Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 1: An Unusual Visitor

A dishwater sky greeted me on my first morning back in Doha. Dishwater, actually, only if I had washed my boots in the sink. Brownish. What I imagined mustard gas would look like if it were made from cumin instead of mustard.

Holy F, I said to the nobody else in my apartment. Flipping on my computer (which was acting as a very expensive clock), I saw: 9.42 a.m. My ride was supposed to be here at 8.30. My class started at 10....

False (non) alarm. My MacBook had tricked me into thinking I was in a time zone several zones away. After quick clicks: ahh, only 5.42. So my recurring panic dream of sleeping through my first day of class was just that, except that this time I was actually awake. For a few minutes, anyway.

It's weird being back in Doha. I'm in the exact same apartment, and it felt a little Ground Hog Day to me. Looking in the mirror, I did see Bill Murray looking back at me, although it was the more recent haggard version. Jet lag will do that.

Later, walking across the street from my office to the ATM machine, the big pipeline in the sky opened up. Not exactly a BP gusher ("It's only 5000 gallons a day! No, wait, perhaps much more than that, but it's not important, and anyway it's not our responsibility!) but enough to soak me. Who says it never rains in southern California? Or Doha, in May?

I'm here to teach the course "Ethics and Values in Public Policy", so these blogs are likely to have my ethical reflections. At the ATM, I remembered this saying:

"It rains on the just and unjust alike, but the Unjust fella has the Just's umbrella"

Although the rain visited me (the acres of astroturf on campus got a good washing), my students did not. Of the 14 students in my class this morning, only six showed up. Yikes. I sent out a gentle reminder that it is their ethical responsibility to, well, show up or let me know. We'll see what tomorrow holds.....

This class is going to be....interesting. I'm using "clicker" technology (I've given the students hand held voting devices) so I can do instant polling in the class (the votes appear on the computer projector). I had them vote on some options for the class, and then asked them "Do you prefer that your votes matter, or are you better off having an authority (in this case, me) make the decisions for you? By a two-thirds margin, they voted that their votes should matter.....quite striking in, as Wikipedia calls it, an "absolute monarchy" (there are municipal elections, and women do have the right to vote and otherwise participate in political affairs). I'll carefully consider how to discuss "human rights," because while Qatar is fairly liberal for an Islamic country, homosexual relations are subject to as much as five years in prison, and "apostasy" is punishable by death (although there are no known executions for it).

We'll consider a simple example tomorrow: Should we have rules about laptop use in our class, or should the students be free to do whatever they want (when I see my students madly typing, I'm on pretty solid grounds assuming that they are updating their Facebook)?

Now, time to update MY Facebook, even if Betty White thinks it "is a huge waste of time...."

My alarm is now set.


  1. A new word! backsliding = apostasy

    Stay safe, friend.

  2. Thanks Rice. Yeah, when I found this word in an article I had to look it up too...

  3. Well I am a week late in getting started following the 2nd journal addition to the DOHA DIARY--sorry- it was a rough one. And I don't know what apostasy means either, so maybe Her Prof you should give short definitions for those of us not so glib with our grammar ---I know I've read it and I've known what it meant in the past --but that brain cell shut down or died or something nasty. I am in Houston. It is hot here too. Now I am going to read more.......