Tag Archives: Qatar

Local News, Distant News


For neighborhood news here in Willow Glen, California, we have email lists. I manage a list for the houses in our immediate area – where yesterday I announced finding a thrown-away kitten (and settled the cute little guy in a new home that night) – and there are other lists for our Northeast Quadrant, and for our whole section of the City of San Jose (Willow Glen takes up about 3 square miles).

For national news, I listen to National Public Radio on station KQED. I sometimes check in at the New York Times but their 10-story-a-month free-limit blocks my regular usage.  I have been a KQED sustaining member for decades and don’t want to pay more than that for news.

For international updates, I read Al Jazeera (English) and the BBC – two services with similar web designs but different points of view and sources. My daughter Jessica recommended Al-Jazeera, a service started by the royal family of Qatar where she studied at CMU-Q. Maybe Qatar’s backing is why Al Jazeera has no advertisements? Current stories I found interesting on Al-Jazeera:

Image Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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All things are ready, if our minds be so

My daughter Jessica’s wedding is in three days. 125 people are joining us in a lovely State Park on Saturday to celebrate the happy union under the redwoods. I am sure there is much which we have forgotten or neglected or mislaid but I trust in King Henry V: “All things are ready, if our minds be so.”

The Holmes and Dickinson families got together on Sunday for a pre-wedding pizza dinner, check-in, and games night. We played Munchkin – a fun game based on Dungeons and Dragons with silly cards such as

  • Curse! Duck of Doom (“You should know better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon”)
  • Swiss Army Polearm
  • Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment
  • Nasty-Tasting Sports Drink
  • Pantyhose of Giant Strength
  • Squidzilla (a monster)

We first played Munchkin when we visited Jessica last year in Qatar. Several of her professors at CMU-Q were addicted to the game.

Holmes Dickinson Game Night . Munchkin card game

Paul and Matt went together to get their hair cuts earlier this week (supervised by Jessica).  The soon-to-be-brothers-in-law look very handsome.  Last night, Jessica and Matt and I went to Costco to buy two shopping carts-full of wine, beer, champagne, sodas, and bottled water for the wedding reception.  Jessica has given us a written timeline (15 minute intervals) for The Day Before the Wedding and The Wedding Day.  I do not expect everything will go as planned but all will be well at the end.

Wedding Shopping at Costco Jessica Matthew . Wedding Shopping at Costco Jessica Matthew

Images Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson

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Jessica Graduated from CMU with Honors!

Jessica Graduation CMU . Jessica Graduation CMU

My daughter Jessica was graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with honors last weekend. Ten of her proud family flew to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from Boston, Pasadena, San Francisco, and San Jose to celebrate the occasion. My father, Wade Dickinson, who attended Carnegie Tech before graduating from West Point was particularly proud to see his granddaughter graduate from his alma mater.

Jessica majored in Ethics, History, and Public Policy (that’s one major offered by CMU in Humanities and Social Sciences). You can see a video of her advisor talking about Jessica’s accomplishments. Jessica was presented with a blank diploma folder because she will return to CMU as a 5th Year Scholar next year, to work on a special project and also complete her Minor in Vocal Music and concentration in Arabic. Jessica got to wear what she calls “commencement flare” in addition to her simple black robes:

  • A red stole for being an Andrew Carnegie Scholar
  • A maroon stole for spending a semester studying at CMU-Q in Doha, Qatar
  • A purple cord with tassels for being an honors student

Unfortunately, Jessica’s fiance Matthew was graduating at the same time from William and Mary hundreds of miles away, so we did not get to attend his commencement. The family did get to spend an afternoon visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece of architecture, Fallingwater, which is like touring an lovely modern sculpture. This is the 75th anniversary for the house built on a waterfall.

Jessica is packing up her house this week to return home to the San Francisco Bay Area for the summer. She is getting married in August, then she and Matt will live in Pittsburgh next year.

Jessica and Paul at Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright

Jessica and Paul at Fallingwater

Images Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson

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My Famous Daughter

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Last week, CMU’s student online newspaper “The Tartan” featured a photo of my wonderful daughter Jessica working on her summer internship application workshop. This week, “The Tartan” reprinted one of her blog entries with photos from Qatar, called “Tales from abroad: Doha”. It tells the story of a stray budgie she cared for the night before coming home from a term at CMU-Q.  Jessica called me this morning, so excited!

Images by Katy Dickinson, Copyright 2010

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Academic Honors

My daughter Jessica has recently received two academic honors:

  1. Selected as a 2011 Andrew Carnegie Society Scholar – an award given annually to 40 seniors from across Carnegie Mellon University
  2. Accepted as a CMU 5th Year Scholar – this program provides an opportunity for a small number of exceptional students to remain on campus for one full year following the completion of their normal course of study

Jessica is an Ethics, History and Public Policy major, with a minor in Vocal Performance, and a concentration in Middle Eastern Languages.  You can see Jessica’s introductory video about what she plans to do with her 5th undergraduate year on her blog. She recorded it from Qatar where she studied during her Junior year while taking classes at CMU-Q and the Georgetown University of Foreign Service. Did I mention I am proud of my girl? Did I? Did I? (I bet you guessed…)

Here is Jessica with the awesome and inspiring Dr. Duy-Loan Le (Texas Instruments’ Senior Fellow) at the the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last week:


Image Copyright 2010 by Katy Dickinson

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CMU-Q in Doha, Qatar

John and Paul and I visited my daughter Jessica in Doha while she was a student at CMU-Q (Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar) last semester. She had an excellent experience studing Arabic, history, and politics at CMU-Q and Georgetown. Qatar has a very conservative Islamic culture, similar to that of its neighbor Saudi Arabia. It was fascinating to watch guys in traditional white dress adjust their head scarves the way western women fiddle with their long hair. I have heard that between the expat business people and the guest workers, less than a third of the people in Qatar are citizens. So, we did not feel too out of place being westerners.

We were delighted to hear Jessica sing several roles in the Qatar Foundation’s annual musical, which this year was Oliver!. We went for a long walk on the Cornish and took a pearl boat ride across the bay to the very impressive Museum of Islamic Art in its I. M. Pei building. We toured the markets: Souq Wakif (including its depressing pets for sale), the falcon souq, and the gold souq. And we visited the huge Vegas-like Villagio mall, complete with its Venetian canal and gondolas. We played board games one night with some of Jessica’s faculty friends. She even made us dinner – we brought it from the kitchen in the women’s dorm to where John and Paul were in the park near by. We admired the many new and under-construction modern office buildings downtown but after a few days we ran out of things to do and were happy to move on to Egypt for some world-class sightseeing.

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Images 2010 Copyright by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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After Being Stranded in Egypt

John and Paul and I flew home safely yesterday after being stranded in Egypt by Iceland’s volcano eruption. We were in Doha, Qatar to visit Jessica during Paul’s Spring Break. All went well until flights through Europe were canceled due to volcanic ash. Here are some of John’s and my notes home to our wonderful neighbors, friends, and family who took care of our home and pets while we were gone:

  • 18 April:
    John and Paul and I are stuck in Cairo. All of the airports in Europe are closed by the volcano in Iceland and all USA flights from Egypt go through Europe. Paul loves the pyramids and seems determined to take photos of every hieroglyph he sees on every tomb wall. We have two people watching our house and pets in San Jose so all should be well at home. … There are now 6.8 million stranded passengers and as budget travelers, we are at the end of a long queue. It will probably take several days to get home. I appreciate your help! Cairo is wonderful. We are going back to see the Sakkara tombs and also to see Dahshur today.
  • 19 April:
    We have climbed inside of 3 pyramids – which are stinky and hot but very interesting. They don’t tell you in the guide books that people pee inside the pyramids – nasty! …Lufthansa’s regular flights start today but no word yet on how they will get those of us in the canceled flight backlog home. We are on the 17th floor of the Ramses Hilton with a Nile river view, 3 blocks from the Egyptian Museum.
  • 20 April:
    We just got back from the Lufthansa – United office here in Cairo Egypt. The first flight possibility goes out of Cairo on Saturday 4/25 (standby – not confirmed). John and Paul and I have confirmed seats on Tuesday 4/28. There does not seem to be any other way out of Cairo except through Germany, according to Lufthansa. We will keep checking back with them. Kat Carpenter and Felix Quintero are taking care of our house and pets in San Jose….It rained briefly this afternoon in Cairo – with lots of wind. We are set to take the Nile river trip and will be back in time for the first possible standby flight on Saturday. Everything is cash only – we had to call to extend our daily cash limit to pay for the cruise. We have been out collecting additional medicines – since we only brought enough for our original stay. Egyptian drugs have different names and dosages but we found a friendly English-speaking pharmacist who is helping us. There is an amazing 180 degree Nile view from our 17th floor room – lots of pollution haze but still exhilarating to stand on either of the two balconies.John and I just had a snack of Golash (like baklava) and Konafa (like a firm custard with filo on the bottom and shaved onto the top). Very tasty! Paul is happily watching Arabic TV.  All Saints Cathedral (Episcopal/Anglican) here in Cairo also sponsors a group of Sudanese refugees and they have their own shop – feels like home.
  • 24 April:
    We are now confirmed to fly Lufthansa early tomorrow morning – arriving on Sunday 4/25 around noon at SFO. Hooray – we are finally coming home!We went on a Nile river cruise – visited temples and tombs in Aswan and Luxor and just returned to Cairo. Paul has happily climbed inside of 3 pyramids (Giza, Sakkara, Dhashur) and visited 3 royal burial sites in the Valley of the Kings (Queen Tawosert in KV14, Thutmosis III in KV34, and Ramses III in KV11) . We have been to the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Coptic Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, and the Mohammad Ali (Alabaster Mosque) in the Citadel of Salah al-Din. We visited the Coptic Museum and saw the Nag Hammadi Library. We have visited the Egyptian Museum, Imhotep Museum, Memphis Rahina Museum, Nubian Museum, and Luxor Museum.Paul has missed a week of school but is working on a paper for Geology and a paper for English about his trip to Egypt – illustrated with photos. He has rocks to show his Geology teacher.
  • 25 April:
    We’re home! After 48 hours on the go, from Luxor to Cairo to Frankfurt to California, we landed at SFO just after noon, and got back to the house an hour ago!Everything and everyone looks fine – Tino the cat says that nobody loves him, but he is willing to shed on us anyways; Redda and Juliet (the dogs) are glad to see us – and the birds were singing their hearts out when we walked in the door! Not to mention the happy flowers and roses! Thanks again for watching over everyone!More later after we get unpacked and unjetlagged :-)Egypt was a blast, but it is good to be back home!

Things I missed about California while in Egypt:

  • Drinkable tap water
  • Crosswalks and gaps between cars on the street, street signs and lights that are not just decorative
  • Being able to enter a building or historic site without a bag scan and questions by heavily armed guards
  • A telephone system I understand
  • Fresh fish
  • A wide variety of national and ethnic foods
  • Not having to pay tips (baksheesh) for everything
  • Peet’s coffee

Things I learned to love in Egypt:

  • Fresh dates
  • Tomb wall carvings and paintings of animals and daily life in ancient times
  • Donkeys and Camels and Horses on city streets
  • Om Ali and other Egyptian deserts
  • Bargaining in markets and shops
  • Hearing the Islamic call to prayer singing out across the city and knowing what time it is

John and Paul and Jessica and I took about 6,000 photos – check back to see them soon…


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