Monday, September 28, 2009

All things food

So I started to allude to food in my previous posts, but I think it deserves an entire post all on its own. 

The food here is as varied as the people who call this place home.  There are plenty of Arab food vendors around covering most if not all of the middle eastern countries specialties, tons of Indian restaurants, and of course American fast food.  The restaurants are typically decent deals, especially if you're willing to eat at an Arab food joint or some other "ethnic" restaurant.  For example, my friend Jon and I had a long day today running errands and taking his car in for it's scheduled service.  We stopped at one of our favorite restaurants here called Turkish Al Bukari and got take out.  We ordered 2 Shish Tawook containing grilled chicken chunks, homous, cucumers, and french fries.  On a side note, french fries come with EVERYTHING here, including being put in sandwiches, casseroles, and just as a normal side to almost any food.  I always thought you got fries with everything in the states, but here they would put them on a salad.  Anyway, I digress, we also got 3 cheese and meat pies (turkish bread wrapped around spiced meat with cheese and then baked) as well as 2 fresh juices.  Our total for this feast was 54 Qatari Riyal, or about 15 dollars.  We were both stuff and all for about 7 bucks a person!  In the same breath, however, you can go to the Ritz Carlton or any of the other hotels and spend 54 riyal on just a cup of coffee!  It all depends on where you want to eat.  Another excellent and cheap place is where we went on our first night here and again for my birthday, Hot Chicken.  It's a hodgepodge of cuisine, they have Indian, Chinese, American, Arab, and everything in between on their extremely long menu.  It's delicious and cheap, 4 people can eat for about 25 dollars or less.  The best part about these restaurants is that they almost all deliver.  This even includes the American fast food joints!  It's very strange to be followed into your compound by the Hardees delivery car or the McDelivery mopeds.

The grocery stores also reflect the varried cultures and people that live here.  I know I've mentioned Carrefour before and it is still our primary grocery store, but we have also visted a few other grocery stores, our favorite being the Lulu Hypermarket.  Hypermarket simply means that they sell things other than food (kind of like a Super Walmart or Super Target.  There is an incredible variety of spices (which I've also mentioned before), types of canned foods and vegetables, and of course produce.  Again, like the restaurants, if you want "American" food or products expect to pay a hefty chunk of change.  If you're willing to experiment and try something different, the possibilities are endless.  Some of the fun things we've tried are kiwi jam (delicious!), spiced roasted corn (kinda like corn nuts), and the wide variety of Arabic sweets.  Also amazing is the amount and variety of lamb that they sell.  They literally have any cut of lamb from entirely whole all the way to lamb chops.  The lamb also comes from many different countries, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Egypt, and many others.  It's also fairly cheap to buy, comparable to ground beef in price.  All of this is not to say every store has everything you need.  Some items are stocked infrequently, one day they are there, the next you can't even find the tag for the item.  Canned pumpkin and real maple syrup are two things that come to mind that you buy when you see them, even if they weren't on your list as they may or may not be there the next time.  The produce is also similar in that you never know what kind of quality will be there or if they will even have what you need for a particular recipe.  Finding substitutes for ingredients has become a new game and I'm learning a lot about it from friends who've been here awhile already.  Another thing about living here is that I'm learning to make a lot of base ingredients that I never bothered to make myself in the States because prepacked items were so easy to find and decent tasting.  Chicken stock is one thing you cannot find in cans or cartons.  They sell bouillon cubes, but that's about it.  So I'm learning to make my own stock.  Pasta sauce and pesto are also in the works as even if you can find them, they aren't very good and expensive.  I'm also going to attempt to make pizza dough, as all I can find are frozen crusts that taste like saltine crackers.

Overall, my favorite foods here have been the fresh juices, the fresh Arabic bread (basically pita bread) and the spice.  The juices here are simply amazing.  Not only can you find about any kind of prepackaged juice you'd want (Strawberry, kiwi, guava, peach, pineapple, mango, banana, etc) but also fresh refrigerated versions of them as well.  My favorite is strawberry juice mixed with a kiwi lime juice and topped off with some ginger ale.  So delicious!  There are also juice stalls everywhere where they will make you any type of fresh juice or combination of fruits that they have.  Let me tell you, fresh strawberry kiwi juice is phenomenal and so simple.  All they really do is blend up freshly cut up pieces of fruit with some sugar water and ice!  Simple but so amazing.   The Arabic bread is also delicious and extremely cheap, 1 riyal for 5 pieces that are about 1 foot across.  We've used it as a pizza dough substitute and of course to make sandwiches and pita chips.  And finally, the spices.  I know I've said lot about them in other posts, but I still can't get over how good and cheap they are here.  1 kilogram (2.2 lbs!) is 9 riyal or about $2.50!!! Even the more expensive spices like white pepper or imported spices are only 30-40 riyal per kilogram.  Even at 40 riyal per kilogram, that's only about $5 per pound!  I definitely will make full use of how wonderfully cheap and plentiful the spices are here!

Well, that's my take on the food here.  If you have any questions about the food, just post a comment and I'll try and see if I can get you an answer!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One more thing... please take a look and vote!

 Please read the email sent out by one of Rachel's former students from UNC.  He is currently in the Peace Corps in Senegal and is trying to get funding to help the people in some small villages there.  It doesn't cost anything except your time to cast a vote for his project.  Thanks!
Hello Friends,

   I hope you are all exciting and willing to lend me a hand this week, because I need your help!  This week is the final running for the venture competition, and the competition is stiff.  In order to win, I am estimating that we will need to garner 1,500-2,000 votes, a pretty daunting number, but I'm sure we can do it if we make a concerted effort.  All votes have been reset, so even if you votes in the first round, you have to vote again for it to count.  If you never got a vote in, here's your chance!

   I generally don't like soliciting people for anything, but I really believe in this project, and the $10,000 winnings would provide us with the jumpstart capital needed to get off the ground and running.  Our efforts could literally have an affect on thousands of women.  People in numerous villages are excited and have been asking me repeatedly about this supposed 'nut sheller' I keep talking about, and I just tell them "it's coming, inchallah (if god wills it)."

   I ask you to please take a moment out of your day to vote for our project at:

   If each person on this listserv convinced only one person each day this week to support this project, we would get all the votes we need and more.  So I ask you to please do just that, one person per day; a friend, neighbor, colleague, student, toddler, anyone with a valid e-mail address can do it! 

   I hope you don't mind if I prod you about this a couple more times this week, but sometimes repetition is the only way.  Thank you in advance for your help. 

 Ideablob webpage:


 David Campbell
 Peace Corps Senegal
 Environmental Education Volunteer

 (+221) 77.671.99.42

Life after Ramadan... so I'm finally posting!

Eid Mubarak!  Ramadan is over and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr started Sunday.  Technically the last day of Eid was Saturday, but most everyone was on vacation the entire week.  Rachel and I missed out on getting out of Doha for the vacation by about 2 day since I got my permanent residence a little over a week ago.  If I had gotten it 2 or 3 days before we may have been able to travel somewhere.

Luckily our staycation was very relaxing.  Plenty of sleeping in and hanging out with new friends.  We spent 2 days at the pool with friends and also went to another embassy party.  Other than that it has been a very relaxing week.  This last Thursday was our new friend Erin's 25th birthday, so we went out to a bar and had a grand old time.  Rachel and I got some fun pictures and they are posted here.  Enjoy the view from the 11th floor of the La Cigale hotel, particularly the one Rachel took!

Anyway, on to life here in Doha.

One of the coolest things here that I've wanted to talk about  is all the different foods and spices available here. The spices here are just amazing, not only the quality but how cheap they are.  I have almost reassembled my whole spice cabinet from Chapel Hill for less than $20.  Just two nights ago I was able to buy 150g ( about 6oz) of excellent curry powder for about 25 cents.  Cinnamon, cumin, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and all kinds of dried herbs are equally as cheap.  That being said, there are lots of other things that are extremely expensive or extremely difficult to find.  You can find most American brands here, but if they are produced in the USA, they will be incredibly expensive ($10 for a small box of Fruit Loops!).  Some times you can find US brands that are produced more locally, but they hardly ever taste the same.  Fresh chicken breasts that are tender and taste good are also difficult to find.  Frozen chicken is typically a better choice.  Cooking for me here has definitely been an adventure, but it's also been lots of fun to trying a come up with good things to try and substitute in recipes.

On a very positive note... I GOT OFFERED A JOB!!!  It's not finalized, but I got a job offer from Cornell!  I'd be working partly in the general lab and partly in the Genomics core, which would be a perfect job for me.  I'm very excited and will be very happy to have some more human interactions day to day!  Sitting around at home, cooking and cleaning by yourself is fun for a few days, maybe a week, but after that it just gets boring.  They hope to have me start October 4th, but we'll see what happens. I'm supposed to go in tomorrow to meet with the HR Hiring manager and get everything sorted out.  I'll keep everyone posted on what happens.

I hope everyone is having a nice start to their weekend!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hurry up and wait

Well I know it has been about a week since my last post, but it wasn't until the last couple of days that anything of interest has happened.  Two days ago, Rachel got her permanent residence!  It's great that she's got hers, but now mine has to be filed and processed which will probably take another 2 weeks.  It's kind of unfortunate that it will take as long as it will since there is a week long holiday after Ramadan (Eid ul Fitr) that Rachel and I won't be able to go on since I won't have my passport back yet!  Luckily there's another holiday (Eid ul Adha) that's at the end of November this year.

Now that Rachel has her RP, it's on to the next step.  We have 10 days to return our rental car, now that we're able to buy a car.  We've already started the process and have decided to buy a Kia Sorrento, a mid size SUV for safety since the drivers here are crazy and it helps to have a larger car.  Also, gas mileage isn't a big deal since gas is only 70 cents a gallon here!!!  Rachel also had to turn in her temporary drivers license to get her permanent license.  I'll have to do the same once I have my RP.

As for jobs for me, I'm still waiting to hear about the two opportunities that I have.  Hopefully I'll hear something soon, but I'm not holding my breath.  I know it will all work out in the end, it is just taking longer than I thought it would.

In any case, that's where we are these days, hurrying up to wait for something else.  I hope everyone enjoyed the Labor day weekend!