Monday, January 11, 2010

The End of a fantastic experience...but I know more will come!

My last day in Qatar was an opportunity for me to see the rest of the city of Doha. I have included some pictures for you to enjoy (see above).

-First I ventured out to the back of my hotel and found a treasure I did not have enough time to enjoy prior to the start of LeaderShape --the pool and beach. The sites were so beautiful including a lovely view of the Doha skyline (notice all of the cranes). Speaking of cranes, it seems like half the city is under construction…they really have built the majority of the city in the past 15 years. On the beach, the sand was coarse and the water was a beautiful shade of blue. Swimming was not in my plans as there were signs warning people to be aware of jellyfish and the water was quite cold.

-I then ventured to the City Center and walked around the mall. I was able to find great things to take back to family and the office. Hopefully everything will make it without melting or getting damaged! Some of the things the region is known for are dates, nuts, and juices. The dates are absolutely delicious, I have not had anything like them before and the juices…wow…I never had strawberry juice like this before --it was simply magical. They also had lots of other flavors but after trying them, strawberry was my favorite. Also, I had what I found to be an odd interaction in the mall. I was walking along with my bag full of dates and a man dressed in traditional clothing stopped and asked me where I was from. Given what everyone told me about the people of Qatar I figured I had nothing to worry about so I engaged him in conversation and told him I was from the states. He revealed that he had studied in Oklahoma and invited me for coffee to talk. It could have been really interesting but I had to get back to the hotel to pack so I could get to the museum so I had to turn him down. (Later when I shared this with Lindsay and Justin they said it was not normal…I guess strange things happen everywhere!)

-I also visited the Museum of Islam and saw so many beautiful works of art from this region. The building is absolutely gorgeous and was designed by a famous Japanese architect. He was commissioned by the royal family. I have included some amazing pictures from the artifacts in the museum including mosque lights to jewelry to copies of the Koran to clothing and carpets. It is full of all types of displays from the Middle East. I have included some beautiful pictures of the inside and outside of the building as well as the surrounding area.

-Lindsay and Ameena picked me up from the museum and we went to have a great lunch together. Once again the portions were much bigger than we expected. Afterwards we went to tour the rest of Education City. What an amazing concept. There are six (6) schools there: Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Georgetown. There is also a K-12 type school there as well. Each institution has their own building that is magnificent and when they build they are asked to keep the third floor open so other institutions coming in can have a place to start until they are able to build their building. The foundation is also building a student center that will be used by all of the colleges and will be the hub of the general city campus programming. Right now they have to program in the college spaces and often times there are conflicts so finding space can be difficult. The plans for the Union are just as opulent as the rest of the city….maybe I should bring a copy of the plans home for you Bill…do you think we can get 200-300 million to build our Union!? Here is what else I learned about the City structure. Each college/university has the opportunity to recruit any students they desire as well as set their class schedule for each semester – they really do have a lot of autonomy. They also hire and train all of their faculty and staff. The Foundation works to help orient the students, coordinates all of the housing and residence life functions (I have included a few pictures of the outside of two halls), as well as offers general programming (in conjunction with the 6 colleges) for the student population. I have over-simplified this but the system seems to be a good model for future education cities. The system is still fairly young but it does offer a unique perspective to the students and the region. I did get to see a few of the students and the staff who were involved with LeaderShape on the tour too! It was like a reunion. You can see a picture of Rachel at her desk at A&M working hard!

-I asaw some parked ambulances so I have included those in here for you Rick! You can see the look the same short of the writing in Arabic and English!

-After the tour I hung out with Lindsay for awhile in her apartment. She lives in Education City’s staff and faculty housing. There are several options for housing and all of the ones I saw were very nice. As benefit of working for the Foundation is free housing …not too shabby!
We then left (with all of my stuff in tow) to go to a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. Denny and Ameena joined Lindsay and I and we had a great conversation and another excellent dinner. The food throughout my experience has been very good but this was one of the top 5 meals – I would say a great way to end the week. Prior to dinner they brought the most delicious tasting juices, as well other items consistent with the true Lebanese dining-style including fresh veggies, a plate of pickled delights, hummus, an eggplant-type hummus, and a traditional Middle Eastern Salad. This was all before dinner. Then we ordered a seafood grill (I have attached a picture--it is the first one) and it was loaded with huge shrimp (probably 6-8 inches long and at least 1-1.5 inches wide), several types of fish found in the Middle East. The plate was so big I am not sure how they thought four people would be able to eat it. It was bigger than the traditional turkey serving platter many of us use at Thanksgiving. After that, we all said we were done eating but they brought us a traditional dessert “sampler”. It included a rice pudding type custard, an egg custard, a cinnamon custard (Ameena said this is what people bring to women who have just had babies because it is said to have “healing” powers), jell-o (yes, jell-o), and another milk type custard. We all had very small spoonfuls and it too was so delicious. It was also uncanny that Susan Komives was in town and at the same restaurant with a group of students who were studying issues and concerns of student affairs in the Middle East. FSU was represented there! Also one of the students who was in the group from San Diego (it was a mixture of San Diego and University of Maryland) was a student who attended the first LeaderShape I lead with Mike Hayes in Allerton….she is now a LEAD! What a small world we live in….

-After the meal Lindsay dropped me off at the airport and I made my way to the gate. After I got through customs I was standing in a long line waiting for my turn to go through security. I had all of my liquids out and in a small plastic bag, my computer out, shoes off, and boarding pass in hand when the man running the security machine walked back and escorted me to the front of the line. I have no idea why but would like to think it was because I was prepared! Really, it was fascinating; they did not bring anyone else to the front but me!

I made the trek from Qatar to London and was amazed to see snow on the ground when I arrived in London – probably 2-4 inches. Unfortunately it has caused a little mayhem at the airport but so far it seems that my flight on the way home will be on time. To round out the day nicely I was upgraded again to business class so I am writing this blog to you from the British Airways lounge enjoying a nice glass of red wine! This will make the last 8.5 hour flight very pleasant.

To close, I wrote to them individually but I wanted to thank Paul and the LeaderShape staff for sending me to Qatar; Mary for allowing me to be away the first week and 1/2 of class; Adam and Robin and everyone on the DOS staff for picking up the work while I was away; Lindsay, Ameena and the QF staff for hosting me so well and not letting me have on unmet need; my fantastic co-lead Dave; the faculty and onsites (Lesley, Aalaa, Rachel, Gerard, Michael, and Jumana as well as Abid and Nour); the students who attended LeaderShape, and finally Mark for taking care of everything at home and patiently listening to me as I spouted off all of the exciting things I was doing at LeaderShape and in Qatar.

Thank for reading and as I return to the states this will be my last Qatar blog…but I saved one special picture for last. Enjoy and I cannot wait to see all of you.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day 6 and the Qatar Exxon Mobile Open

What an absolutely wonderful way to end LeaderShape. We spent the week in the town of Al-Khor at the Al Sultan Resort and it was fantastic. The staff was so helpful and exceeded every expectation we had! I have included a few more pictures from the site:
- A picture of the security guard (we had security at the entrance of the buildings).
-The lovely pots of flowers all over the site. They are probably 5 feet high, gold in color (do not think it is real gold -- but it could be) and filled with all types of lovely flowers. We could put something like this in the lobby of our new building! :)
-The front of the resort with the manager's mercedes...very nice!
-A picture of the top of the mosque that was right outside of the resort. There were actually two in this small town and when the calls to prayer occurred it was quite loud.
Last night we also had the opportunity to say good-bye to the faculty from the Institute and it was a memorable experience. I truly enjoyed working with each one and have learned so much from the experience. Thanks Aalaa, Lesley, Michael, Dave, Rachel, Gerard, and Jumana!
The Commencement was unlike any I have ever attended before...the Sheikha was very humble and her comments were perfect for the event. The parents and students really enjoyed hearing her and were quite respectful of her. Two students presented her with a beautiful ornate gift of a glass and gold replica of gates and a sincere message of thanks for being supportive of LeaderShape. The staff from the Foundation were so pleased that she was willing to support this program as it will mean more families will be willing to send their children to future Institutes. Due to the Sheikha's attendance we had to move some of the elements of the last day around a bit but I believe the end result was a "home run" for the participants.
After LeaderShape ended, Ameena drove me back to the hotel in Doha where I relaxed, had a nice lunch, and took a nap. Even in Qatar you need a nap after LeaderShape.
But alas, the day was not over -- I was able to go to the Qatar Exxon Mobile Open with Lindsay and Justin (see their picture above!) I also included several pictures of the match. It was quite an exciting night!
We saw the final men's match today between Nikolay Davydenko (Russia) and Rafael Nadel (Spanish). It was fantastic. Davydenko won --but not without a fight. This was the first time I attended a professional tennis match and certainly the only one I will probably see with Royality present -- the Sheikh -- the Emirs' son gave Davydenko his pure gold falcon trophy. I have included some pictures of the presentation.
I have also included pictures of the show that occurred prior to the awards ceremony. It was quite interesting and included a person dancing in neon lights, camels, and a huge crane that brought in part of the white covering that was lowered into the middle of the court. (Imagine the risk management that would surround that move in the US!) The pictures are just not going to do the real event justice but it is a place to start!
Lastly, we had to laugh as during the match the temperature dropped to about 66 degrees and people were wrapped up in can see the red blankets throughout the pictures. I guess when it gets to 120 degrees in the summer, 66 seems cold! Justin joked saying next year maybe the Qatar Open could be the Qatar Snuggie Open.
Throughout the week the temparture varied from 55 or so during the night to 80 or so during the day.
I am going to see the Museum of Islam tomorrow and will enjoy a nice dinner with some people from the Qatar Foundation before I leave for the airport. This certainly will be a nice way to end my first Qatar experience.
If I have time before I board the plane I will post the pictures from tomorrow -- if not I will do so when I get home!
Take care and looking forward to seeing you all soon!