Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Qatar Academy

The majelis, or "living room," at Qatar Academy

It was up and at'em again this morning. Mark picked us up at 6:30 and we headed over to the Learning Center for my first presentation to about 40 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th grade boys. High school boys have similar characteristics the world over -- full of themselves, rowdy and determined to appear disinterested in whatever is going on, especially if it's a middle-aged woman writer. But I know better and soon we were having a wonderful conversation about prejudices, about writing and about research. Our hour together flew by.

The next agenda item on the day's full schedule was a tea sponsored by the PTA. I am now completely and utterly spoiled: we were offered tea, espresso and an assortment of sweet and savory pastries.
ah, the life of luxury! Another crumpet?

I met the adorable PTA "mascot," 10-month old Lotta, and the rest of the amazing team of moms who helped to sponsor my visit. I was overwhelmed when they presented me with a beautiful wooden box, containing a pen, computer "duster" and leather-clad jump drive, all engraved with the academy's name.

The Qatar PTA presenting me with a true chest of treasures

For those of you who have been worried about our safety here in the Middle East, I will confess to a brush with danger today when these wild animals stormed the tea party:

Once we tossed them a treat or two, they were tamed and sent on their way to the primary school's musical version of "The Elephant's Child."

It was time to be off to the next two presentations, to two groups of 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Energizer Bunny teacher, Mr. Michael Bowe, gave me a warm introduction, still smiling despite having to hustle to round up a powerpoint projector for the demanding visiting author. The students and I thoroughly enjoyed one another's company, but a highlight of the day was sharing pizza lunch with a smaller group of these same students. It gave us all a much better chance for getting acquainted. I did have to be on my toes as they peppered me with questions about Hattie Big Sky -- I only hope I answered them all correctly! When I get home, I'll be able to share more photos of these endearing middle schoolers with you. But I do have to share one more "small world" story. When I signed a book for one of the small group, a young man named Beruk , I learned he was from Ethiopia. I told him about my friend, Jane Kurtz and her work with Johannes Gebregeorgis on the Ethiopia Reads project. Get this: it turns out that Beruk is Johannes' nephew! What are the chances?!

I need ice for my signing hand!

The school day ended with me signing yet more books for the PTA Book Fair, sponsored by I-Spy bookshop (if you are ever in Qatar, stop in and say hi to Mouna and her gracious staff!).

We came home to pack up a bit before dinner tonight with the Qatar Reading Association folks. In the morning, Saint Anita will be picking us up at 5:30 am for the next stop on our journey: Beirut.

What impressions will I carry away from Qatar? Yes, the country is flat desert. And it's awfully hot for the pair of us web-foots, but the people we encountered -- Qataris and ex-pats alike -- were as warm and lovely as you could imagine. The children I interacted with stole my heart and I hope the schools think to keep me posted now and again about how they are all doing. I admire the Emir's efforts to put a premium on education and to create a reading populace. I'll miss the fresh yogurt, lemon-mint juice and even our apartment's quirky little toilet that sang like crickets all night long.

Ma salam, Qatar.


  1. I'm so glad you're sharing this trip with us.

  2. What an adventure and am I proud to be a part of it! It was our pleasure to have you!
    A Qatar Academy PTA mom who missed the tea party, since I was preparing the kids for the Elephant's Child concert!