Thursday, December 21, 2017

One Fog to Another

The morning started with fog, the thick, white, billowy stuff of dreams, and lingered through the morning. Fog is not unusual here in Doha and not nearly as unusual as rain, but it is certainly not very common. I didn't know if it was a good omen or just another sign of the continued combustion, confusion and obfuscation of this year, but I looked at it positively. What other defense is there?

I can't divulge all of the difficulties of this year, but 2017 was hard on Marcacci & Co. My social media has not revealed much, and much was too sensitive for you run-of-the-mill e-stalkers, but this is about all you're going to get as a summation. Many of you (any of you?) know one part or another of the story anyway, but both Angela and I are glad the year is coming to a close. The one saving grace in this trying year is that Vito has done well at his endeavors despite the difficulties that his parents faced. I hope y'all had better memories. At least, we've all lived through them so far.

At night, the fog returned. It was nice to walk out in it. What's in store for the rest of this year? What's in store for the next one?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In Some Small Moment

Fanar, Qatar's Islamic Cultural Center
Today was the last day of work before the winter break. I dressed and arrived at the office as usual. The ABP Student Services sponsored a Qatar National Day breakfast for the staff and we assembled at the appointed hour. I ate a chapati (a sort of thick Indian tortilla) breakfast burrito and drank two cups of karak (black tea with cardamom, milk and sugar). There were also National Day souvenirs to gather and I came home with a Fanar magnet. The Emir blockade t-shirts were too small or I would have grabbed one for Vito.

After breaking our fast, we milled about and visited with one another until grades were verified. It was the last day for one of my colleagues, Christine, who will not be returning in January so it wasn't an entirely festive occasion. Then we trickled out, most of us looking toward holiday travel plans. I had my own travel plans in mind, but the three of us will remain in Doha for another week before departing for Kerala, India next Friday.

After leaving the office, I went to get Angela and then we went to Vito's school to help with the National Day / Holiday party that was planned for his classroom. I put napkins on the table and served cake and juice. It was fun and we spoke with Vito's teachers and met a few of the parents of some of his classmates. We felt lucky that we had a chance to get involved with Vito at school.

Our day didn't end there: we ran some errands, picked up Vito when school ended, ran into some friends, spoke with all our parents and watched a double-session of Survivor before retiring to our bedtime rituals and sleep. These may not seem like incredibly memorable experiences, but I am always surprised at how much I forget. The more I write, the more I realize what I am leaving out, what will be forgotten. This is a small way to capture some of those memories. Perhaps you were there is some small moment.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Home Sick

I'm doing things today that I haven't done in agesor I haven't done them here. It would be great to stay at home and pursue whatever suits my fancy on a more regular basis, such as drafting this little blog ramble, but that is simply unrealistic. How did I find such time? I called in sick today with an actual evil cold.

Colds are evil. Last Thursday, Vito showed some symptoms of one, but it was mostly cleared up by Friday morning. I told him it was a kind of 24-hour bug. There were some coughing and sniffling side effects, but he didn't feel or look as whipped as he had on Thursday. Saturday night after dinner, I started feeling something creeping up on me in the form of an unpleasant sensation in my throat, and I assumed it would be similar to what Vito had contracted, but I was mistaken. My version is well-mired in its second day and looking at more. See? Evil.

When I woke up yesterday, my throat was scratchy and it was hard to swallow. I popped in a lozenge, grabbed a box of cold capsules and hopped off to work, as usual, but I should have stayed home. What started as mildly irritating only worsened as the day lengthened. In an effort to suppress my symptoms, I doled out additional doses of medicine, swilled ginger and lemon tea and nursed my tender nostrils with tissue after tissue, but nothing improved my condition. By the time I went to bed, I was a mess. When I woke up this morning, I simply moved from bed to couch, not feeling much better. I knew I would have to stay at home today. So that's where I am, standing at my upright desk contemplating evil.

After making coffee and eating a bowl of granola with blueberries, I swallowed a couple of smooth orange cold capsules, but the effects are wearing offtime to re-medicate. Angela went out to buy groceries and the house is quiet, but she'll be back.

Am I happy about sending an alternate lesson plan to work today instead of what I had planned? Something akin to busy work. Should I be sleeping instead of facing off against the computer. Should I be grading papers instead of blogging about my bug?

I really hate missing work—it's really more work to miss workand hope to be back at it tomorrow. My symptoms seem to be subsiding. A good night's rest should set me straight.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Abu Dhabi, Etc.

Let the fun begin!
Last weekend, before the unusual cold arrived that has settled on this region over the past week, both Vito and I did not have to go to work on Sunday, so the three of us left Doha and spent three days in Abu Dhabi for a little UAE getaway. We left on Thursday night and returned Sunday afternoon. Our flight departed at 7:30PM, but there was a one-hour time difference. All told, we were seated at the Brauhaus at the Beach Rotana by 10:30PM, tired but happily waiting for our brews and platters of boiled and grilled sausages, something we couldn't get in Doha.

Friday was reserved for a visit to Ferrari World, which was one of the main reasons for choosing to go to Abu Dhabi. Hanging red lanterns and a large dragon greeted us at the entrance of the theme park decorated in celebration for Chinese New Year. Highlights of the day included the three of us riding the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which was breathtaking, and then only me riding the world's highest loop rollercoaster on the Flying Aces ride. Aside from the rollercoasters that venture out-of-doors, Ferrari World is the largest indoor theme park in the world! The park wasn't terribly crowded, but it is still developing and people were working on three of four projects simultaneously while we were there. Despite the fact that work was on-going, there were plenty of other things to keep us occupied.

The inner courtyard of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Notice the unusual chandeliers inside the
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Another reason to go to Abu Dhabi was to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque there, which may, perhaps, be considered among the most beautiful mosques in the world. It looks particularly stunning at night, the white marble bright with colored lights and its high minarets and domes welcoming people as they enter the city. We spent Saturday morning wandering around an Abu Dhabi neighborhood near the corniche, and then we walked along part of the corniche which followed a long sandy beach. We were impressed that there was such a huge public beach in the center of the city.

The weather was great--surprisingly warm for mid-winter--and after walking in the sun for a while, we started to really feel the heat. We hailed a cab and drove to the Jumeriah Hotel at Etihad Towers and took the elevator up to the observation deck, which gave us a fantastic 360° view of the city. When we were finished with our refreshments, we drove to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before going back to our hotel for the evening. Vito and I went for the swim in the infinity pool which overlooked the sea--there were quite a few people around the pool, the last of the weekend revelers. When we were done with our swim and after the sunlight had all but disappeared, we went up to our room to change before heading out to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner.

Inside the Abu Dhabi International Airport departures terminal.
We didn't have much of an agenda for Sunday morning and we had to leave for the airport after lunch, so we just sat in the sun resting on lounge chairs by the sea. Most of the weekend guests had left so we felt like we had the beach to ourselves. Abu Dhabi was a slower and quieter place, and it was almost a disgrace to barge in for a three-day whirlwind weekend. It felt like we were surrounded by water and we crossed numerous bridges in our short visit. When asking about the mild traffic and the quaint atmosphere of the city, a taxi driver mentioned that many people went to Dubai on the weekend and, in fact, a former colleague of mine that had moved there a few years ago was doing just that so we didn't get to see him and his wife.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

FYI

if i name the new president it's too much
it's a power thing

i have all of it

you know who i'm talking about
i'll probably end up on someone's list for this

how many of us on the head of a pin

naming or not naming to our heart's content
a rose is a rose is a rose

by any other name

POTUS
if you move the letters around you get SPOUT

the implications won't warm you any

consider this
an early Valentine's gift

for the run-a-mouth

run amok
Americans

ASAP

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Myanmar, Day 12-16: Buddha Caves, Ngapali Beach, Yangon Redux & Doha Return

Exploring Pindaya Cave.
We woke early the next morning to drive through the fog to the Pindaya Caves, which are a group of caves filled with Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes. It sounded like quite an unusual place, and we had time to spare before our midday flight to Ngapali Beach, so, even though it added a few hours to our travel time, we wanted to try to squeeze it in.

We made the early drive through the foggy countryside and Angela and Vito slept most of the way. When we were approaching the site, we could see a long staircase up the side of the mountain for religious visitors who wanted to make the pilgrimage but, as monitoring our time was important and as the religious significance was lost on us, we simply drove as close as we could to the entrance. The caverns were a kind of maze with many niches and nooks to discover, full of mainly gold statues of various shapes, sizes and styles. It was certainly an unusual place, and we were impressed that there weren't any tourists, so it felt like our own discovery. When we were done roaming the caverns, our driver took us to a little workshop on the way out of town and we watched a young lady show us how she made paper. Angela helped her add flowers to the mulch. I bought a small blank book of the paper, which was bound together with a bamboo spine. When we were finished, we made the remaining journey to the airport and awaited our flight to Ngapali Beach.

The view from the lounge chair.
After we landed, someone from Lin Thar Oo Lodge met us at the airport and we were soon checked in. Ngapali Beach was located in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, which is where the Rohingya people are involved in some conflict with the government, but we did not witness any unrest. In fact, travel seemed to be quite restricted in that region, and we really had no designs on straying too far from our lodgings. Our bungalow was situated right on the wide white sand, and we didn't really do much for the next three days except walk up and down the beach, lie on lounge chairs and swim in the Bay of Bengal, which was exactly what we had been planning to do. Vito spent most of the time floating in an inner tube, available for rent on the beach, or digging in the sand.

Unfortunately, on our last day Vito was violently ill and didn't really sleep much, getting up every few hours to go to the bathroom. We were worried because we were returning to Yangon the next day and it could add an unwelcome level of complexity to our travel. Vito seemed weak but much better the next morning and we packed our things and traveled back to Yangon. We had booked a hotel in the city center, which would place us in the heart of the New Year's Even celebration. By the time we had arrived at the hotel, however, I was feeling bad and, by that afternoon, both Angela and I were struck down with the same illness that thrashed Vito the day before. We we spent the rest of New Year's Eve in our hotel room watching a Myanmarese New Year's Eve TV special.

On the following morning, we gathered our belongings, went to the airport and, eventually, returned to our home in Doha. Despite our new year's illnesses, we had had a great tripmore than what we had expected in many wayand the people were accommodating and friendly everywhere we went.