Last night I had the opportunity for my first "gala" event in Qatar. It was a fund-raising banquet to raise money for young people with disabilities of various sorts. The organization putting on the dinner was RasGas, one of the several major multi-national organizations that process and/or ship natual gas. There were about 300 people at the dinner and they raised over 300,000 QR to support programs for these kids.
The atmosphere was decidely western, although Americans were not the dominant group. There were more Brits, Scotts, and Aussies than anything else. Most of the evening was centered on the golf tournament that will be staged over the weekend and the biggest "ticket" item was auctioning various golf teams who would play with one another in the coming days. The entire concept was foreign to me, but enjoyable nevertheless.
The thing that stood out as a departure from stereotype is that children with disabilities were the focus. Middle Eastern countries are typically seen as not paying the same attention to disabilities as western countries. However, this example demonstrated the same openness and the desire to help that we might expect. It was a great evening and fun for me to see - I only wish I had my favorite date (Diane) with me because she would have blown away all the others in the room. I did try to dress up as best I could (picture to side). This picture is in my ville staircase with my new piano in the background. I've begun to play again, although my schedule has kept me so busy that I've not played as much as I would like. It's great to be able to build a lifestyle that includes social and artistic opportunities again. What's interesting is that, when you work abroad, you have to rebuild all these dimensions into your life - social, recreational, artistic, spiritual, sports, and the list goes on.