Monday, February 21, 2011

4 More Months

4 more months until the end of this school year.

4 more months until our lives turn over again.

4 more months and I won't be trotting around Turkey anymore.

Next, we move to South Korea for an opportunity to build our dream school--which we of course could not pass up. We are moving to the new city being developed called Songdo-dong, a part of Incheon, or also known as New Songdo City, a "free economic zone." Google it. That part will be beyond anything we can imagine. It's also about 45 minutes from downtown Seoul. So, we'll be close to Seoul, yet not in Seoul, which I hope will suit fine.

While I'm trying to prepare myself mentally (making myself consider what true crowds, etc. will literally mean to me) and physically (I've been eating a ton of spicy things--I'm in training. Bring on the hot sauce!), I also know that there is so much I just can't prepare myself for.

And then there's Turkey. We still live here, in Turkey--a fantastic place to live. I think it's vital that we continue to try to stay in the present and all else will work out. I don't want these 4 months to fly by. I want a long, warm spring where we climb lots, see some more new sights, and hopefully even make it down to the Med once more before we pack it all up and bring this chapter to a close.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Qatari Impressions

This the Qatari skyline as seen from the Museum of Arabic Art. If the day were more clear, you'd quickly point out the corkscrewing building, all the construction cranes, the hour-glass building clad in fishnet stocking, and a building that can only be described as something one might find in Mrs. Kong's bedside goody drawer.

The pic below is on a clearer day, but from farther away. Oh well, you get the idea. Qatar is pretty much it's capital city, Doha. And it is brand-spanking-new. And falling over itself to prove to you how ready it is to be an international destination and high-powered world economic player. Winning the bid to host the World Cup has catapulted the city into a frenzy of infrastructure construction and attention from the world.

But with all the glitz, glam, fancy cars, oil money, malls, and seven star hotels, you sometimes catch a glimpse of the old world:

The city is so new, in fact, that law enforcement officials are not sure what the rules are. Case in point: I tried to bring a Ukrainian student. I sent the Qatari government a copy of the child's passport and they promptly issued her a visa which I printed and carried with us. Turns out that in the Ukraine, you don't get an actual passport until you turn 18. Before that, you have a "travel document." But no big deal, right? Pasted in those pages are numerous visas for the USA, England, and so and so forth complete with entry and exit stamps. She's obviously been using it as a passport. But the immigration police would not let us pass without a "real" passport. Yes, we had her Qatari visa in hand, issued by their own government. She and a teacher ended up staying in the airport overnight. After much intervention from high-ups (thank you, many helpers who got out of bed to come to our rescue!), they were allowed to enter the country at 7 am the following morning. Hopefully they get these glitches are worked out before the World Cup comes to town. I don't think they want the reputation that report of such interactions would paint.

While it was unseasonably cool, as in, NOT bathing suit weather, it was still warm enough to relax in a sunbed on the beach. See my white feet? Those suckers haven't seen sun since late September!

The Villagio Mall, complete with Venetian canals and water taxis:

While there's no indoor skiing (yet!), or the world's tallest building (yet!), or even a subway (yet!), the glitz and mall culture definitely reminded me of Dubai. Those are my two Arabian experiences: Doha and Dubai (Israel doesn't count as Arabian to me). And at first I think, well, that's not enough. I can't base judgments and impressions on two Disney-esque cities. Or can I? Is this becoming Arabian culture?

*Side note:
We were in Doha for an MUN conference hosted by Georgetown University. Yes, the very one. Not kidding. Several prominent universities from the States (Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon, etc.) house a single degree program at Education City where they each have a satellite campus, and as the program for Georgetown is international politics, it makes sense that the entire branch of the school is involved in putting on the conference. And it was truly excellent!