Friday, April 12, 2013

Not to forget what life in Qatar was like...

The experience of living and working in Qatar has become very normal for me after 5+ years.  So normal that I sometimes forget how extraordinary it has been, and continues to be.  I want to remember and one of the best ways to do that is blog.

I had a pretty amazing 24 hours in terms of encounters with people from around the world between Wednesday and Thursday afternoons of this last week.
  • It started with seeing a Cornell medical student from Egypt that I hadn't seen for a while in the fitness room.  I congratulated him for receiving the outstanding student worker award the previous night.  After my congrats, he posed, "I know you're very busy but would you be willing to have coffee sometime?"  The humility of this guy is amazing, considering that he is a top student plus works probably 15-20 hours per week why wouldn't I welcome the opportunity to have coffee with him?
  • The next encounter was seeing another guy in the fitness room who is of Palestinian background but has lived in Qatar most of his life.  He's a big guy, marginal English, but we always exchange greetings and encouragement.  I dazzled him with a little Arabic when I left and his face lit up with pride.
  • Then I went to a Georgetown debate on the question of whether or not China's rise in the world economy and politics would end American hegemony.  Pretty esoteric debate, but informative.  The most interesting part was talking with 3 Chinese guys at the reception afterward.
  • What a surprise to see one of the Chinese guys the next morning as I was driving into work.  I offered him a ride to Georgetown which provided the opportunity to exchange business cards and begin a dialogue about comparison of educational practices, and especially student development work, between China and the U.S.A.
  • Later in the morning, I met with one of the young male Qatari staff.  He's a bright guy but has a tendency to go with the flow.  However, on this particular day he expressed concern to me about some of the work assignments he had recently had.  This was a wonderful opportunity to start a conversation with him about what he really likes to do and how he needs to hone his focus so that he can establish a career path that he enjoys.
  • After work, I went to the fitness room for a full workout with my Filipino trainer.  There I saw the typical array of Qatari, Pakistani, India, Syrian, and other nationalities I usually see but one particular encounter was absolutely wonderful.  A South African student who works out regularly noticed that one of the Nepali staff who cleans the facility was trying to use some of the equipment.  Noticing that the Nepali didn't know how to operate it, he offered him some help in the most gracious and egalitarian way you can imagine.
I went home after working out, stopping by Papa John's (ironic that I would eat American fast food) for a satisfyingly indulgent large pizza.  I went home to eat dinner, call Diane, and settle in for the weekend.  In a world so incredibly small and where we are all intertwined in our welfare, isn't amazing that in one day I have the privilege of engaging with people from so many places around the world?  Doha is truly a cross-roads of the future!

1 comment:

Richard Richards said...

Dear Denny,

Kudos on such a curious and sensitive perspective on culturally rich and diverse experiences...well noticed and documented. Thank you for sharing.