Traveling with Family
Rachael and I have yet to take an official honeymoon of our own, but my brother Forrest and his wife Vanessa were kind enough to invite us on theirs (or maybe we invited ourselves…). We spent a few days exploring the temples of Angkor in Cambodia (pictured above) and then took a few buses to an elephant refuge on the other side of the country to complete our week together. They continued on to Vietnam and Thailand and Rachael and I headed back to Doha. We would've liked to have been by their side for their entire honeymoon (maybe not by their side, per se, but you get the idea) but unfortunately Rachael and I had to return to work.
Traveling with Forrest meant a lot to me. We didn't get along well when we were younger (hated each other, really), so every step toward a strengthened bond has been good and welcome. It began when we started working for the same maintenance company in 2006, jobs we held together for several years. In 2009 we traveled together for a week in New York City, and now we've added Cambodia to our list, too. All of this deserves its own post, so I'll save it for another day.
Meeting family abroad, whether in Doha or elsewhere, is one of my favorite parts about living overseas. It's like show and tell, but for your life. In addition to the week we spent with Forrest and Vanessa, we traveled in Andalucía with Rachael's parents Gordy and Suellen and our close friends Jane and Joan (who were also the officiants at our wedding).
Making New Friends
Living and working here feels a bit like being in college because you spend a lot of time with the same group of people. Our colleagues at work are our neighbors at home. We eat together, we hang out together, we take trips together. Needless to say, having a few good friends can make or break the entire experience. When Mike and Liz didn't return to Qatar with us this year (more on that in a minute) and most of our neighbors moved to another compound closer to the center of the city, we were a bit worried.
Fortunately, we lucked out by making friends with another recently married couple named Jake and Bethany. He's from Arkansas and she's from Washington. We spend a lot of our free time together and have even taken a few trips together. Rachael and I are really lucky to have them here.
Exploring Qatar and Her Neighbors
I say this in one form or another damn near every time I write a blog post, and here it goes again: there's not a whole lot to do in Qatar. That said, if you look hard enough plenty adventure awaits. This year we went camping several times, swam in the small channel that separates Qatar from Saudi Arabia (photo above), ate at a McDonald's in Saudi Arabia, and rode an elevator up the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.
Making a Yearbook
The only documentation of my time in elementary school was the class photo. At the elementary school I work at now, on the other hand, we have a full-color 192 page yearbook filled with hundreds of beautiful pictures. Needless to say, things are different here. Anyway, I was in charge of putting the yearbook together this year and I'm proud of how it turned out.
We spend a lot of time at home (not a lot to do here, few people to visit, awful traffic, etc.) so it's important to have a way to pass the time. Last year my hobby was building and programming a dust sensor to measure air pollution in Qatar, this year, I took a couple calculus classes through Oregon State University (and spending a lot of time on Khan Academy). I plan on completing my second bachelor's degree in physics when we're back in Oregon.
If I had to sum up our second year working and living in Qatar, I'd choose this one: better. Rachael and I explored more, made more friends, learned more about the culture, and understood our jobs better. Most of all, this year was just easier than last year. We'd already jumped through most of the immigration hoops, figured out how to get around, settled into our house, etc. There was, however, one major downside: Rachael and I shared our first year in Qatar with our close friends Mike and Liz and their daughter Piper, but they didn't return for a second year. I'd rather have them next door here in Doha, but ten months apart will make our reunion in Oregon all the more sweet.
So now we're on to a summer away from Qatar. If you're interested in what we'll be up to, check out my post from last week.