a country where drugs are legal (wow, this country trusts me as an adult to make my own decisions!)…
c) On the same train of thought, I was treated like an adult in Amsterdam. That’s the most soul-crushing, painful, anger-fueling aspect of living in Qatar: You’re a child here. You’re a child-slave to their personal choices. They’ve decided that they don’t want to drink alcohol or eat pork or smoke dope, or whatever, and that’s perfectly fine, as I’ve decided that I don’t want to eat celery, olives, or gore-wood tea, and that I don’t want to smoke crack. But they not only refrain (if they even do refrain) themselves, but they insist that you do as well and let me tell you, while I do think it is morally reprehensible to consume olives and smoke crack, I sure do think you have the right to do it.
3. Continuing with the theme, I went into Qatar Distribution Company the other day. What is Qatar Distribution Company, you ask? THE BOOZE SHOP. God forbid that God finds out that the Qataris are letting the infidels drink their kaffir-juice, so they had to keep the word “alcohol” out of the name. The building looks embassasorial, and apparently it was run by the British Embassy for a long time (God bless the British Empire) but the Qataris saw a profit in it, so they absorbed it, slapped a $700 license on the right to buy alcohol as a non-Muslim expat, and set up shop. When you go inside, you’re immediately (if you’ve been in Qatar for longer than two or three hours) dumbstruck, awestruck, lovestruck by the plethora of bottles around you. You think, “wow, I could live in here! What’s this? A rum section! Here’s some whiskey! Oh joy! Oh happy day!” Then you realize that you’ve walked into a building the size of a Target with the alcohol inventory of a Circle K where a regular-sized bottle of Grey Goose costs $90. Then you see the sign that posts the rules (because dealing with
child-slaves adult expats requires setting rules). These rules include: Only the licensed permit holder may purchase items at Qatar Distribution Company. The permit holder must conceal the purchases in his car so that they are not identifiable. The permit holder must drive with his concealed purchases directly from the Qatar Distribution Company to his place of residence. Purchases made at Qatar Distribution Company must be consumed at the permit holder’s place of residence only. Et cetera.
Oh, and also? There was a sign at the check out, and I memorized it.
Save some time and let your wife do the shopping! Get her a JOINT-PERMIT today!