Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chaptette 11: Chi Square Test

So, a classicist, a poet, an economist, a conflict resolutionist, and a statistician walk into a bar.....Yes, these are my Georgetown colleagues.

It wasn't just a bar, however; it was Khazana, the finest Indian restaurant in Doha, run by Sanjeev Kapoor, the only Indian "celebrity" chef, and located near the Souq Waqif (old market, which is not old, as it was totally rebuilt in recent years) and the Corniche. The bar didn't serve liquor, no, no, no, no no! but it did make the most incredible fruit cocktails: I had the pepper lychee lassi (yes, it does sound like an rare-breed dog). Wow. The lassi is the yoghurt, the main liquid in this and many other drinks and sauces. So, before we dine, let's all hoist a toast of yoghurt fruits and spices!

The meal's first highlight: the classicist's son was wearing a Redskins football jersey. Recognizing the number, I said "Hey, Clinton [Portis]"

He said: "See, Mom, I knew someone would recognized this jersey here." (Special thanks to my Laura for helping me refine my love/hate relationship with the 'Skins.)

After that: dish after dish of aromatics, breads, rices, hammour curries, chandi kaliyan, mutton patiyala kababs (you busted me: I'm not that sophisticated, so I had to look a couple of the names up). Wow.

Better, still the company. I can't remember the last time I sat down with colleagues who were classicists, poets, and so forth. It hasn't happened, I don't believe, on any "non-business" dinner in the many years I've worked at Georgetown. And this is just Sunday. By Thursday, I'll have broken bread with others three more nights.

Food, and friends, bring together the most essential, and with luck the most luxurious, elements of the human experience. Sensational food, and smart, friendly, lively conversationalists....what is the Indian word for it? Nirvana?

That was Sunday. Monday? Dinner for 10 in a "singles and strays" (maybe not the most apt name, until I remember that "technically" I'm single and "actually" I'm a stray, so, well, ok) ex pat group at a different Indian restaurant. Pim, who amazingly worked 20 years at Georgetown (I never met her there) before quitting and heading to Qatar sits on my left; across from me sat Deanna and Steve, two lovely Australians who came to Doha via Washington DC, and who obviously adore each other. Emily and ??? took me home. Emily, from Wisconsin, met ??? from Istanbul through some internet bulletin board (she was interested in Turkey; he was interested in her). Two weeks later, he flies to the US to meet her; soon thereafter, she flies to Turkey, where they decide "Why wait?" and fly back to Wisconsin to meet her parents. Blissful, three married years later. Curiosity, openness, instincts (and, who knows? Perhaps some Turkish food!) brought them together over the 1000s of miles.

Tuesday night? An egg sandwich, solo, in my apartment. Wednesday? A German couple (colleagues and neighbors) hosted me with chicken liver, carmelized onions, dare I say the world's most perfect beer, then thai curried shrimp with jasmine rice. Oh. My. Our brilliant host's name is Kai (which rhymes with Chi, which is the hypothesis test mentioned in the chapter title, which allows me to tie this all back to statistics), who is married to Katrina, an equally brilliant architect. He hails from West Germany; she from East. She specializes in designing "green roofs" which are much in demand in the US (praise to Mayor Daley!) but not so desired in the land of 10 million air conditioners. Kai and Katrina met a week after the Berlin Wall came down, and their foundation remains solid.

Tonight: Chinese/Thai food back in Souq Waqif, again with delightful Deanna and Steve, as well as two Americans (one who works for the State Department, the other in investment banking). Highlight: Zen, the petite blond investment banker, tells the story of how she gets out of her car and pops a Pakistani in the nose for cutting her off. The punch bloodied her knuckles. I think that she, and perhaps other investment bankers, may not be entirely what we call "risk averse".

I thought I was going to talk about food, but the friends and couples proved more interesting. Right now, I'm satisfied. Tomorrow, I'll be hungry for more again.


  1. Glad you had such a delightful evening!

  2. I have an addition or two to the Thai food highlight from the standpoint of the assailant - while this may sound extremely non PC to those who have not experienced "the ways" of the castes and nationality silos that govern our mundane existence in Qatar (and anyone who has lived here can attest to that), Pakistanis in this country are generally people from the not-so-urban sticks in the rural Pakistan most of which never drove in their lives before...which may not mean anything to most people since everybody never really drove before until we actually do...gotta start somewhere, right? But there is a crucial distinction between what we refer to as a "driving virgin" in a civilized society vs. someone from the ever-so-chaotic subcontinent.

    Enough said, this driver of Pakistani origin almost caused me to get hit by the bat-right-out of hell speed demon Qatari behind me when he tried to turn his head to the left in search of a parking spot, or to stare down a fair skinned Western woman (happens all the time much like a zoo with very rare very sore looking pink shaved butt monkeys that we keep staring at in awe each time). The mere head turn caused the car to swerve unpredictably in the same direction, in a total "where the head goes the eyes follow" yogic transcendent moment, causing near disaster havoc on the road. Ok, fine, he's Pakistani, he can't turn his head without losing control of his car is what we resign ourselves to every day.

    But the same guy who nearly caused 3 other vehicles to collide with his "lala land" head turn steering wheel mis-coordination, no later than 2 minutes later blocks my car in, on a narrow street around the block as I was trying to parallel park. Seeing this as the ultimate in stupidity and recklessness(the street was obviously too narrow and he would have had to wait until my car is in parallel park position to even attempt to drive thru), while watching my car being pushed in by the idiot, I looked at him through my window and asked what the heck he was doing to which he resorted to disrespectful that point, all hell broke loose and I went Mike Tyson on his punch I've ever thrown too.

    Although this may sound superfluous, I felt that the mere "Zen punched a Paki in the face cause he cut her off" didn't really do the story much justice...sorry Mark, but had to elaborate. LOL

  3. Moral: Keep your windows up. Here, "going all Zen" has a very different mean than the one we are accustomed to.