qatarperegrine: (Default)
I'm on a Greyhound in central PA, heading from Pittsburgh, where I just spent a week at a conference and then some friends' wedding, to New Jersey, where I'm beginning a week-long road trip with my friend Andrew. Thus I am in fact reenacting the route of the song quoted above. Woot!

It's always fun to drop in on Pittsburgh once a year. It seems to be doing pretty well for itself. A couple nights ago I had dinner at a nice Ethiopian restaurant in a neighborhood I would once have been a little nervous to walk around at night. Way to go, East Liberty.

The annual symposium for people from both campuses was good (my favorite so far) and the wedding was beautiful. It was attended by a variety of people who've lived in Doha over the last three years, so it was quite a reunion for me. It's also the first wedding I've ever attended where, after the groom/mother dance, the DJ said "alright, let's fill the dance floor" and the crowd actually complied. Trust Dave and Karen to have such fun friends! It's also the first wedding I've attended at which we danced to Promiscuous Girl. LOL.

Weeks like this make me so grateful for the friends I've made in Qatar. Earlier this week one of my best friends was surprised to realize he knows all the other people I consider my closest friends, because they're all Doha people. (Well, that's not exactly what was said since I was too shy to say I consider him in that group, but it's what was meant.) The truth is that in the five years after I left college I made only one real friend. But in the five years since I moved to Qatar, my life has been overflowing with amazing people who I feel honored to know and privileged to spend time with. In many ways these have been the happiest five years of my life, and it's largely because of them.

Well anyway, tomorrow I'm off to New York, and then the next day to Boston, and then around New Hampshire and Vermont a bit. This surprises people because I'm pretty well-traveled, but I've never been to either New York or New England before. I'm excited to see what all the fuss is about!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
While talking to a friend after the annual Qatar recruitment lunch in Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago, I found myself waxing lyrical about the joys of going to CVS when I'm back in Pittsburgh. (West Coast readers: CVS ≈ Long's Drugs.) My friend laughed and said that they should have said THAT in the recruitment talk: Qatar is wonderful, but you will be reduced to wandering around drug stores in awe and wonderment when you visit the States.

Sadly, it's true. You can buy almost anything you want in Qatar, but there are random items you just have to stock up on on trips back home.

Since people on the verge of moving to Qatar often email me and ask what they should pack, I figured I'd share the the list of things I stocked up on this month.

  1. Books! I always end up buying half a dozen or so. On this trip I bought:
    • a guidebook to Hong Kong (guidebooks are oddly hard to find in Qatar)
    • Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching (ditto books on religion)
    • a collection of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (probably too obscure to be available in Qatar)
    • Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (probably available in Qatar, but books are expensive here so what the heck)
  2. Running shorts. (Qatar does have some sports stores, but women's running shorts are hard to come across -- as are any women's sports clothes in larger than size 6.)

  3. Board games. (The basics are available in Qatar -- Scrabble, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit -- but they're expensive, and they're usually the British versions.

  4. Toiletries from CVS, store of wonderment. This time what I needed was:
    • Tom's of Maine toothpaste and non-antiperspirant deodorant (Qatar has all the normal mainstream brands -- Crest and Sensodyne, Old Spice and Lady Speed Stick -- but not hippy natural brands)
    • Travel-size bottles of contact lens solution & sunscreen (Qatar has these things, but not in the less-than-3-ounce sizes necessary to take them in your carry-on to the US or UK)
    • Random over-the-counter medicines that aren't available in Qatar, e.g. Pyridium, cold medicine. (Lots of OTC meds are available in Qatar, and quite a few prescription meds are available OTC, like birth control pills and even antidepressants. However, some things just ain't here, so if there's something you use on a regular basis, you may better off bringing a supply.)
    • Tampons. 'Nuff said.
    • I often also grab some 99¢ nail polish or cheap sunglasses or cheap nickel-free earrings. In Qatar it's easy to get MAC nail polish, Gucci sunglasses and gold jewelry, but it's hard to find the crap I like to buy.
Qatar dwellers, what do you stock up on?
qatarperegrine: (Default)

Last night I went to go see Jonathan Coulton perform, in keeping with my apparent policy to only ever go to geek band concerts. It was awfully fun. The audience just about collectively died laughing when he rickrolled us. Amazing.

I was surprised to enjoy the opening band, Paul and Storm, about as much as I enjoyed Jonathan Coulton. You have to love an opening band that sings a self-deprecating song about being the opening band and makes lolcat references in their patter. Also, I won a prize: one of their CDs, and a pirate bandana, and a glow-in-the-dark zombie finger puppet. And a cookie. (But I eated it.)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Jonathan Coulton is playing in Pittsburgh June 7 and I am, fantastically, going to be in town. Anyone want to join me?

7 p.m. at the Club Cafe; 21+; $18. Tickets here.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I flew into Pittsburgh late last night. Had a very enjoyable conversation on the bus into town, with a MechE doctoral student who asked the best questions about what Qatar is like that I've ever gotten. I'm always envious about people who are good at asking interesting questions to get conversations started. It's something I wish I were better at.

Today's theme was running around seeing friends who've returned to Pittsburgh: I stayed up till 4:30 talking with Dave before crashing in his spare room, breakfasted at Quiet Storm (yay hippie coffee shops), watched Superbad with Andrew and Ryan, and then met Paul at the SCS Day talent show. The talent show was fun; the best part was [livejournal.com profile] chrisamaphone and [livejournal.com profile] jcreed and [livejournal.com profile] wjl singing "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", which I love, and the "Still Alive" song from the end of Portal, w00t. Also, this is dorky, but it was kinda awesome that people I've met on previous trips to Pittsburgh knew who I was and some seemed kinda happy to see me. I always assume that people I don't know very well will forget who I am, so it's always a pleasant surprise when that doesn't happen. Yay validation! Boo social anxiety!

Now I am collapsing in bed, jetlagged and somewhat ill, but happy (albeit somewhat guilty I'm collapsing in bed instead of meeting Justin at the airport).
qatarperegrine: (travel)
Surprise trip to Pittsburgh!!!

We'll be in da Burgh from Friday, Feb. 22, 11:12 p.m., to Saturday, Mar. 1, 7:47 p.m.

I shall have copious free time as Justin will be working, so I'm looking forward to spending time with my Pittsburgh peeps.
qatarperegrine: (socrates)
Is anyone in possession of a laptop and webcam attending Doug's thesis defense on Friday? His peeps in Doha would rather like to watch.
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)
How, HOW did I fit all this crap in my suitcase three weeks ago?

:-(

I'm leaving for California in a little less than an hour. Here's hoping that my travel plans end up less snafued than all my friends' recent attempts to get places!

Being in Pittsburgh has been amazingly fun, and I am continually amused to meet people IRL that I had previously only known (a) through my friends (b) from their LJs and (c) from cryptic submissions to cmu-bash.

At the same time, being here made me realize something else. When I planned this trip back in August, I was desperate to be back in Pittsburgh and with my Pittsburgh peeps. It's been kind of nifty to realize that, while this trip has been fun, it has been less strictly necessary to my sanity than it seemed four months ago. I guess that means I'm happy in Doha. :-)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
As he took my ticket, the elderly volunteer at Phipps peered at my T-shirt. "Is that a spider?" he asked.

"No," I responded. "It's a Flying Spaghetti Monster. See? This is pasta. And his eyes? Meatballs!"

"Huh," he said, unconvinced. "I always like to see what people are promoting with their T-shirts."

As he handed my ticket back, I restrained my urge to say "May you be touched by his noodly appendage."

I really like that in the States, ticket-takers and bus drivers and waiters and other service industry folks generally expect to converse with you and be treated like a normal human being. It's a refreshing change.
qatarperegrine: (marzipan)
There is a cricket game in progress on the Cut.

wow

Dec. 7th, 2006 10:15 pm
qatarperegrine: (travel)
There is this fluffy cold white stuff? And it FALLS OUT OF THE SKY!!!
qatarperegrine: (mf)
So far I have gone for a walk in Frick, unsuccessfully shopped for a SIM card (where does one buy SIM cards?), and made chocolate chip cookies and applesauce. Life is good.

Longer update when I'm less dazed....

UPDATE: SIM card acquired.
qatarperegrine: (travel)
I finally have my Christmas tickets booked!

I will be in Pittsburgh Dec. 2-21 and Jan. 10-11, Humboldt Dec. 21-Jan. 6, and Kansas City (for a work conference) Jan. 6-10. If you're in one of those places and want to see me, let me know. :-)
qatarperegrine: (mf)
Pictures of the ketchup-cake-baking slumber party are now up on my website (among other places), so now you, too, can experience the wonders of ketchup cake at Jess's house (aka the Yurt, for those of you who've been asking).

Click here.

Hmm. It occurs to me now that I still have no pictures of Groovy People and Me. This needs to be remedied.
qatarperegrine: (mf)
Tuesday: go to work lunch to discover two of your best friends introducing themselves to each other. Get together with them and the rest of the Yurt after work, for dinner and a long walk through the park and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Learn about Buddhist monasteries.

Wednesday: get dreaded symposium talk over with. Track down one of the aforementioned Groovy People for a long walk through the park and dinner and coffee. Talk about religion to your heart's content while an amazingly appropriate Tool song comes on the radio. Watch professional dominoes on TV at the restaurant.

Thursday: more good symposium. After work, go for long walk alone. Chase a firefly half a block until you realize a passerby is giving you strange looks; step nonchalantly away from the firefly. Pine mildly for friends.

Friday: finish symposium. Go out to dinner with cool coworkers. Go back to the hotel alone and watch Brokeback Mountain. Sniffle.

Saturday: have long and long-overdue chat with husband. Take self out to lunch. Go for long walk through the park (sensing a theme here?) with a coworker, and to dinner with her and her husband.

Sunday: go to church. Talk to husband. Go see a circus with one Groovy Person, go out to lunch with him and with and Other Groovy Person's roommate. Be introduced to an awesome tea shop. Learn to play euchre; lose badly. Spend evening with both Groovy People, talking about religion and all kinds of random things. Pimp cardboard. Go out to half-price dinner at 11 p.m. Be shown somewhere beautiful on the way home.

Monday: After work, hop bus to Squirrel Hill. Buy The Ninjew because you can't resist the sentence "The NinJew brings a new twist to the genre of workout books." Stop by the gay store and stock up on rainbow gear. Meet up with Both Groovy People; cook dinner and (wait for it) ketchup cake. Jump up halfway through cooking (and again halfway through dinner) to go lie on the lawn watching a thunderstorm and run around in the rain. Eat ketchup cake, which turns out to be delectable. Talk a Groovy Person into breaking out the guitar, and stay up way too late listening to him play and sing. Have a slumber party.

Tuesday: Wake up at 5:30 to make it to a Zen sesshin at 7; eat breakfast with hilariously hippy Zen people. Spend hours loafing around a coffeeshop talking with both Groovy People. Explore the Mattress Factory. Get lost in the dark. Laugh a lot. Lie down under sculptures and just chill. Wander around the neighborhood afterwards realizing that the art really did make you see the world in a new way. Drop off one Groovy Person; go out to tea with the other Groovy Person. Bask in how amazingly happy you are. Go pick your husband up at the airport. Go out for long walk and nice dinner with husband. Insert strategic "..." in narrative.

And that, my friends, is how to have one of the best weeks ever.

I am realizing that, as much as I love my friends in Qatar, and as much as I love mellow evenings hanging out with my beloved, I really really really need to schedule more social time next year. I am pathetically starved for long evenings of Loafing. I am attempting to avert this midlife crisis-ish desire to be an undergrad again by reminding myself that this is not actually what every week is like when you're an undergrad! Nevertheless, I have to admit that it is going to be difficult to go back to Qatar.
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
I'm back in Qatar, although my luggage is not. Ah well.

Leaving Pittsburgh was harder than I realized -- harder than last year, because this time I have no intention of moving back. Our car and furniture are sold, our worldly possessions are in storage, and the sale of our house is closing next Friday, inshallah. I'm sure I'll go back to Pittsburgh once or twice a year on business, but it is no longer my home.

If you'd told me four years ago that I'd cry to move away from Pittsburgh, I would have laughed at you. But cry I did. I felt ridiculous walking across the CMU campus for the last time with tears streaming down my face, but I couldn't stop myself. I'm still crying off and on, to be honest. It's not that I don't love Qatar, but I love Pittsburgh too -- and California, of course. I feel like an anxious dog who gets upset when all its people aren't in the same room; I have this unrealizable desire for all the people and places and things that I love to be bunched together around me.

At times like this I remember what my sister said to me as we left Shropshire after spending a summer there when I was 13. I hadn't wanted to go Newport in the first place and pined terribly for my first boyfriend, but when it came time to leave I realized that as much as I was looking forward to getting back to the States, I didn't want to leave my new friends. My sister said that this is what it means to have ties to two different countries: you feel at home on two continents, but no matter which home you're in, part of you will be longing for the other one. That's very much how I feel right now.

...

Flying Qatar Airways last night, I realized that there are differences between their announcements in Arabic and English. The first Arabic PA announcement started with the Bismillah, for instance; the English one didn't. The Arabic safety video started with what must have been a verse from the Qur'an. (What verse? Does anyone know?) On the in-flight map, Makkah was labeled "Makkah" in English, but "Makkah al-Mukarramah" in Arabic, which a Muslim coworker tells me means "Blessed Makkah." (Is it from the same root as karim?) It's cool to have picked up the smidgen of Arabic necessary to notice these things, but now I really wish I had the command of Arabic necessary to actually understand them.
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
I have decided that the truly bizarre thing about being in Pittsburgh is that half of the people I know in Qatar are here right now.

Naturally the English department people were here last week, and last Wednesday the Thorpes had a dinner for all the Qatar-related people in town, so I got to see a number of faculty and staff who have already moved back or who are just here for the summer.

Yesterday morning alone, though, I randomly ran into four different people from the Qatar campus. I walked into the lobby of the UC to check e-mail, as I have every morning for a week and a half, and lo and behold Leland was sitting in "my" chair. So I sat down next to him and was checking e-mail on my laptop when Pascal, one of our IT guys in Qatar, walked in. (He pointed out that, last time he saw us, we were sitting together with our laptops in the CMU-Q student lounge.) A little while later Leland noticed Imran, one of our students who's in town taking summer classes, walking by, and called him over to chat. I had to go to work then, but within an hour Mona, our other student here for summer school, came in to our office.

It's pretty surreal.

The exciting thing, for me, is that I really didn't have any close friends in Pittsburgh before we moved to Qatar, and now I do. When we do eventually move back to Pittsburgh I'm really going to miss the community that has developed in Doha, but I hope we'll all stay in touch.
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
Well, the week-long marathon communication symposium is over. It was pretty exhausting, but I'm really glad I came to town for it. Next week I'll still be in Pittsburgh, training with the ICC, but my schedule will be much more lax.

Last night all the symposium people went for a boat tour of the three rivers, which was quite fun. My favorite part, though, was the ticket they issued me. Only in America could the ticket look like this.

Pointless legalese )

The amazing thing to me was that nobody else commented that this was kind of a strange thing to have written on a ticket. What happened to "Admit one"?

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