There are still some finishing notes on POSSE Doha to write up, but I thought I'd write a while about what we've been up to other than work since leaving Germany. Sebastian and I are sitting in the Doha airport waiting to be allowed to check-in to our connecting flight to Dubai, so it's not like there's much else that we can do (he's looking into airline frequent flier mile optimizations as I blog; it's a form of geekiness that makes me simultaneously roll my eyes and grin).
Our first dinner with the POSSE professor attendees was in an old marketplace that had been converted into modern restaurants but kept the old village-style architecture. Turns out the Asian Cup (soccer) is in Doha this week, so the entire city was covered with soccer logos, posters, mascots, televisions showing the games, and costumed mascots walking down the street next to our outdoor dinner table. We ate the best hummus I've ever had, talked about classroom techniques, swapped open source culture stories for academic culture ones, and had a great time hearing about higher education in the Middle East from Affan and Saquib, who have a keen sense of how to hack the systems they teach within. I also got a bowl of lamb stew that was approximately 0.2m^3 in volume (no exaggeration; I measured its dimensions) and was unable to finish my meal, which is unusual given my typically large early-twenties appetite.
There hasn't been much other than work lately, but the work has been fun - watching the beautiful buildings go by from our taxi in the middle of the night when we first landed, driving by the (gorgeous) waterfront view everyday on our way to Carnegie Mellon's campus in Qatar (CMUQ), enjoying CMUQ's campus in Education City and taking pictures by the person-sized sculpture of the world "Learn" on the lawn.
Decidedly non-work but completely awesome: a brief personal/anti-jetlag weekend stay at the W before diving into POSSE. When Sebastian (out of habit) asked if a complimentary upgrade was available and waved his frequent-traveler-magic-hotel-points card at the front desk, they said that all their rooms were booked due to the Asian Cup and apologized that they could only upgrade us to the two-bedroom apartment... which turns out to be the most expensive room in the entire building, with a stunning kitchen, living room, three (three!) bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, a small office nook, complimentary breakfast and fast internet, and... we tried later to find out how much it would actually have cost us (we paid for a normal cheapo room), and could not find this price online. However, the one-bedroom apartment was over $1200 USD per night. I think my jaw dropped every time I walked into the room. I do not know when (if ever) I will stay in a place that nice again.
We've been attempting to balance hard work and good relaxation here; Sebastian and I have been cranking out a lot of solid Teaching Open Source stuff, but also prioritized sleep, never skipped breakfast, set dinner as non-work conversation time, and asked the taxi to stop by the waterfront on the way to the airport for a bit, where we finally shot some pictures and counted ourselves as "having seen Doha," even if it was for 15 minutes from a security checkpoint on a pier under construction. ("Shortest vacation ever," I joked.) I'm actually pretty proud of how we managed that balance - it took a lot of discussion throughout, and there are still definitely a lot of rough edges to work on (like handling expenses/financial-tracking), but that's what the future's for.
Check-in to Dubai is finally open. Hitting the road!