Monday, May 21, 2018

More Time to Play

I'm done with another school year in Doha—the end of my seventh. I finished a couple weeks ago, more or less. The ABP Graduation ceremony was held last Monday. I never imagined that I would have lived here in the desert so long, but here I am biding my time before another summer escape that will precede the eighth year that I am committed to serving. At least the weather has not been very hot or humid this season, although I haven't had many occasions to go out much.

Outside, there are little green orbs scattered on the sidewalk bricks, unripe dates that were pruned from the palm trees near our building and left behind in the cleanup afterwards. Groundskeepers in the compound used to encase the hanging green bunches in little net sacks, but I guess they just cut them off now.

In the meanwhile, both Angela and I are waiting for Vito to finish the end of fifth grade, which is earmarked for the next three weeks. Actually, Angela's in Italy right now attending to the Confirmation ceremony of our two Italian nieces, so I am a full-time househusband. Angela left a variety of prepared and/or unassembled ingredients in the freezer and fridge that I could combine so that I might provide healthy meals for our son in her absence. Her worry is that we'll dine on chips every night. Anyway, she left four days ago and she'll return after four more have passed, but who's counting?

Lastly, if you are uninformed, it is Ramadan. One of my neighbors strung Ramadan lights along the front of his villa. They look like what I would call Christmas lights. Anyway, Ramadan is approximately ten days earlier each year, and this year it encroached upon the end of the school year. Hours of operation are modified here to accommodate Ramadanians who are fasting and many shops and businesses are not even open, or, if they are closed during the day, open late into the night. The timings adjustments even affect school hours by shaving an hour off the beginning and the end of the day. Vito likes it because it gives him more time to play.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brew Qrew Baseball Comes to an End

Great way to end the season, Brew Qrew.
Baseball season in Qatar is finished. At the start of the season, I was asked to fill-in as Head Coach at the last minute as no one else had volunteered to coach the second of two teams in the Qatar Little League (QLL) Minor League Devision. I had some experience coaching, having assisted with Vito's previous teams for the past three seasons, but I had never really tried to handle my own squad. Anyway, I took the reins of the Milwauqee Brewers against my better judgment.

It was not the most culturally sensitive choice of team names, perhaps, but I didn't have anything to do with choosing it. The first one that I was offered was the Qleveland Indians (equally awkward for different reasons), but due to the blockade in Qatar or some other ordering snafu, those uniforms were replaced by Brewers uniforms so there you have it.

I took my job seriously, researching activities and drills each week before practice and spending hours crafting lineups and various rotations, but I decided from the very beginning to move all of the kids around every inning every week so that everyone would get an opportunity to play every position; no one would be able to play any particular position every week.  I'm not sure where I came across this idea or if it was my own, but I thought it would build more awareness of the game and instill a greater sense of teamwork. I think it did, although, not everyone (parents) considered my decision so noble.

Anyway, we played our last game today, closing out the year on a high with a two-game win streak. I stuck by my method all season and its success was quite apparent in the last two weeks as both games featured inning-ending or game-ending plays that cleared our bench in jubilation!

There were many challenges throughout the season and I don't know if I handled everything as gracefully as I could have, but I learned a tremendous amount and really enjoyed myself. I have to say that I really looked forward to both practices and games, even though it meant driving across Doha during rush hour or getting up early on Friday morning. More importantly, however, I believe the kids had a great time learning about the game and learning about how to get along with each other.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sports Anyone?

Almost everyone had the day off today to observe National Sport Day in Qatar, part of an ongoing movement here to emphasize physical activity. A day off for almost any reason is always welcome and this occasion was no different. After waking up and breakfasting, Vito and I played some Wii Resort Sports on the television, occupying ourselves until Angela emerged from the bedroom. You can see that our holiday was already in full swing.

While we were waiting, I took a break and signed up for beIN Connect, the local sports media provider, which would allow us to watch olympic events on the computer. I was feeling left out of the olympic action without a way to watch any of the games, so I caved and subscribed for one month of online service for $18 (approximately 67 QAR). Signing up was quite easy and, within minutes, Vito and I were watching men's halfpipe qualifying in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It seems like we will also be able to watch NBA basketball games and tennis matches from the tournament in Doha, otherwise unavailable.

People enjoying Oxygen Park on Sports Day.
Eventually, we motivated enough to get out of the apartment, loaded Vito's bicycle into the back of the CR-V and drove to Education City where a number of activities were scheduled throughout the campus. The weather was fantastic with clear skies and a light breeze, and really couldn't have been any better. Vito ran into a friend and pedaled around Oxygen Park while Angela and I walked. I wanted to win a t-shirt by participating in one of the hosted events, but I ended up socializing with friends instead.

We ended our day by driving out the the Education City Golf Club, which looked deserted, and then returned home to while away the afternoon...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Year in the Making

The previous week was very dusty. In fact, the dust was so bad that baseball practice was cancelled on Monday.

Anyway, I finally posted the final entry about our trip to Myanmar last winter. It took me more than a year to finish—obviously, I put off completing it for whatever reasons—but an overview of our trip is finally ready for mass consumption. Now, to start writing about our trip to India in December...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Back in the Swing

The spring semester started a couple weeks ago, and so far, so good. Vito's schedule keeps us busy: swimming on Sunday, baseball practice on Monday, trombone and wind ensemble lessons on Tuesday, theory and piano lessons on Wednesday, swimming again on Thursday, and a baseball game on Friday morning. I am the head coach of his baseball team this year so I'm more involved in those activities, as well. Also, Sunday through Wednesday, Angela teaches in the evenings, which complicates matters, but it doesn't pose an insurmountable challenge. Our only day without scheduled  activities is Saturday, but it often means we have to catch up with everything that we put off during the week, such as buying groceries. One good thing that you probably know about such a busy schedule is that it makes time pass quickly.

In any case, the new year is a natural time for renewal. Looking through my social media footprint from the past year and upon further non-technological reflection, it seems that my previous post about the difficulties of 2017 was not entirely accurate. I guess the foggy weather had clouded my ability to weigh the various elements accurately. Anyway, the tempest that reared its head at the end of last year has quieted for the time being and, to mark the transition to a new period, I have implemented a name change for the blog. I may update the blog just as infrequently, but I have always simply used my own name as the blog's title, and I thought I would try something new.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

India - Day 0: Doha Departure & Mumbai International Airport

We didn't have anything else to do on Friday, so we had a leisurely day of packing. In the evening, our cab arrived on time and we went to Hamad International Airport as we would on any other similar occasion. Everything went well when we checked in to our flight and we received all of our boarding passes so, after landing in Mumbai and re-checking our luggage, we would be able to proceed directly to our next boarding gate. As scheduled, our flight departed from Doha at 11PM. Finally boarding the plane after our week of hurdle after hurdle to make the trip happen, we felt invincible.

The plane landed in Mumbai International Airport the next morning, and even tho we had approximately 90 minutes to make our flight, we missed our connection. Moreover, we were separated almost immediately, which is not a comfortable situation. Because Angela had an e-visa, she had to go to a separate window to clear customs and pass the security checkpoint. We agreed to meet at the boarding gate for our next flight and that, whoever made it through first, would take care of retrieving the luggage, which had to be re-checked before proceeding to our departure gate. It was a tall order with the numbers of people swarming the checkpoint and the time running away from us. We went our separate ways, Vito staying with me. I lost track of Angela in the crowd; there were too many people and her line was far from our line. Things were not happening quickly and our situation was looking dire. It's a real shame that they divide families in that way. at the airport Anyway, the lines were insanely long and moving at a snail's pace. After about 45 minutes, I jumped the queue and explained that we were late for our flight and needed to pass thru if we were going to have any chance of catching our flight. Everyone looked at me like they didn't understand, but no one seemed to object, waving us to the front of the line.

On the other side of the security checkpoint, we found the belt with our luggage, one large suitcase and one small one, and looked for Angela. We didn't see her anywhere so we decided to check the baggage and make for the gate, but there were even more people waiting to exit the terminal! Streams of travelers were lined up at every possible exit. I don't think I have ever been in a more crowded airport and, if we had to wait in any of those lines, we were surely going to miss our flight. I was desperate and stressed out and Vito kept asking me where mommy was. I approached an officer. He appeared to understand me so I explained my situation briefly, and he escorted us to the front of the nearest line. We took our suitcases to the drop-off point and left them without further incident but, when checking the gate information, we could see that boarding for our flight had closed. Vito and I started running. It was quite early in the morning, and we were both tired and frustrated, but I think we traversed almost the entire length of the airport without stopping.

At the gate, the jet bridge was cordoned off and two attendants were thumbing through ticket stubs. We asked if it was too late to board our flight. One attendant picked up the phone and called the pilot, but she said we would not be permitted to board. Everyone had been checked in already and they were preparing to depart. I asked if they could check and see if Angela had boarded and, after checking the flight register, they told me she had not, and it was at that moment, out of breath, that she turned up! We couldn't do anything to persuade them to let us on board, but at least we were all together again. We could see that the plane was still connected to the other end of jet bridge, but there was no use in making a bigger scene without worsening the situation. So the attendants directed us to the rescheduling desk, which was all the way back to where we had started. We just hoped that our luggage was not traveling without us!

We waited about one more hour in line behind one person. By the time we booked our flight, the airport had cleared out and, compared to how it had looked when we had arrived, it almost appeared deserted. I felt like we were the only people who missed a flight. The woman helping us wanted us to pay for the new tickets, but Angela strongly objected, and, after consulting with her manager, we received new tickets for an early afternoon departure.

Pacified, we returned to the boarding area, ordered pastries and hot beverages at a coffee shop and then looked for a quiet place to sleep as it was still quite early in the morning and we were tired. We found a nice secluded corner at the end of a long hallway that was empty and quiet, but, more importantly, had unoccupied couches. While it was quiet without people, it made the Christmas muzak that was raining down from the ceiling speakers seem quite loud. I did a loop around the airport window shopping. A roving band of merry-makers wearing red stocking caps, complete with a band, were roaming the airport singing Christmas carols. After circling the shopping area, I returned to find Angela and Vito asleep and joined them.