Saturday, December 27, 2014

A day in Doha and some other catching up.

Alright it seems that 21 months is more than enough time between posts, but a quick getaway, and an opportunely received email titled "Wondering about you" from a grandmother, made me feel sufficiently guilty about my failure of blog duties. So to this end, I will update about life now, and just leave some short bullet points about the places we have been since my last post and hopefully supply other entries for those at a later time ;-)
  • March 2014: Kent and Ci-Ci to Bahrain for Youth Conference
  • May 2013: Kent to Doha, Qatar for work
  • August 2013: Family to London, EuroDisney, and Paris
  • September 2013: Kent to Doha, Qatar with friends
  • October 2013: Al-Lula / Medin Salah, Saudi Arabia
  • November 2013: Barbara and Ci-Ci (the child formerly known as Courtney) to Bahrain for Girls Camp
  • December 2013-January 2014: Family Christmas in Idaho and Utah
  • January 2014: Ci-Ci (the child formerly known as Courtney) school trip to Geneva Switzerland for Model United Nations (MUN)
  • February 2014: Kent to Doha, Qatar for work
  • March 2014: Kent and Ci-Ci to Bahrain for Youth Conference
  • April 2014: Kent, Ci-Ci, and Caitlynn to Al-Lith, for diving with the whale sharks (not dangerous and didn't see any :-(
  • May 2014: Kent to India for a friends wedding
  • June - August 2014: Barbara and the kids in Idaho for the summer
  • October 2014: Kent to Idaho for Sarah's wedding, and an unexpected funeral in Colorado
  • November 2014: Ci-Ci and Caitlynn to Bahrain for Girls Camp 
  • November 2014: Ci-Ci to Budapest with school for Yale Model Government, Europe (YMGE)
  • December 2014: Grandma Connie came to Saudi Arabia for Christmas
And this all culminates with Barbara and I running away to Doha for the weekend while Granny stays with the kids at KAUST. Not sure if this make me the best husband or the worst dad/ son ;-)

There were some hurdles to jump through to make it happen,  including all the taxis from KAUST being booked up for the day of our departure, but the biggest hurdle was a major power outage that affected all of KAUST the day before we left.  A crane somewhere between KAUST and Jeddah took down our power lines which left the community without power for about 3 hours and we didn't have power fully restored to the research campus until 8PM. Once that was restored we had to wait for a number of systems to get activated before I could give the all, clear to resume research activities. Because of some technical difficulties I wasn't able to send that note out until 3 hours before my friend was taking me to the airport. So to say I tasted the bitter before the sweet would be an understatement,  but I am glad it was mostly worked out before I left.

So enough about that,  let me tell you about Doha. Why Doha you may ask? Mainly because it is close by, has a good vibe, and the resort pictures looked nice ;-) As the previous travel log would indicate I have been to Doha a couple for business and pleasure and enjoy the feel of it. Temperature wise, it has a broader range  than KAUST,  so it gets hotter in the summer and cooler in the winter.  While we were over on this trip it was about 65- 70 degrees while we walked around Friday night, with a low that night of about 60. Unfortunately due to scheduling constraints we were only able to getaway for 1 night but what a great night it was. Since we knew it was going to be a quick trip, we used some of our Marriott Rewards from our Chase Marriott card to stay at a the Ritz-Carlton Sharq Resort in Doha.

Though we had few reasons to leave, we did manage to get out for a walk and ended up eating at Ric's Kountry Kitchen Now if you have eaten at Ric's in Bahrain you may feel let down in Doha. In Bahrain they have some really tasty pork dishes, but in Doha they do not. The country fried steak is yummy and the country gravy is good, but you will feel let down if you are expecting bacon :-( On the other side, they had a Christmas tree and that was a welcome site :-)

Regarding the family, we are doing well. The current highlight is obviously having grandma Connie with us for Christmas. 
Before she leaves, I think that she, Barbara, and the kids are going to the beach and then we will take her to Economic City for her final night in town. So far we have taken her shopping in Jeddah (always an adventure ;-), snorkeling, and some other fun wandering around.

The kids got out of school on the 18th and will be out for 3 weeks. I guess this is the norm for international schools, but it is the first for ours. The downside for me is that it means everyone is in school until June 11th. Current plans have them leaving for the U.S. on the 15th with me following on the 4th of July. This year they will return with me on August 6th which means about 3 weeks before school starts, so they should be far from jet lagged ;-)

Besides YMGE Ci-Ci is learning bass guitar and working on a big project for school. As part of the completion of the IB Middle Years Program (MYP), students undertake a personal project that is large in scope and they actually started at the end of 9th grade. For Ci-Ci's project she has chosen a reef cleanup and designed a bag for divers to collect trash while they dive. To be fair we chose this partly to have an excuse to dive ;-) but she also organized a cleanup dive, will write a final paper, and participate in a presentation. So this in addition to her normal course load is keeping her BUSY, but she is handling it very well. It is a stark change from when we first arrived and she had too much time on her hands. Either the school accreditation has upped the standard, or the academics have caught up to her ability (I think it is both).

Caitlynn has also found herself with a large plate that she is keeping full. She is still doing violin and Spirit Squad and since my last posting those long months ago, Caitlynn has also received her PADI Junior Open Water dive certification. In addition to her certification dives, she has dove in Yanbu (where we saw a shark :-) and Jeddah. For her PE class they spent 6 weeks learning to sail. I have to admit that getting out for bowling suddenly sounds a lot less exciting ;-)

Whitney continues with piano and seems to have a great talent for it. It is getting harder to tell whether Barbara or Whitney are playing. If it is a complex piece then it is easier to tell, but the gap is closing and I couldn't be more pleased. Her instructor now is very talented as well and they seem to be a good fit. In terms of schooling, she still thinks math is too easy, but she grabs it so quick that this would probably be the case regardless of the class. So when she is bored still does Khan Academy (that guy deserves a Nobel prize). She has also taken to sewing and enjoys that as well.

This Fall Ben split his time between soccer and rugby. He is still learning both, but he stuck with the soccer through the course, and he has committed to rugby through the school year. The rugby has really helped his ball control so he can catch and handle the rugby ball (and an American football ;-) much better. In school he has taken to the guitar and even played while the other students in Grade 3 sang along during the winter program.

Barbara is working this year as the school librarian and LOVING it. Over the last couple of weeks she spent her downtime shopping for kids books. This was heaven for both of us. She could go crazy buying all sorts of kids books for the kids at the school, and we didn't have to pay for it ;-)

As for me, my colleague and friend just returned to a position back at Cornell, so we are missing him. On the other side that opened a position as the Laboratory Safety Supervisor, to which I have been appointed. It is a little intimidating because he was so good that it seems I could only mess things up. Fortunately I have a great team and have the mentorship of many great managers past and present to serve as my example.

I could obviously go on and on and ON, but I should tie this post up, or I will never get anymore started. Best wishes to all and know that you are missed by us.
Love to all.