Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chaptette 5: Nature and the Machine, Part Deux

Forty percent of Qatari children are obese (thank you, western culture!) and just under 20 percent of Qatari adults have diabetes (a lower rate than in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and perhaps some other countries). This is pretty understandable. Given the heat, Doha is a "mall" culture, and when you're there why not stop by the food court and have a little snack, eh?

If I airlifted you into the Villagio mall at midnight, and dropped you into the food court, you would not know if you were in Doha, Tyson's Corner, or the Northwest Arkansas Mall. Ok, maybe you'd know you weren't in the latter. Villagio is best known for having a canal running down the center and, yes, you can hire a gondola ride. The sky (aka ceiling) above the canal is a light blue, with fluffy white clouds. Hmmm. I haven't seen a real cloud since I've been here.

Villagio does have different wings. I briefly walked through what I call the Cartier wing, where all the Rodeo Drive shops would be located, if the residents of Rodeo had more money. Sports cars are on display. One in particular caught my eye until I calculated that I would have to teach my quantitative methods course 300 times in a row to afford it (if no taxes were taken out of my check, which would be true if I lived here. That's right: Qataris pay no taxes of any kind. I state this with authority as a fact, and I challenge you to prove me wrong...).

Right now I'm one of the few ex-pats who does not have a car. Everyone else rents one. I wish I could say that I walked or biked places, but I don't. It's too hot and there's almost no place to walk. Streets in my neighborhood are lined with apartment complex after complex; each has a security gate and guards. I miss walking, as I've always found it the best way to explore a new location (and old ones, for that matter). Anyway, I'm bumming rides and relying on the kindness of strangers. If I did have a car, I'm sure I'd use it often, and mingle, read, write, and watch less. Thank you Mark, Craig, Vehia, John and the Fox Cab Company for the lifts.

Historically, weather has controlled civilizations and not vice versa. Welcome to Qatar. By law, if the temperature rises above 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), outdoor work must stop. It seems that the locals have found a miraculous way to ensure that the temperature never actually rises that high....

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