qatarperegrine: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] kit_ping posted a meme in she wrote about five topics that someone picked because they associate them with her, and then offered to pick five things for other people. So here are the my explanations of five things [livejournal.com profile] kit_ping associates with me. (Comment if you'd like five things for you to write about, I guess.)

travel )activism )vegetarianism )college )murder mystery parties (with bonus pictures!) )
qatarperegrine: (buddha)
Something astonishingly good just happened, which sadly reveals me to be astonishingly dim-witted.

I was just videotaping myself playing guitar in order to critique my form (zomg am I holding the guitar awkwardly). At the end of the song the pick flew out of my fingers and seemingly disappeared, and (since it was my last pick) I spent 15 minutes searching for it to no avail. Eventually I concluded that my cat had found it first and run off with it, as is his wont.

Oddly enough, it took me a while to have the obvious idea of watching the video of me dropping it, which revealed that it had gotten wedged in a funny corner between two couch cushions on our L-shaped couch. When I pulled the cushion up, I found the pick -- sitting next to the Buddhist rosary I lost back in July.

I bought this rosary in Hong Kong and wore it all summer -- while traveling, while hiking, while cutting my nephew's umbilical cord -- and when I lost it I was distraught to a hilariously ironic degree, given that it exists in order to remind me of the Buddhist virtue of non-attachment. Nevertheless, when I failed to find it the morning after I returned from England, I assumed I'd left it on the plane. I ordered a similar shu zhu online from Singapore, which I've been wearing ever since. But it turns out that the original one was within about a foot of my normal evening nestling spot the whole time.

How is it possible that I haven't looked under that cushion in three months? I am utterly bewildered. I know I looked there when the shu zhu first turned up missing, so it must have migrated a bit since then, but still.... Now I'm really happy the guitar pick flew out of my hand when it did! Thank you, Neutral Milk Hotel, for making me rock out so hard!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Internets, tell me what I should be for Halloween! I have been searching for ideas but have not settled on anything awesome.

Doha has a (small, bare-bones) Halloween store, so I am more limited by lack of imagination than by access to stuff. However, in case it is helpful, costume-y things I have on hand include a wavy black wig, a straight blonde wig, a witch's broom, a sparkly top hat, a straw cowboy hat (and sheriff's badge and handcuffs, but those are all from a work event and thus passe), a witch's hat if I didn't lose it, and a variety of goth-y makeup. In the potentially useful clothes department I have a black velvet dress that is sadly not as vampyric as I hoped, a psychedelic 60s dress from my birthday party last year, a couple jelabiya (jelabiyaan??), an abaya, and a Palestinian keffiyeh.

It would be easy to pick up a costume-in-a-bag thing, but I want to be witty and interesting and cool! Sigh. Normally I like geeky-in-joke-type costumes (cf. my failed grand ambition to be Marzipan a couple years ago) but it's not a hugely computer geeky crowd.

(Dohaites: No fair peeking at comments if you're going to the same party as me.)

Someone please have a brilliant idea for me!!!

EDIT: I found something in my closet that suggested an idea -- a not very creative idea, but one that I have almost everything on hand to pull off reasonably well. I shall save these suggestions for next year. (It also filled me with the desire to host a Theoretical Costume Party, at which guests show up as their favorite theorem or axiom.)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Today, for the first time, Justin and I did something that almost all of our friends have been doing since they moved to Qatar: we hired someone to come clean our home.

The nanny of some of our friends was looking for some part-time work on the side, now that their kids are both in school a couple mornings a week. So Flora's going to come clean our house every Tuesday morning, for QR25 ($7) an hour.

I still have very mixed feelings about this venture. It was pretty awesome to walk into the house this evening and see dust-free furniture, gleaming floors, and cat-fur-free furniture (YAY). And Flora's happy to get extra cash. But I feel weird employing someone to do personal tasks I don't want to do myself. I don't think it's good for people to shuffle off the "menial" parts of their lives to someone else. But then, Justin points out I was shuffling them off to him anyway!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
My church youth group leader died yesterday.

He could be quite a character: loud, rotund, known for wearing garish ties; he painted the youth group room pumpkin orange; he always sang, with great gusto, off-key. He had a lot of obscure traditions, like requiring his volleyball team to jump up and down every time he served, shouting "Go, go, get 'em, get 'em, oomph, oomph."

For all his quirks, Chuck played a huge role in my life. At a time when I was friendless and insecure at school, his youth group was the main place I felt liked and valued. He gave each of us responsibility for leading worship services, and was tolerant when my friends and I did wacky things like plan worship services around Taoist themes. When I was secretary-treasurer of the youth group, he taught me how to write my first check. His summer camp had a profound impact on both my spiritual life and for that matter my social life, introducing me to my first boyfriend. Come to think of it, it was at one of his weekend youth events that I met my husband. He nominated me for a position on the youth advisory board to the city council, and later asked me to come back and be a camp counselor at the summer camp that had meant so much to me in junior high. We are affected in unchartable ways by every person we meet in life, but I am sure I wouldn't be who I am today without Chuck's influence and the opportunities he gave me.

Rest in peace, Chuck. I'm sorry I never said any of that while you were alive.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Quote of the day, from Justin: "You don't look a day over 29! Well, maybe a day."

It was a fun birthday. I had lunch with a good friend I wish I'd spent more time with this semester, and the lunchroom even made mashed potatoes, my favorite! I walked back to my office from the lunchroom to find a group of students gathered outside it. They promptly burst into singing happy birthday, and gave me cake. In the afternoon, I got a really awesome birthday card from my parents (which sorta inspired the self-indulgent montage at the bottom of this post). Then, after work was the annual end-of-year staff party! Yay birthdays!

Also, I now know how to say "I am 30" in Bengali: "Amar boyosh tirish." If I find myself stranded in rural Bangladesh in the next 364 days, I will be able to communicate my age. That's a load off my mind.

2007 recap

Jan. 6th, 2008 09:25 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I can't believe that everything that happened in 2007 fit in one year. I learned to love tea, visited a labor camp, weekended in Dubai with friends, hiked through Yorkshire, developed two strange allergies, had the most fun birthday party I've ever had, showed my parents around Doha, dyed my hair blue, spent a very unhappy week in Pittsburgh, learned to play soccer and beer pong (not simultaneously), got a helix piercing, came out as an atheist, hung out with gorillas in Gabon, started enjoying my job, took a picture every day for a month, went to absurd costume parties in absurd costumes (hippy, punk, 70s hooker, goth, witch and hippy again), had excellent dosas with amazing students, kayaked in Thailand, started DMARDs, participated very badly in a programming competition, came out as Buddhist, learned how to play guitar, learned how to wrap a sari, organized Thanksgiving, won a grant to research migrant workers, discovered a cave, became director of the ARC, and made it home for Christmas. Sucking marrow out of life: CHECK.

I just went through my last.fm playlist and iTunes library and figured out my most-listened-to song for each month in 2007. I think it says something about my year, although what it says is probably fairly inscrutable (except that the year improved over time).

JanuaryCrazyGnarls Barkley
FebruaryFuck the Pain AwayPeaches
MarchKimi No KoeBeyond the Clouds OST
April9 CrimesDamien Rice
MaySelfless, Cold and ComposedBen Folds Five
JuneWe Do Not Belong TogetherSondheim
JulyIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea     Neutral Milk Hotel
AugustGrace KellyMika
September     Closer to FineIndigo Girls
OctoberEndlesslyMuse
Novemberthat entire Muse album; I am so obsessed
DecemberKi-Yeled Yulad LanuBoston Camerata

This time last year, I wrote a much more introspective recap of 2006. I kept the post private, though, because I still felt too ambivalent and confused about where I was going. I'm making it public now, because I think that what I said there was something true and important about where I was 365 days ago, and because I'm no longer scared that it's barnacles all the way down.

I joke about having a midlife crisis when I hit 30 this year, but the truth is that the more time passes, the better I know myself, and thus the happier I am capable of being. When I was a kid I thought that adulthood meant not growing anymore. I'm glad I was wrong.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
A foreshadowing of my inevitable midlife crisis next year:

Me: "Just think: when the buddha was my age he was still a prince. He hadn't become an ascetic yet, let alone left the ascetics and become the buddha."

Dave: "When Alexander the Great was your age, he'd conquered the known world."
qatarperegrine: (atv)
Today I came across this passage of Carl Jung, which I read once a very long time ago and which has always rung very true for me.

I always worked with the temperamental conviction that fundamentally there are no insoluble problems, and experience justified me in so far as I have I have often seen individuals simply outgrow a problem which has destroyed others.

This 'outgrowing', as I formerly called it, on further experience was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person's horizon, and through this widening of his view the insoluable problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life-tendency. It was not repressed and made unconscious, but merely appeared in a different light, and so did indeed become different.

What, on a lower level, had led to the wildest conflicts and to panicky outbursts of emotion, viewed from the higher level of the personality, now seemed like a storm in the valley seen from a high mountain-top. This does not mean that the thunderstorm is robbed of its reality, but instead of being in it, one is now above it. However, since we are both valley and mountain with respect to the psyche, it might seem a vain illusion to feel oneself beyond what is human. One certainly does feel the affect and is shaken and tormented by it, yet at the same time one is aware of a higher consciousness, which prevents one from becoming identical with the affect, a consciousness which takes the affect objectively, and can say, 'I know that I suffer.'
...
I had learned ... that the greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble. ... They can never be solved, but only outgrown.
qatarperegrine: (hippie)
It's been a good day. I was moderately busy all day meeting with freshmen about their first English papers, and I met briefly with a colleague about a possible collaboration that will make me fabulously happy if it comes to fruition. And I am absurdly cheered by little things, like that my fingernails are still painted black from a party this weekend for which I got all gothed out.

Then after work some students invited me along to iftar at an Indian restaurant I hadn't been to before. Yummy dosas and lovely palak paneer ensued, along with requisite geeky conversation about inductive proofs, greedy pirates, and whether Thomas Aquinas' fourth proof of the existence of God actually proves the existence of the maximally hot chick.

For the last week I've been back on the medicine that makes me really depressed. Today we halved my dosage, and I was somewhat trepidatious about what would happen. It turns out that, and this was probably somewhat predictable, withdrawing a drug that makes me dysphoric makes me... really, really euphoric. So between dinner and our scuba lesson I spent an hour blissed out on the couch listening to Pink Floyd.

It's been a good day.
qatarperegrine: (CMU)
[Poll #1041692]

Edit: apologies for my inability to spell "Computation." Apparently you can't fix polls once you've posted them?
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Visiting the States always provides an interesting opportunity to think about the many ways that living in Qatar has changed me. For example, I'm a lot more gregarious than I was when I lived in Pittsburgh, and generally a lot less fearful -- or at least a lot better at ignoring my fear.

A more obvious example is that I didn't drink before I moved to Doha, and indeed viewed drinking as immoral, whereas now I don't mind drinking. This is actually indicative of a larger shift in my thinking about ethics. Islam is willing to condemn a lot of behaviors which may or may not be inherently harmful, simply because it is believed that God disapproves of them. Of course, plenty of Christians do the same, but my increased familiarity with another religion's list of disapproved behaviors has thrown into sharp relief the problems with divine command theory. It no longer seems reasonable to argue that an action may be unethical simply because one culture's version of God has taken a disliking to it. If an action is unethical, it seems to me, it must be so because it causes harm (is likely to cause harm, has a tendency to cause harm; let's not get too utilitarian here). On a more personal level, seeing Muslims avoiding actions that seem morally neutral to me (like falling asleep on one's stomach) for fear of offending God has made me realize the extent to which my own "moral" stances were motivated by the same desire to be "good enough." I wasn't avoiding alcohol because it has deleterious effects on society; I was avoiding it because doing so allowed me to think of myself as A Good Person. That no longer seems like a good motivation, and thus, I no longer avoid alcohol.

Rethinking the role of religion in ethics made me rethink religion generally, and about six months ago I came to the conclusion that I am no longer Christian. My allegiance is fundamentally not to a Christian worldview but to a secular one. (Thought experiment: if I could choose between a universe in which the Muslim world universally accepted Jesus' messiahship, or one in which it universally accepted the principles of tolerance, free inquiry and rationalism, which would I pick?)

I'm not sure what else to say on this subject, so I'll end here.

I will, however, note that I wrote a long post on secularism a year ago, but never polished it enough to post it publicly. Since I'm unlikely to make any further changes to it now, it is now publicly viewable here.
qatarperegrine: (books)
The other day I went to a medical lab to get a blood test the rheumatologist requested. I walked into the waiting room, went up to the receptionist's window, and waited for her to look up from her computer. When she finally did, she seemed kind of annoyed, and told me to write my name on the list and go sit down. I felt annoyed in turn that she was acting like I ought to know the procedure, even though I've never been there before.

It was only after I sat down that I realized there was a prominent sign right next to her desk, instructing newcomers that they ought to... write their names down on the list and go sit down.

Before I moved to Qatar, I would have been incapable of walking past a sign like that without reading it, and it boggled my mind that students would ignore the sign on my office door. But now, apparently, I do exactly the same thing. A few weeks ago I even found myself driving backwards down a one-way street, because I was paying attention to how traffic was moving (which was, indeed, backwards) rather than the road sign telling me not to enter. When signs and written instructions fail to correspond to reality, I suppose it's natural to stop paying attention to them.

In other news, I was just very comforted to read that prednisone, which I'm currently on, can cause swift and extreme mood swings. I'll be off it in four days. Here's hoping.
qatarperegrine: (socrates)
Yesterday there was a presentation for faculty and staff who might be interested in moving to Doha. A lot of it was question and answer time and, as always, I was struck by how wrong the questions were. People ask whether the students' English is a barrier to learning, when the interesting question is really one of transitioning students from an educational system that doesn't promote critical thinking or problem-solving. People ask about how women are treated in Qatar, when really women are not the subject of most discrimination or exploitation. They're just the wrong questions, because people don't yet have the experience to ask the right questions.

When I learned about the pre-Socratic philosophers in college, I felt immensely sorry for them. They were doomed to failure, because the questions they asked were inherently unanswerable due to the way they were framed (e.g., "How did the many derive from the one?"). On the other hand, those guys did give birth to philosophy and science, so maybe in the grand scheme of things they're not too ashamed of themselves.

Lately I've been spending a lot of time asking myself what career/field would make me happy. A friend suggests that this may be the wrong way of framing the question, but I don't think I've figured out what way of framing it would be more productive.

Too sleepy to tie my thoughts together....

If at the end of our journey
There is no final
Resting place
Then we need not fear
Losing our way.
-Ikkyu
qatarperegrine: (travel)
I am here, in virtually one piece!

It was a pretty rough trip; I got a migraine somewhere around Iceland, and the rest of the voyage pretty much sucked. Clearing immigration and customs and transferring terminals at JFK: never fun, but particularly not fun when lights and noises make you go ARGH. Then my flight from JFK to Pittsburgh was delayed 2.5 hours for no reason that was ever explained, which means I failed to take Andrew out for his promised birthday dinner. Overall it could have been a better day. But I'm here now, and feeling surpisingly OK for the day after a migraine, so life goes on.

Look, I'm using my blog to complain about how oppressed I am by the quotidian details of life! I'm a real LJer now!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
  1. I leave for Pittsburgh tonight! And, as much as I love Doha, I always love going back and visiting the old stomping grounds.

  2. My ankle is mysteriously completely pain-free today.

  3. ANIME HAIR W00T!

qatarperegrine: (Default)
Healing my Achilles tendon -- which you may recall I injured while hiking over spring break -- has become quite a comedy of errors.

First, the doctors tried a Voltaren shot. But I was allergic to that, which resulted in anaphylactic goodness and a groovy overnight stay in ER while tripping on a mind-altering dosage of Benadryl.

So my rheumatologist put me on a different NSAID, and my ankle got worse.

Now I'm on an NSAID that works -- a COX-2 inhibitor, which is to say, a drug that was invented in order to be easier on the stomach than other NSAIDs. Needless to say, it alone of any NSAID I've taken gives me heartburn and abdominal pain!

In addition to the NSAID, I am also giving my ankle plenty of rest, even though it's just killing me not to go to the gym. And this morning I suddenly remembered one of many reasons I like to exercise regularly: it's what keeps the arthritis in my hips at bay. So, yup. Ankle doing a bit better; hips doing a lot worse.

For an encore, I'm fully expecting to lose a limb to hypothermia while applying an ice pack. I'm starting to regard my foot as having a malevolent will of its own, sort of like Ash's hand in Evil Dead II. If I am found kicked to death in my sleep, you'll know who to blame.
qatarperegrine: (camel)
When you go to live abroad, you generally sit through lots of presentations on the Stages of Culture Shock. The presenters tell you a story that goes like this: when you arrive in the host country you'll be really excited and everything will seem wonderful. Then things will start getting stressful, and you'll find the host culture strange and frustrating. Eventually, though, you'll adapt to the new culture and feel at ease in it, and even become bicultural. The presentation will probably include a graphic much like this one:

The presumption is that the end result of living in another country is having warm fuzzy feelings about that culture.

(The irony seems lost on the presenters of such information that this very story -- "the individual struggles, overcomes, and lives happily ever after" -- is a quintessentially Western narrative. I wonder how people from other cultures characterize their crosscultural experiences?)

For me, the Adjustment phase came with the realization that my own expectations were culturally bound, and that it was therefore both unfair and unhelpful to judge my host culture by my own culture's standards. Of course, I would have said I believed this statement before I moved to Qatar, but in reality it took several months for me to really grok its implications. Adjustment is when I stopped feeling irritated when people cut in front of me in line at QTel, because I understood that they were just following their own culture's standards of etiquette instead of mine. It's when I realized that Westerners dislike the abaya because we see our own level of dressed-ness as "normal" and anything more than that as "oppressive," which is silly given that lots of people in the world cover less of their bodies than we do, and would see us as similarly oppressed.

It's a very cool thing, reaching Adjustment stage. Everything becomes relativized, and weird things about your host culture start making more sense and stop bugging you. And more interestingly, you start re-evaluating your own culture, because its "common sense" no longer seems self-evident.

I think I'm beginning to feel that there's a post-adjustment phase, though. Sometimes I jokingly call it the Bitter Expat phase, although really I think most of the bitter expats I've met never reached Adjustment. But I do think that Adaptation is not the end of the story. "It's all relative" is a realization you must make in order to understand a new culture, but in the end it's not a good ending point for one's understanding of cultural variations. (I've linked to Bagish's "Confessions of a Former Cultural Relativist" before, but it's relevant here.)

I feel like I've reached a point where I realize that, though my initial judgments about Qatar may have been off-base because they were unthinkingly based on my own culturally bound preconceptions, that doesn't mean I can never make a judgment about an aspect of Qatari culture. I am more willing now to say that the way unskilled laborers are treated in Qatar is an abomination, for example, and that Qataris' propensity for treating maids like children is simply unacceptable by any reasonable standard of decency. I am more willing to say that shari'ah is not a good basis for jurisprudence in the 21st century. Of course the U.S. is not a shining model either, in terms of either immigrant labor relations or a functional legal system. And maybe that's the key: it seems more justifiable to judge all cultures against the same standard (whatever one's personal standard is, as long as it is well thought out, as long as one makes it explicit) than to judge the host culture against one's own culture, as one tends to do on first arrival. Whatever it is, at some point I stopped feeling that being an outsider disqualifies me from evaluating parts of my host culture. It worked for de Toqueville, after all.

This whole train of thought, incidentally, grew out of a silly conversation about Land Cruisers this morning; I realized that my feelings about Land Cruisers is a good barometer of my stages of culture shock.

Honeymoon: Gosh, look how many Land Cruisers there are in Qatar! And they're all white! How cute!
Anxiety: Why do they keep flashing their lights at me? Should I change langes or ignore them? Argh!!
Rejection: What is WRONG with these drivers? Why are they so RUDE all the time?
Adjustment: The fact that it's rude in MY culture to tailgate someone doesn't mean Qatari drivers are being rude.
Post-Adjustment: OK, they're not being rude, but it's a stupid way to drive, and it illustrates an underlying selfcenteredness that seems really destructive.
qatarperegrine: (hippie)
[livejournal.com profile] syd___ asked about three of my interests and three of my userpics. Here are my responses.

If you leave a comment on this entry, I will then ask you to explain three of YOUR interests and userpics.

ahimsa, metta, biblical criticism, Marzipan, Shiva, Mattress Factory )
qatarperegrine: (travel)
I just dropped the last of my peeps off at the airport.

(Zahariel, for those of you who are awaiting his return.)

I am very sad now.

The end.

Itsu kara ka kodoku boku wo kakomi kishimu kokoro
Sugiru toki no naka de kitto boku ha kimi wo nakushiteyuku...

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August 2011

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