Friday, December 31, 2010

neutral in mmxl

That's the supposed trend, anyway. Neutral jeans. Neutral bags. Neutral jackets. Neutral boots. Neutral cargo pants. Neutral jewelry.

I'm not convinced of neutral's overall wow factor; but if all the forthcoming hues are as lovely as Chanel's recently debuted Les Khakis de Chanel nail colors, I could be convinced to get on board.

From left to right: Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Khaki Rose, Khaki Brun and Khaki Vert

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the birthday feast

One of the countless oddities about Qatar is that time is meaningless and schedules are mere suggestions. Nothing is ever as it ought to be. A sign on a business may read Open, when in truth, the establishment is closed.

Today is my birthday. Our plan was to have foot massages in the morning at one of the two hotel spa options, as we were told the three of us (I'm with two dear friends and colleagues) could do so at the same time. Nope. Only one person was working. So we journeyed to hotel option #2--the other locale where we could have a spa treatment. Guess what? Closed ... "for the holiday."

Oh well. We're easy-going. We'll enjoy a beverage at one of only three places where one can purchase a real drink in Qatar--the cove behind our hotel. We sat. And waited. And waited. Finally, after hunting down the waiter who refused to visit our table, we were told, "Nope. Coffee only. You have to wait four hours." Damn.

So we walked to option #2 for a drink. Closed.

Option #3? Take a guess.

Enter the "sure-thing contingency plan:" We convened in my room, chose one of the two bottles of sparkling wine from the room service menu, and placed the call downstairs. I think you can probably guess where this is going. Bottle #1 was unavailable, and bottle #2 would be ready to purchase "in two months."

At this point I asked the woman on the phone, "Vodka?" Room service responded, "Yes, Dr. Alford" [I love that part :) ]. So we ordered 6 shots of vodka and a pitcher of orange juice. Each of the three of us brought snacks in our suitcase, and we decided this was the perfect time to bust 'em out. Pictured below is the result: My birthday feast.

The site of the party: This table/floor in my room
The party spread, prior to kick-off:
Drinks are being mixed! We call this one the Doha Stinger (a screwdriver with Sour Patch Kids):
Seven cubes of ice works perfectly:
After party:

A birthday I'm certain I'll never forget.

Friday, December 17, 2010

christmas on the arabian peninsula

I'm currently in Doha, Qatar.

There's so much to say about this place and the infinite number of experiences I've already had, I just don't know how or where to begin. So I've said little.

Few--if any--in the Middle East acknowledge (allow the acknowledgement of may be the better way to put it) Christmas. It's hard. It's also ironic, since I'm as geographically close to the birthplace of Christ as I've ever been.

Over the past week I've thought countless times about all of the soldiers who are stuck in this part of the world every year, away from their families. At least I'm in a hotel, out of harm's way (relatively speaking), regardless of how surreal the desert, culture, and people that currently surround me make me feel.

To their complete credit, the Sheraton Doha, our home base, has attempted to bring some cheer to those guests who celebrate Christmas. In terms of depth of meaning, the result is as superficial as can be (e.g., Santa, gingerbread, snowmen, etc.--no mention of Christ, obviously), but it's something.

A couple of nights ago in the lobby of the hotel, a group called the Sheraton Doha
Choir "performed." :) It was hysterical. We'd never seen anything like it and were kind of speechless. They were all of Singaporean descent--not Qatari, Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Iraqi, etc., like almost everyone else we encounter. Later we were told that the choir was comprised of the workers who clean our rooms, man the restaurant, etc. (foreigners make-up almost the entire labor force in Qatar, as the locals tend to look down on work. Seriously. They're happy to tell you that).

Anyway, I captured a tiny snippet on video. The quality is worse than horrible, but you'll get the gist of it. The singers didn't know the words to the songs they sang, as evidenced by the giant display of lyrics that they stared up at during every song. It was simultaneously so wrong and hysterical. At one point I looked at my two dear friends and work colleagues who were with me and asked, "Dear God, is this what people over here think of Christmas and Americans?"

So without further ado, I bring you the singular "Christmas" moment we've shared in Qatar ... the Doha Sheraton Choir.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

blog neglect ... first class, style

Well, hello, Blog. It's me ... your muse, your creator, and now ... your long-time neglector. Without going into the sob story of where I've been (sometimes it's best to simply let the past be the past), I'll dive back in with what is possibly the most obnoxious, self-indulgent, shallow, beastly, and meaningless blog post I've ever formulated. I'll apologize now, rather than later (the content of this post speaks for itself).

I bring you: Some photos from my journey to the Middle East ... the 'flying First Class' part. Yes, I did manage to eat all of the food depicted herein.

(I should mention that I'm currently in Doha, Qatar, working on an evaluation project)

Anyway, back to the seminal part of my current trip ... First Class. I thought Business Class was spectacular. HA! Such amateurs. Never again will I be able to journey on an international flight (particularly a 19-hour flight. Dear God) without recalling what the past 48 hours were like in First Class. The worst part: Now that I know how the "other side" lives, I know that every time I board a plane--only to make my way to my typical seat amongst the other flunkies--I'll involuntarily scowl at each passenger in First Class.

I'll start with the multitude of "Fast Track" lines. Upon first glance, these may not seem like a big deal; but somewhere around the 5th security check/immigration/customs/plane boarding/luggage screening etc., that oh-so-pompous "Fast Track" sign becomes pretty darn choice. And the lounges? Yeah, I could get used to 'em.
I could go on. And on. But I won't. It'd be ridiculously gross. I mean, I'm somewhat ashamed of my new-found love affair with First Class. What's worse is that prior to my trip, I made the mistake of watching a John Lennon tribute video, set to the tune Imagine. More than once, whilst luxuriating in First Class, the words, "Imagine no possessions; I wonder if you can ...." popped into to my mind--as if Lennon was taunting me from the grave. Needless to say, I quickly swatted those silly thoughts away, emphatically telling John to get out of my head. After all, I had warm, wet cloths, designer lip balms, and cottony airline PJs and slippers to which to attend.

In closing, I'd like to thank darling Mark, the cheeky yet oh-so professional flight attendant on British Airways (the Houston to London leg, anyway): Thank you for making both my "pre-departure" and "just after take-off" cocktails so blissfully strong. I know that whenever I think of Glasgow, I'll think of you and the way you so artistically made-up my 500-thread Egyptian cotton sheet-covered bed.

I told you. It's gross. I'm out of control.

(I'll share more of my actual trip to Qatar in the coming days/weeks ....)