Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This is going to change my life forever.

Doha is unlike anything I've ever known. It has the big-city feel of New York without people on the streets. Everyone drives (and drives horribly). Men outnumber women five to one. The heat is surreal, bleaching the sky and the buildings until everything is faded in whites and creams and pale blues. Buildings spring up from every corner, made entirely of glass or glass and elaborate patterns or glass and gold. Construction crews work late into the night.

So many things happened today and yesterday that I can't even begin to explain. I met Mr. Bilal, the billionaire owner of both ABODE magazine and quite a lot of Doha. He sat Kathleen and me down, adjusted his robes, and kindly plied us with Turkish coffee. "Are you engaged?" he asked me, then Kathleen. "Do you have family? Why are you here? We are pleased to have you here. You both will come to breakfast with me, Friday." 

Apparently breakfast is a grand affair at some beautiful hotel on the coast. Mr. Bilal was trying to judge how long Kathleen and I would be around, it seemed. Three months? Longer? Perhaps working as a Staff Writer now intended to introduce us to a much more permanent career. 

Thessa and Bryce, my bosses, drove Kathleen and me around today in a welcome-to-Doha tour. We stopped at a cafe called Doha Rocks and ate finger sandwiches. I ordered carrot juice. We also visited one of Doha's many malls, which was so large I can't even think of how to describe it. A man-made river ran through the center, on which gondolas gently floated. 

Turns out ABODE does a lot of 'Ready Wear' pulls from shops at these malls, meaning I will get to visit shops, pick out clothing, and use them in the magazine. Amazing. 

It's fascinating to see the wide range of people here. Most men wear loose-fitting shirts and pants. Some are covered in white robes and headdresses. The few women I've seen are either wrapped head-to-toe in beautifully made, but entirely concealing, black outfits; or are dressed much like me, in longer skirts and simple tops. 

As I've mentioned before, though, there aren't many ladies out-and-about. I find myself trying not to stare while discreetly stealing side-glances at the women-in-black, looking at their beautiful robes, their shoes, their bags. What are they like under all that fabric? Will I ever know?

Prayer call happens several times throughout the day. It's currently 4am. I think the next one's at 5. Perhaps I'll still be awake for it. My sleeping has been a bit off.

Friday is the day off. We work six days a week, 9-6pm, and we're often expected to attend openings at night. I am going to be writing, writing, writing. I can't wait. We had our first staff meeting today and it was everything I could have ever hoped. Discussing ideas and articles reminded me why exactly I wanted to go into journalism... not that I have ever really forgot. 

I miss everyone, of course. But I am happy. How could I not be? This opportunity is surreal and my god, I am so excited. Let the adventure begin!

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