December 29, 2018 – Khuda Hafiz and Bonjour (OOTD #431)

Translation: goodbye (Urdu) and hello (French)

Traveling is weird because it completely destroys your sense of time, especially when you’re traveling across time zones.

Granted, I shouldn’t have had much of a time zone change to worry about when going from Qatar to France, as there was only a two hour difference between the two countries, but it felt like so much more.

I left from my hotel in Qatar at about 11PM at night, after saying goodbye to all of my Indian and Pakistani friends who’d been a part of the conference. This time, I really do question whether I’ll be able to see them again — there will be one more conference this summer in the same series, and I suppose there’s a chance that Notre Dame could give me funding again, but I doubt it. Perhaps I’ll get to see them if I ever make it to India or Pakistan, but I don’t know when that will be.

The moment I got into the cab for the airport, I was out like a light. I guess five days straight of staying up until 1 or 2AM in the morning and getting up at 6AM for class really takes a toll on you — especially if those five days of sleep deprivation follow about four months of less extreme but more prolonged sleep deprivation during the regular school year.

I wish I had been awake to see the city pass as I left, but I was just too exhausted. In fact, I was so tired that I completely forgot to check in for my flight online before I got to the airport. It’s not that that’s such a big deal, since I was able to just get in line to check in when I got there, but I feel a lot more comfortable when I travel internationally if I can cut the amount of time waiting in line by as much as possible. I get nervous about missing flights, especially when I’m in a foreign country and an unfamiliar airport. I’ve yet to miss a flight when I’m on my own, and I want to keep it that way.

In the end though, I managed to navigate my way to the gate and get there on time. From there, it was a six hour flight to Istanbul — the majority of those six hours which I spent passed out in my chair.

My travel debacle began when I landed in Istanbul. I had only an hour to make it from one gate to another, and apparently, that was not nearly enough. The security lines were terrible, and it seemed like there was hardly anyone working. I was lucky; I found a group of French people behind me in line who were headed to Paris as well, and so I followed them as they pushed their way past people in line. We probably didn’t make any friends, but we made it to our gate on time (just as they are doing last call!) and so I guess making some Turkish people mad was worth it.

The travel debacle continued, however. After a fairly simple (which is not to say stress-free) transfer in Paris to Clermont-Ferrand, I was on my way to my final destination at about noon. I arrived in Clermont-Ferrand, a very small airport, where I was to meet with my host family who’d transport me back to their home in Vichy.

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That part went smoothly — my host mother was standing there with a sign with my name, and she was very friendly. What didn’t go smoothly was the acquisition of my bags, because apparently, they never made it from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

And so, instead of a second, clean outfit after I arrived in Vichy, I had to keep the same one on that I had worn all day on my last day in Qatar. And then I had to sleep in it. And then I had to wear it the next day.

How will the story end? Will I get my bags? How will I survive in France with my limited French, and my semi-competent social skills? Tune in next time for the thrilling continuation of my French adventures.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: The LOFT (thrifted, Goodwill)

Pants: The closet of a friend of mine

 

 

 

December 28, 2018 – Group Tours (OOTD #430)

Traveling in a large group is hard.

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doha more like whoa-ha

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Over my last several experiences traveling, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more people you’re with, the more complicated it gets. Trying to coordinate schedules, preferences, budgets: it’s all so much, and in the end, passive aggressive arguments and frustrations always break out.

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winter break adventure # 1 was alright, i guess

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Being alone is also not ideal either, though — who are you going to get to take your photos? The best travel situation has to be just one other partner.

And so for today’s Doha adventures, I gave up on trying to hang out with the group if it didn’t suit me. The previous few days, I had been trying so hard to hang out with as many people as possible, to give everyone my attention who wanted it. But that was exhausting, and in the end, I wasn’t having as much fun as I think I could have been. So I decided to go off and do what I wanted, and if people decided to join me, then I wasn’t going to stop them.

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small person, large city

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Our first stop was the Corniche, which I had seen lit up at night the previous day. I was expecting to be uninterested, as I had already seen it before, but seeing it in the day time really made a difference. Nighttime, with the bright colorful lights, was a little cooler, but I have to say that daytime was a spectacular sight as well — it looked like something out of a futuristic sci-fi film. Plus, I got some cool photos, which is usually my measure for if I  had a good time at a tourist site.

State Grand Mosque was next. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to go in. We, the American students, were supposed to have been allowed in — but, without hair coverings, the woman at security wouldn’t allow us in as non-Muslims. Instead, we sat outside with a few other Muslim women who decided to keep us company, either in solidarity or disinterest in going in to pray.

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let’s talk mosques

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After that slight disappointment, we moved on to a collection of museums. I don’t really have any photos from here, since in my opinion, there wasn’t much to photograph. One of the museums we saw, the slavery museum, was actually quite fascinating and very well done, but it wasn’t a place for fashion pics, you know?

Then, we went back to the Souq Waqif marketplace for shopping and dinner, making it my third time in three days that I had been there. By now, the Souq’s uniqueness had worn off, and its twisting alleyways and street vendors were no longer novel to me. I devoted myself to a single task — finding a scarf to buy — and avoided distractions as much as possible. With only an hour before we had to meet for dinner, I had to stay focused, or else risk leaving Qatar having withdrawn $40 in Qatari Riyals and having spent none.

The last stop for the night was the Corniche once again, so that those who hadn’t seen it lit up at night before could see it for the first time. For me, having seen the Corniche three times now (once in the day and now twice at night), I was basically a seasoned Dohan (Dohian? Doher?) local. The skyscrapers, with their bright pink and orange and  purple lights, still left me in awe.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

December 27, 2018 – I Want To Go on a Night Boat to Doha? (OOTD #429)

Once again, I’m going to skip ahead to the part of the trip after classes ended, because that’s really what’s fun and interesting for me to write about here. If you’d like a summary of my thoughts on the conference itself and what I felt my role was, I’d suggest you have a read over this blog here.

Unlike my sand dunes adventure, which was spent completely with the Madrasa Discourses students, this trip was spent completely with the other Notre Dame kids. There were pros and cons of both groups: for example, the madrasa students liked the slip into Urdu a lot, which was a little awkward for me. On the other hand, the Notre Dame kids liked to talk about American culture and politics — which, you know, I could do whenever I’m at home in the US.

They also approached things with a very American perspective. I’m not critical of that because that’s exactly what I did as well — however, when I’m in foreign countries and cultures, it’s nice to get to speak with people who don’t think the same way I necessarily do. Ideally, of course, I’d have a native Qatari to hang out with and show me around — but in the absence of one of those, there were plenty of Indian and Pakistanis in our group who could have also made for some interesting cross-cultural conversations.

That’s all to say I kind-of regret spending so much time with the other Americans on this trip. It wasn’t that I disliked them, but I think I probably should not have devoted so much time to them when, in theory, I could see them around campus whenever I want. I can’t so much do that with my Indian and Pakistani friends.

That’s not to say, however, that I regretted what I did when I spent time with the other Notre Dame students. We went on some pretty exciting adventures together — for example, this day, when we went to the Souq Waqif market and then took a boat across the Doha Bay to the Corniche.

Like many days during my time in Qatar, this ended up being a very long, exhausting day. After a full day of lectures and classroom discussions, we took an Uber together to the old market with the intent of seeing the Pearl, an artificial island attached to the city that’s supposed to be very pretty at night.  Unfortunately, the girl who called the Uber put in the wrong address, and we instead wound up at a different “pearl” — which was just a statue of a pearl.

I’d already been to the Souq the previous night after my desert safari, so the effect of the historical, busy, market with a mix of people in Western-styles and more traditional Islamic fashions,  had kind of worn off on me. It’s funny how that happens sometimes — I’ve never seen a century-old Qatari market that sells traditional goods and is one of the last remaining testaments to native Qatari culture before cosmopolitanism took over. And yet, once I saw it once, it wasn’t quite as exciting the second time around.

From there, we decided to walk along the Doha Bay for a good view of the skyline. If you haven’t seen the Doha skyline in person, I highly recommend that you try to see it one day. Skylines are very important to me; if a city doesn’t have a beautiful skyline, my ability to appreciate the city diminishes. London, for example, didn’t have an impressive skyline, even though it was a very impressive city. I of course still loved London, but I was disappointed by the lack of a jaw-dropping skyline view.

Doha was kind of the opposite. It’s got one of the most beautiful skylines I’ve ever seen, especially lit up at night. New York is gorgeous too, but it’s not colorful — not like Doha is. Doha is a rainbow of bright colors and sparkling lights; it’s unlike anything I’d ever seen. We took a boat across the harbor, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I was able to sit back and retreat into myself a little (something I really needed after a long day of social interaction), and watch the skyline glow on the horizon as it grew closer.

However, Doha’s modern sector was less impressive. We hopped off our boat, and there was nearly no one out. Granted, we were there on a Thursday night, so perhaps not the most bumping of nights, but for a bright, impressive city like Doha, with all those flashing lights in the skyline and the colorful skyscrapers, there seemed to be very few people who lived there.

I like a city to feel alive, and while Doha looked alive, it didn’t feel like it. We did go into a mall for a few hours, and that had more people it seemed than downtown.  By the time we hit the mall, though, I was too exhausted to do much. By then, I was tired of being around for people for so long, and I had basically completely stopped attempting to participate in conversation.

By the time we called the Uber to go back to our hotel, my feet hurt, I had lost one of my false eyelashes, and I was pretty sick of being around that particular crowd. Like I said though, I’m really appreciative of all I got to see and do. My goal was to go out and explore every night that I could; I wasn’t about to go on a trip halfway around the world to the Middle East and rest every night in the hotel. I think my body (and maybe my brain too) might have preferred the more leisurely path, but I think my soul preferred the adventure.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Stolen from the lost-and-found bin of my dorm’s laundry room

Pants: The LOFT

December 26, 2018 – Sand Dunes in the Dark (OOTD #428)

I’m gonna skip ahead to the part of the day where I wound up on a camel.

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made a friend

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Okay, I’ll give a little context: after day two of the conference, I was getting ready to go on a tour of Education City with the other ND kids. It wasn’t something I necessarily really wanted to do, but I had no other plans. Our hotel was in the middle of nowhere in the desert, so getting around was a little difficult unless you were in a group. There was a group going to do something, and since I like doing things, I thought I’d tag along.

But as we were leaving the university to go on our tour, I caught wind of another plan, one that seemed a lot more exciting. A group of Indian and Pakistani students were planning on going to seeing Qatar’s sand dunes, but they needed one more person in order to secure a certain price point for the tour group. They asked me, and, despite hardly knowing the plans and hardly knowing some of people (I’d met them before in Nepal, but I only knew one or two of them well), I figured it would be more fun than seeing some school buildings with Americans who I’ll get to see back at ND whenever I want.

So without knowing where I was going or what I was doing other than the very vague plan of “see the sand dunes,” I hopped in a Jeep with a random Saudi Arabian driver and five other people who decided they’d rather speak in Urdu than English.

The car ride took about an hour, and for the whole hour, there were very few English words spoken. That’s not because these people couldn’t speak English — I know for a fact that their English is very good because I’ve had good conversations with many of them before — but they just preferred Urdu. I mean…they had no obligation to speak English just because I was there. But it was kind of awkward sitting there for an hour, hardly able to participate in the conversation — though that’s normally what happens when I go to parties, so I guess it wasn’t that unique of a situation.

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just deserts

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After an hour in the car, the Saudi Arabian driver took us to a little camp site in the middle of the desert and kicked us out. I was still a little confused about what was going on, owing to the whole not speaking Urdu thing, and the fact that the camp site had camels was not helping me to understand things better. All I knew was that I was going to see the sand dunes; camels were not a part of my expectations.

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desert sunsets 🐪

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But I have nothing against camels — I’ve only ever seen them at zoos, but they seem like cool animals. Given the chance to ride one, I would do it. And that’s what I did.

It’s a shame it was so dark by the time we went because in all of my photos, I kind of look like an amorphous ghostly blob of flash. Sometimes photos taken with flash look cool because they make you look adventurous and fun, but that’s not so much the case when your photographer is sitting on a bumpy camel and so all of your photos turn out blurry. I don’t know, maybe it gives it a grungy dark teenager aesthetic?

I wish I could tell you my camel ride was magical and exotic, but really, it was a little boring. We basically went in a circle in a small lit area and took pictures.

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a bad photo but a good time

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What was magical and exotic, though, was our drive through the sand dunes afterwards. I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t know what people were saying. I didn’t know if our driver was licensed, or if he was following a particular path through the dunes, or if he was going to drive us into the desert and put bullets through all of our heads. I had no data by the time we made it out into the middle of nowhere, and no means of communicating with the world if I got lost or kidnapped. In hindsight, maybe I should have been a little more more cautious, but the risk was what made it exciting and adventurous.

After driving around for a while, our driver stopped and kicked us out again. Some of my friends pulled out…some substance to smoke (that’s not a euphemism, I really don’t know what it was — they offered to let me join, but they would only tell me it was “an Indian speciality,” and in a brief moment of prudence, I figured maybe I shouldn’t get stoned in the Middle Eastern desert), and a few of us decided to go for a walk down to the water.

In my limited knowledge of deserts, I don’t think water is something they’re used to have. I’m pretty sure the lack of water is kind of how deserts are defined. But somehow, I wound up walking down a giant hill of sand with my stoned friends behind me towards a lake (?) in the Qatari desert. Like I said, it was a weird experience.

Perhaps the stupidest thing I did this whole night was walking around the desert with no flashlight, no sense of direction, and no idea what I was doing. Somewhere in the back of my mind, it occurred to me that I could get lost and die of dehydration out there in the Qatari desert. But apparently, that voice wasn’t very loud because by the time I realized that what I was doing was stupid, I was already too far away from the car to see it. Of course, the Saudi Arabian driver couldn’t be bothered to turn on his lights so we could find where he parked, so our group was literally just wandering around the desert in the dark. Not to mention of course, that half of our group had just smoked “an Indian speciality.”

As you can tell, though, I’m here writing this blog now, so I didn’t die. We made it back to the car safely (the white of the Saudi Arabian driver’s Jeep was just barely visible in the darkness), and he drove us back to civilization without murdering us.

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see ya 2018, t’was fun

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This blog is going on way too long and I’m tired of writing so I won’t keep going, but the night didn’t end there. No, of course not — after our desert exploits, we had to hit the town and get dinner in the busiest part of the city. And of course, we had to wander around for an hour before we could pick a place to eat. And then we had to sit there and chat for an hour in Urdu — regardless of the fact there was a confused, jet-lagged American girl with wet sand in her shoes sitting there, just wanting to go home and sleep.

We made it back to the hotel, but not until 11PM. I guess that’s not super late, but after being jet-lagged, waking up at 6:00AM so I could sit in class all day to listen to discussions about Islamic theology, and then hiking around the desert for hours, I was pretty exhausted.

Anyway, that’s my Qatari desert adventure story. Hope you had fun reading it — I sure had fun living it.

December 25, 2018 – School Is Cool (OOTD #427)

Merry Christmas!

Okay, don’t worry — even though this blog post features the outfit from Christmas Day 2018, I won’t be talking about Christmas too much, notably because I barely did anything Christmas related on my first full day in Doha, Qatar.

It barely even felt like Christmas, but I was okay with that. My family and I celebrated Christmas the day before I departed on my two-week journey, and I got to see the Christmas Market in Munich on Christmas Eve, so I felt like I got a pretty comprehensive Christmas experience, even though I wasn’t home for the actual holiday. I was surprised — I thought I was going to be upset being away from my family, and I suppose I was a little bit, but there were so many things on my mind for that day that I forgot all about Christmas.

What was on my mind? Well, the perhaps most pressing was fact that I was in the Middle East for a conference on the conciliation of traditional Islamic scholarship and modernity. It was my first day, so I was nervous, but I had an advantage — I had participated in the same conference before in the summer with the same students.

My time in Qatar was essentially a continuation of my time in Nepal, which meant it came with some of the same struggles and same joys of Nepal’s conference. The biggest struggle with this project is that I didn’t actually know much about Islamic theology and modernity. The conference wasn’t really meant for me — it was meant for a cohort of about 40 Masters and PhD-level scholars from India and Pakistan. I was there along with the Notre Dame professor who organized the project in order to participate in the peacebuilding and interfaith dialogue aspect of the project — in essence, to offer an American Christian’s perspective on some of the topics discussed.

It’s hard though to offer your perspective when you don’t have a clear perspective. Some of the presentations could get kind of complex — like, historical analyses of concepts of human dignity or women’s rights in Islamic law. I don’t know much about Islamic law — and while I have some general stances on human dignity and women’s rights, I’m still no expert. It makes trying to participate in the discussions difficult because I’m not the intended audience.

And so, as was the case in Nepal, I believed my role in this project took place outside of the classroom, especially interacting with my old friends and trying to make new ones. I don’t like formal discussions — I much prefer informal ones where I don’t feel the pressure of a professor watching me and expecting me to contribute in one way or another. I don’t know how the conference organizers felt about my preference for extracurricular conversations, but they decided to bring me along again regardless. I guess they didn’t hate me in Nepal too much.

It was really cool to see some of my old friends from Nepal again, especially considering when I left them last summer, I thought I would probably never get to see them again. I hadn’t known I would have a chance to meet them again for another conference, and I doubted I would ever visit their home countries of India or Pakistan for a visit.

But then again, I doubted I’d ever get to see Doha, Qatar, and yet there I was, attending a conference at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Education City. That’s where these photos were taken.

Life is full of surprises — like how beautiful the HBK campus was. Seriously, Notre Dame is lovely, and the collegiate gothic style is neat and all, but HBK was really something else. It was modern, clean, and high-tech — the opposite of Notre Dame’s traditional Catholic aesthetic. Some parts of Notre Dame, like the crappy dorms, make it hard to tell how much money the school really has. HBK was the opposite — everything, from the modern architecture to the water feature incorporated throughout the building to the rooftop terrace with verses of the Quran onto the windowpanes — oozed money.

To close off the day, the other American students and I traveled out to a local church for a Christmas mass. I’ve never been to Christmas mass before, given how I’m not Catholic and all, and I’ve definitely never been to Christmas mass in an Islamic country. Interestingly, it wasn’t all that different from a regular mass service in the US. Just like in mass at Notre Dame, there was a lot of singing, and kneeling, and repeating verses, and I fell asleep during the homily. I guess some things don’t get more exciting, even when they’re in a foreign culture.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: The LOFT

Pants: J. Crew