Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Foods of Qatar: See what we ate

Australian Teacher Anne Mirtschin put together this slide show with pictures of the food we ate at the Flat Classroom Conference.  Thought you'd like to see it.

Foods In Qatar1
View more presentations or upload your own. (tags: foods. arabicfoods)

Tayler B actually ate some baby camel, which is not pictured - and he says it is sort of stringy.  To me, the best food was the chicken they served, of all kinds.  They had no pork at all so the sausages they served were chicken sausage. 

Betty and I LOVED the hummus and snacked a lot together, but the students did not care for it at all.  Quite a few places had western food and I ate a burger at TGI Fridays at the Vellagio mall on the last night - OH YUM!!

Home again

Hey everyone, I'm back from Qatar, and I'm really tired from the 30 hours of traveling that I did yesterday. Mrs. Azalee picked us up from the airport at 1 a.m. last night, and we finally arrived in Camilla at about 4:30 a.m. Let's just say I slept right through my 9 am wake-up, but I finally woke up at 10 am, and was able to make it back to school
at 11am. Well I'm tired, but I had a great experience, and I will be posting a reflection soon.

My Reflection on the Flat Classroom Conference

The First Day

The Flat Classroom Conference was one of the best experiences I have ever
had in my life. The first day was our introduction to the desert. We did not go to Qatar Academy, but we went to the Souk and went dune bashing. Since it was the holy day for the Islamic religion, most of the Souk shops were closed except for the Moroccan tea shop. They had some really good tea and waiters. They poured the tea from about a three foot height. After this we got to the fun part of the day. Dune bashing is an ATV lovers dream. We drifted down really steep slopes and sped across flats at speeds over 120 KPH. Then we ate an exotic dinner and prepared for the conference the next day.

The Beginning of the Conference

The next day was the first day of the conference. The first thing we did was eat lunch at the school. When I got to the school, I thought it was a palace. This school was the size of five Westwoods combined. The lunch was quite different but it was not bad at all. After lunch, we had the opening ceremony in the auditorium then went straight to the Student Summit room and met our team mates. I really enjoyed working with my team mates Nastassja, Antonia, and Yaqsan. Our teams name ended up being Eracism. We put our heads together and came up with a really good idea to stop racism across the world.
The idea we put forth was is supposed to be a website designed to help teenagers understand other cultures and learn ethnic differences between others around the world. The website is a debate site where teens debate about there differences and will hopefully understand why they stereotype cultures. The teens and adults not involved in the debate will have access to the websites backdoor chat window so they can give their opinion too. We plan to market this website using Myspace and Facebook because almost every teenager has one.

The Final Video
Since our idea made it into the final group we had to make an advertisement video for our presentation. We all gave very good ideas and put our heads together to create a really good video. Our strengths pulled us through to create a good video. Nastassja was the director of the video and pretty much told everyone what to do. She was like our moms in teenage form. I acted in most of the films clips. Unfortunately I was the bully every time. Antonia and Yaqsan were our editors for the films we shot. They were both really good with computer software. They could probably work for Microsoft. Our final video named Eracism is on the conference ning and your votes are greatly appreciated.

By: John Vereen

Monday, January 26, 2009

Too Tired to Talk

We're done!

For a first conference with basically no advertising - it was phenomenal. Figure I'll blog tomorrow from the DC airport. I'm so tired it is a challenge.

To me, this picture taken by Katie's group says a lot about the cultural and international understanding facilitated by what we did here. Julie Lindsay and I are looking towards where it will be next year -- not sure yet and are approaching some people who support the vision. Hope to take some more kids next year.

Just remember, wherever we go, we will have strict guidelines. If a student cannot be trusted to stay on task in the classroom, then, they certainly will not be taken out of the classroom! The application process is something we'll work on.

Also, in the next year and a half we may have to replace the computer lab - this is another thing that concerns me as we look at writing more grants.

But for now, this picture is enough. Tired beyond belief and ready to head home to the greatest husband and kids in the world (and two cats and a dog.) I loved it here but Camilla, that is home and I love it and the people in Camilla dearly. Thank you, Westwood, for being such a great school!

Good night!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Conference

Hello everyone. This is Tayler, and I am having a good time here in Doha, but we'll be leaving for the United States tomorrow, and I'm ready to be home. I've had a very good time, I've met some really cool people, but I'm ready to be home.

We have two students in the Finals!

It is late - 2 am here and you're in the late afternoon and probably wondering what is going on. Been a phenomenal day here. All of the students did a GREAT job with their student projects. Out of the nine teams here, we have selected four teams to be in the final video competition. Casey is on one of the teams and John is on the other.

Tayler and Katie did a great job and they'll go into another Web 2.0 tool competition tomorrow.

We ate dinner at the Souq tonight and did some souvenier shopping. Everyone had to get used to bargain hunting. Talk about rugs!! Kip is getting a new beautiful rug that I haggled down to the equivalent of about $40. (OK, so it is really for me!) US Money DOES actually go a long way here.

Dinner was very good and afterwards we had Haagen Daaz ice cream - yes Haagen Daaz!

We have worked from sunup till sundown trying to put so much into the visit, both cultural and learning. The students have shown great leadership and made friends from around the world. The conference has been a great success and we're having a meeting tomorrow to see if there is potential for sponsorship next year. Not sure of the location of this project, but we ate dinner with the CEO of HSBC Bank for the Middle East on Saturday night.

We've all discussed how our stereotypes of the Middle East are totally changed. We think we feel much safer here than in New York. Any city has its unsafe areas and unsavory characters -- Atlanta does too!

It is so important to look at the person. Yes, we have very different cultures, but the people here in Qatar are very nice. You know how sometimes some people come to Camilla from other places and they look down on us and are rude? Well, sometimes those same people come here and give Middle Easterners the wrong impression of US!

Southerners are perfect for doing well here. In fact, Ray Jones, one of our hosts with Qatar Academy is from Texas! That is because Southerners are polite. And saying "please" and "thank you" in Arabic go a long way because so few from America even make an attempt! It is beautiful to see the students as friends and pronouncing each other's names correctly. (This is something that makes anyone from any culture feel special.)

Many people here are expatriates, but even those that are not are also hospitable. We're working with high quality people here and it is a privilege to know and work with them.  Their school looks like a palace!

Really, when looking at the Middle East, we have to look at the Country. The Emir here has a goal to make Doha the Business capital of the Middle East just as Dubai has become the entertainment capital. There are so many cranes here it is unbelievable. More than 20 today were counted beside the bus and then we lost count! Building is going on everywhere! Sometimes the leaders see a building on MTV Cribs and decide to build it! You've never seen buildings like these!

The people here are delightful. Today, there was a beautiful Qatari woman who teaches at Qatar Academy. The room was full and she was about to sit on the stairs. A student from another culture saw her and moved over to give her a seat. It was a universal symbol of kindness and understanding of the humanness of us.

It has been a great experience. Mrs. Betty has been incredible to travel with and sometimes makes me feel old - SHE HAS SO MUCH ENERGY! It is a privilege to know that she hired me to come to Westwood and pushed all of us teachers to implement the project based learning approach that is based upon the latest educational research.

Thank you to all of the visionary supporters who encouraged us to go. So many people thought we were crazy, but we've worked with the people here from Qatar Academy for two years! We've met them at conferences and our students have partnered with them! Today, a student from Oman who worked with Joy this year in Flat Classroom showed her picture and talked about what a leader she was on the project!  What great students!

Can you believe that students at Westwood work on projects with students from Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Australia, Canada... and more I just don't remember?

If you want to see how amazing this is, below is the video called Shift Happens viewed millions of times on youtube. Look at the end of this video and you'll see reference to our own Flat Classroom project that started here in Camilla, Georgia. This video helps you see sort of what all of this technology stuff is about. 

Thank you to the Grandparents, parents, and so many people that help us keep our technology program going at the school. Goodnight from Qatar and I'll see you soon!

If you want to know more about what is happening, feel free to take a look at the Ning. Night y'all.

Qatar Academy

Looks just like Westwood, no?

Our gracious host, Qatar Academy, is beautiful (and very easy to get lost in!). Check out some of the pictures from campus. Yeah, most of these are just the recreation center.

Qatar itself and the Conference

Today has been the third day in Qatar. So far it has been amazing! We landed around 6 on Thursday, but we were so tired we lounged around the hotel. It took us forever and asking for directions 4x to finally find an ATM so we could get money to eat dinner that night. The dinner was really good, and I got to taste my first Qatarian delicacies. Our room is amazing and really nice. The Gloria seems to have anything you could think of having. The shower is really cool also...Hopefully I will get some pics of our room tonight to show.

On Friday we toured the Souq Market. It was really cool despite the rain and being closed. While there we got so see many of the cultural aspects of Qatar. We went to a Moroccan style restaurant where they served Moroccan Tea. It tasted really good, but when we opened toe tea pot, it looked pretty nasty! They also served baby camel...gross!

That afternoon we hit the dunes! We went dunebashing which was amazing as you can see from Mrs. Vicki's video! After the bashing, I got to ride a camel! It was pretty awkward...the getting up, the landing, the getting off. But other than that it was fun and a neat experience. Then we went and ate dinner in the middle of the desert under nice tents. They also had a lady giving henna tattoos and Casey and I got one.

Saturday morning we met in downstairs at the hotel and went on a tour of the city. We got in two buses and rode all around Qatar, the old Qatar and the new Qatar. It was pretty much amazing. The pictures will show.

The first day of the Flat Classroom Conference was fun! We finally got to see Qatar Academy. It is huge! It is like a college here. They have like 10 gyms, an olympic sized pool, training pools, 2 coffee shops, a post office, a photo developing place, a travel agent, and many more things. I met my team members, but two were a little confused about the whole thing.

Today is day two. Due to the fact that one of our group members did not show up today, we split up into other groups. I am now in team 5. Our project we are doing is called Stomp Down Discrimination. We had to share our idea and pitch the project today to three groups of teachers. It was pretty insane. We were all nervous. I think they went well though. We are fixing to go to our next session.


I will post later tonight with pictures.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

no rain on our parade

"It only rains maybe 4 days a year in Doha."

Yesterday was one of those days! It was the day of our walking tour, a very damp walking tour. We walked to the Souq Waqif and dodged some raindrops. The city is beautiful. We then sought cover at a local Moroccan restaurant called "Tajine," where we drank tea and ate Moroccan pastries. It was beautiful! And dry.

You've already seen Mrs. Vicki's dune bashing videos...It was one of the best experiences of my life. I would love to do it again.

Today was the first day of the conference and the first day we ventured into Education City. Several American universities have campuses there (Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, Texas A&M, Georgetown, etc.), and Qatar Academy itself is probably about the size of Camilla. It's really fantastic and overwhelming. I literally could not fathom the immensity of it. Pools, gyms, a coffee shop, a post office, a bank, more gyms...all in a school. The architecture is so modern.

We also went to the Islamic Art Museum, which was a really interesting experience. The building is fantastic, certainly not something we see every day in Camilla!

(Sorry if I'm repeating anything Mrs. Vicki said!)

Everyone here is so friendly. I think one of my favorite parts of the whole trip is meeting people from all over the world. Oman, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Texas, Qatar...It's mind-blowing, really. My team consists of a girl from Pakistan, another from Ethiopia, and a boy named Muhammad from Doha who can't speak one word of English beyond "no english." (We're still trying to figure out how we're going to work through that one!) They are very intelligent and interesting to talk to. We are having a great time.

Day 1 of the Conference

Whew!It is 9:47 and I feel like it is terribly late. We are working hard and the students are doing great work. Here are some pictures of the first Day from the Ning.

Find more photos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

The morning was spent touring the new Islamic museum. We had lunch at Qatar Academy, a beautifully spacious school! They have a very long waiting list and are one of the nicest schools we've ever seen! After the introduction, the students headed to the summit and we talked about how to brainstorm and they participated in a guided brainstorming session, learned about cultural differences, and determined the topic of their student project for the next day and a half. We got to talk to Pulitzer prize winning author Thomas Friedman and also tried to link up with Educon in philadelphia for a presentation. It was a nightmare because we had connection problems but the local debate was very good and based upon something here called Doha debates.

We had a delicious dinner and then an executive from HSBC bank talked about workforce characteristics in a flat world. It was excellent!

Going to work a little while tonight but am so so tired. We have to be up tomorrow at 6 am. I hope the students learn a lot and make new friends. They are great kids and it is a joy to be here.

Hello to everyone at home - and yes, we are enjoying the food!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Working through the Weekend

Here's the calendar for our weekend at the conference.

Dune Bashing near Doha

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Truly, dune bashing will go down in my personal record book as one of the greatest travel experiences of my life.  It was unbelievable.  This is the photo album including  a lot of photos taken by the participants and a video of dune bashing, the students talking about it and some of my colleagues and I relaxing at the desert barbeque.  It is great to start off with an event like this because you get to relax and have a great time!  We rode camels too!  A lot like a horse except when you get on, you'd better hang on because when the camel gets up, you are at about a 70 degree angle looking at the ground!  Amazing!

The staff at Qatar Academy has impressed everyone on the trip!  It was so much fun and they set it up with the longest running tour company in Qatar. 

Find more photos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

I hope that we can work it out to take more students and staff next year!  To do that, we'll have to start working on it now!

OK, gotta run now, it is 10:20 pm here and there is still quite a bit more work on my list to do.  A big shout out to my sister Sarah who designed our Flat Classroom Logo about 2 years a go (it brings tears to my eyes to see it on our banners) and who designed the DigiDollars we'll be using at the conference.

Getting ready for a project based learning conference - it will be exciting.  Julie Lindsay is a champ!
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The Flat Classroom Conference is Really Happening

When I walked into Qatar Academy today, it sunk in: the conference is really happening!  Julie and the staff at Qatar Academy have done an excellent job getting ready.  It is amazing how far we've come so far and this is only the beginning.
Julie Lindsay hosted me at her home for lunch after we worked all morning.  I'll still be up until 2 am or so tomorrow getting ready for in the morning. This is her back yard, Julie in the phone, and then her husband John who helped by fixing a delicious lunch!
This is a co-teacher from the last Flat Classroom Project, Salim from Oman.  He has been an excellent contributor to our projects and is a very impressive teacher.  He didn't go dune bashing with us (because it is something he has done before) but we said hello in the lobby of the Gloria Hotel today.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

A look at our airplane with Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has to be the nicest airways that I have ever flown.  Betty and I both talked about this and agreed.  We were pleasantly suprised at how nice it was.  My adapter doesn't seem to be working well here with my laptop (seems to be a voltage problem!)  and so I don't have much time left to share, so, I'll share the pictures and video and give you the other pictures and videos tomorrow!See the comments below. Qatar Airlines is a 5 star airline with a lot of leg room and the food was nice as well (especially the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.)

 John V
Tayler B

Goodnight! It is 10:17 pm this time!!

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We have arrived safely

Oh, we were on the plane for SOOOO long! We are here, but not without some great apprehension on our part. When we arrived, the Qatar foundation had sent a car to get us - but there wasn't enough room for all of us, so they called a taxi for John and I called a taxi (I had to go because only Tayler and I had been able to go to the ATM in the hubub of getting out of the airport.)

It was a little stressful because I have spent at least 4 hours studying Arabic. To me, when one tries to learn the language of a country it is a sign of respect and that is what my research on Qatar has said. It was great as they were checking our passports. The immigrations representative broke out into smiles when I said hello and asked if I did it correctly. He started teaching me the proper way to speak and handled me and the rest of us so quickly (much faster than the others.)

But then, when John and I had our cab driver - I was struggling to talk in Arabic - he looked at me and said, no, I do not speak Arabic - I am from India - let's speak English! Aurghh!

And then when we got here and got the money, I had to go to the front desk and have them explain the currency to me so that I could tip properly -- one US dollar is worth about 3.54 Qatari Royales -- So, for taking 15 bags up - they said that 20 QR was perfectly appropriate - that is the equivalent of $5.49 according to today's exchange rate. I can't believe that!

The amazing thing is that the Qatar Foundation, our official host for the conference, really causes everyone here to "roll out the red carpet." They arranged everything and we are so excited.

I will share some video a little later today but it is 7:04 pm here now and we are going to grab a bite to eat and MAKE ourselves sleep.

More on the 5 star, amazing airplane trip with Qatar Airlines - in all of my frequent flying days - I have never flown on such a wonderful airline!!! It was amazing and really worth the flight just to experience it! Wow!

OK, we're running down to eat in the hotel and things will kick up tomorrow! Much love to everyone back home and we hope you'll follow us on our journeys! Already been chatting with my sister back home on gtalk - almost like being just down the road except this road is all the way around the world!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Waiting and waiting and waiting...

Hey this is John. We are about to be on our way to Qatar. We have been sitting in the Washington D.C. airport for about five hours ,but we are making the best of our time. First of all, the WiFi is not free so I had to pay $5.95 for our internet, so we bought internet to keep ourselves entertained. Then me and Boone explored the terminal where our flight is taking off and got a few pictures. After watching some funny videos on Youtube, we went and ate at the neatest little sandwich shop called "Pot bellies." It was quite delicious. Now we are less than an hour away from take off so next time i post a blog I will be halfway across the world.

Dulles isn't too dull

OK, Katie's last post doesn't have her photo on it because the memory stick is now STUCK in my laptop! We're all on the Internet. Tayler has been skyping with his family and using his webcam. Katie and Casey have been blogging. Mrs. Betty is reading a great book!

I'm sitting here with a little bit of an earache, because that is what happens to me when I travel.

But, also am working on the opening speech for the conference. It excites me and makes me very nervous. This is a huge dream for both Julie and I as we have a common vision and dream to unite students around the world to not only study technological trends and experience them, but improve all of our cultures by helping students understand one another and understand our world better.

It is amazing to me how connected we are - whether it is via cell phone, webcam, computer, email or blog - we're more connected to back home than ever before.

It is interesting to me that instead of the long slide shows we used to see that if you subscribe or follow this blog, you can literally travel with us.

I encourage you to find your favorite blog post (or blogger) and leave a comment below. Blogs let you comment and ask questions and leave comments. Just remember that we preapprove comments so sometimes it may take a moment to show up!


Right now I am just sitting in our terminal awaiting the LONGGGGG flight ahead. We will be leaving around 9:50. Casey and I got the "honor" of having a photo shoot with Obama and Biden!? They were chilling by the restroom! It is the day after inauguration and there is not as many people here as I thought there would be, so it is pretty quiet. Getting ready to watch the tele on the inte! CHEERIO! ADIOS! ALOHA! CIAO!



Katie and I had the opportunity to pose with the new President and Vice-President of the United States, right here at Dulles. They happened to be standing right beside the men's room. Their suits were so shiny that the camera's flash caused a glare. Here's Katie with the two.

Chilling @ the airport in Washington

Hi to everyone from the capital city. We arrived @ Dulles International Airport at approximately 3pm. We came to our gate for Qatar, and then John and I headed for the Ben and Jerry's that smelled so good. We ate ice cream. Cool. And now we sit.

World Wide Wildcats

This blog has been created to share the travels of students going to Qatar for the Flat Classroom Conference.  You can see a lot of what they are doing over at the Conference Ning, but here, we are going to communicate back to the students at school and our families to share what we're doing.

We're excited to be going to the conference and hope we can take more students next year.  (Not sure where it will be yet!)

Blogged from Dulles International where we have a 6 hour layover!
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