I’ve always heard-tell of this thing “Jet Lag”. It almost seemed like a mythical creature growing up. Wouldn’t you sleep when it’s dark outside? How hard could it be to sleep through the night? Apparently, it’s a lot harder than I had anticipated.
After a long 36 hour trip and maybe about 15 hours worth of sleep over the course of 4 flights, I find myself wide awake in my hotel in Doha. There is strange, yet beautiful, music bouncing off the cement buildings surrounding me and eerily echoing through my window.
My long journey started at 3am US Central time. I flew from Austin to Houston to DC to Dubai to Doha. Along the way I have met other youth delegate from the U.S.- some from Earth in Brackets, some from SustainUS, and everyone else travelling with me is from my delegation with the SSC.
This being my first journey outside of the U.S., everything is new and exciting, a list of firsts- if you will. My first international flight! My first airplane meal! My first bag of Lay’s with printing in a different language! My first time walking on the soil of another country!
After our twelve and a half hour flight from Washington DC to Dubai (on which I made a lovely, and slightly too friendly, friend from Yemen whom had just presented at a conference in he said was called MESA), while de-planing my excitement was tangible. These were my first glimpses of the rest of the World! Out of the airport window I saw palm trees, wavy sand, beautiful architecture, and of course, the flare stacks from oil refineries. The signs around the airport in Dubai were all in Arabic, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful written languages in the World. What caught my attention beyond the attire of other passenger milling around the terminals and the strenuous security measures, was the Americanization of the airport food. Recognize this? Church’s Chicken is apparently for palatable if it’s “Texas Chicken”!
After an embarrassing and confusing restroom experience for us ladies (porcelain and TP were nowhere to be found), we headed back to our gate. From Dubai, we had a one hour flight remaining to Doha. By the time we took off, it was dark outside once more. We flew over the Persian Gulf, spotting oil rigs and fishing vessels lights spread out amongst the dark waves. After a light snack consisting of Lay’s chips and a KitKat bar, we caught our first glimpses of Doha!
Once we landed, we had to hop onto these interesting shuttle-bus people-movers and headed to immigration and customs. Excitement: I was getting a stamp in my brand new passport! Going through was a lot easier than I had expected. “Passport? Name? Look at camera. Done.”- my customs agent. We proceeded (“we” being myself, two other SSC delegates, two SustainUS delegates, one Earth in Brackets delegate, and one Mexican youth delegate) to baggage claim and awaited our rides to our separate sleeping destinations.
Upon arrival to our hotel (after an hour and a half of miscommunication with our ride getting there), I saw three American men leaning on the outside wall. In the middle, was a tall blonde gentleman, my favorite cousin James, who is staying nearby with the military. As soon as I saw him I burst into tears. I couldn’t get out of the cab fast enough to give him the biggest hug imaginable.
After he helped me take my bags upstairs (which contained two presents for him: Bacon Salt and Texas-shaped bacon/ cheddar crackers- side note: bringing pork products into Qatari borders is against the law, hence the bacon flavors) we headed out to dinner. After walking down a vibrant street with many “Hair Saloons” all along the left side and various bike and furniture shops, we headed to a place called King Kabob which was in a small shopping center that seemed to be comprised primarily of Indian shops (e.g. Sari Emporium two door down). I’m quickly noticing that the majority of the people I am seeing in my part of town (not the richer portion of the city) is primarily comprised of Indian and other Southeast Asian folks. I read somewhere that the much of the population is comprised of immigrant labor from these areas- more on this as I do more research. For dinner, I had a fascinating malai kofta (potato dumplings) that was very different from what I am used to from the Indian places I’ve been to in the states. This malai kofta was swimming in a white gravy and contained both dried cranberries and cashews. It was fantastic, just very different.
After bidding my cousin farewell, I was back at my hotel where my friend and I discovered that you cannot unlock our hotel door from the inside without a key- and our key was out grocery shopping with two of our other friends. I spent about fifteen minutes in the lobby watching Arabic infomercials for the equivalent of a Swiffer until my friends returned. Their return was not only warmly felt owing to the fact that I could get into the room, but also because they bought NUTELLA! The 5 of us (our fourth friend arrived shortly after them) circled the Nutella and munched away until- COCKROACHES!!! We had read reviews saying that there were roached in this hotel, but I was hoping that something had been done about it. On the bright side- Doha roaches are approximately a quater of the size of Texas roaches.
So- here I am. Sitting on the arm of a chair in our chic living room (I just saw another roach), nomming on Nutella, unable to sleep. It’s currently 6:30 am in Doha and I have a big day ahead of me- yet, I can’t sleep. On the agenda for today: the Conference of Youth (COY) opening ceremony and sessions, buying a temporary cell phone, and maybe even checking out the Souq. Who knows- time will tell.
For now, Aloha from Doha.