Monday, February 19, 2007
A New Party Topper
Ever play that “get to know you” game at parties where you have to tell about something you’ve done that no one else has done? Well I’ve just added a new one to my arsenal – I’ve jet skied and water skied in the Persian Gulf!!! Top that one Burton Karns!! Actually I was thinking of Burton as I was jetting across the surface of the water at 81 kph since the last time I rode one was one of his at Jordanelle Reservoir at Scout Camp a couple of years ago. I’m sure he would have been green with envy. The ski I was riding was incredibly fast and was a total blast to ride.
We left Camp As Saylifah around 0900 this morning for a 30 minute bus ride to the waterfront. I’ll include pictures taken from the bus window as we drove to the water front. As I’ve mentioned, Qatar is a flat, brown desolate piece of real estate. That’s reflected in some of the pictures. However construction is going on all over the place. With their oil and natural gas reserves it’s a country overflowing with money.
I was talking with one of the guys who had been talking with a local. Only 25% of Qatar’s population are native. The rest are transplants from all over this part of the world. He said that the native Qatarians are given, given, the equivalent of $50,000 a year just for being a Qatarian. I heard that the same thing happens in Kuwait. Must be nice for a country to have so much money.
It can get up into the 130’s here in the summer. I figured that every home would have central air. I was amazed to see existing homes and new construction homes with holes in the wall for “window unit” air conditioners. I was surprised by this. But then I thought, maybe they do have central air as well as window units to battle the heat. I don’t know but like I said, I was surprised to see the window units.
Down on the waterfront, there were more sky scrapers under construction than were standing. Business must really be booming here.
When we got to the water front this is what we saw.
Since it’s winter here the temperatures are only in the 70’s – 80’s but with a constant breeze coming off the water it felt rather cool. The water was even “cooler”. It wasn’t “take your breath away” cold but it took several minutes to get used to it.
The guide told us we would be docking off an island so we all had something “else” in mind. What served as the island looked like one big manmade sandbar. But since we never got to go on the island I’m not sure just what kind of island it truly was.
Of course everyone wanted to ride the jet skis and they were great. The water was just choppy enough that I caught some air when I opened up the throttle. It was a total blast.
The water is incredibly salty, more so than the Pacific. And it doesn’t have that nasty, dirty taste it, not that I was planning on drinking any of it. It’s been several hours and I can still taste the salt in my mouth.
After my turn was done, I was helping a young couple get on the ski. They’d never ridden before. She got on first and as I was showing her how it worked her husband got on – the same side I was on. Well of course we tipped it over and back into the cold water I went. This couple, both of them are in the military and have been lucky enough during their careers to be stationed at the same location and to be able to take pass and leave at the same time. As they sat cuddling on the bus, on the boat, on the jet ski, I was quite jealous, as were several of us.
After a little over an hour of jet skiing, we were served lunch of salads, humus, pita bread, grilled chicken and beef and lamb shishkabob and a desert that was essentially flan with raisins in it. It was delicious, except for the flan – hate the stuff!!
After lunch I finally got to waterski. I was quite excited as I haven’t skied since Jordanelle and before that it was too many years to count. Apparently not a lot of people ski anymore as several asked me how to do it and as I was putting on the slalom ski, were quite impressed that I could ski on one ski. Of course I now had to put on a show.
As I got up on the ski, I attempted to cut back and forth across the wake only to be hampered by the speed of the boat. I tried to signal to the driver to speed up but apparently the “universal” sign of repeatedly pointing upward with your thumb doesn’t translate here as the speed never increased. I went to cut back across the wake and was leaning way over so as to get some speed to jump the wake when the lack of speed of the boat failed me and I fell. As the boat came back for me I asked the driver to go faster that’s when he told me that’s as fast as the boat would go. “Great” I thought but then I remembered that I was actually skiing in the Gulf so tried not to be too disappointed. Let me just get the other negative aspects out of the way, just so you know my “pain” - the spray from the ski was such that I was constantly getting sprayed in the face with this incredibly salty water so it made it very hard to see. I tried variations of my stance, leaning further back, leaning forward, but all to no avail. The spray was determined to get in my face. Then there was my nose. It was dripping like a leaky pipe; I’m sure it was just the salt water circulating though my eyes down to my nose but it was a weird feeling to have running “water” coming out of my nose while I was skiing. So there you have it, the few negative aspects of the skiing.
BUT, I got to ski in the clear blue waters of the Persian Gulf. It was a lot of fun. Since only one other person wanted to ski and he gave up after three tries, I got to ski a couple of times. It was great. Because I was skiing for so long I didn’t get to ride the wave runner again but that’s OK, I had a great time.
Oh and the water finally did get warmer or at least the ambient air temperature warmed up so that the water didn’t seem so cold.
So the next time I’m at a party, I’ll be able to top anything you’ve got to throw out there!!
Oh, I almost forgot. Aaron e-mailed me about something else and when I wrote back I told him that I’d been jet and water skiing that day. He cautioned me about not getting stung by a jelly fish and then offered a “home remedy” on how to take the sting away in case I did get stung. After I read his suggestion I was glad I didn’t get stung by a jelly fish!!
One last thing, the Super Hero’s are here with me but since I’m not allowed to take any pictures on post, they’re not in any pictures. It wasn’t until after I left that I realized that they could have come with me. Oh well. While I got to enjoy the sun, water and sports, they got to sit inside the plastic bag inside my backpack inside my wall locker inside my room. Aren’t they so lucky?
Here's the king or emir or sultan or whatever they call him, welcoming you to Qatar. See it even says so on the side of the bank building. Don't you feel so welcome?
Giant oyster, giant pearl.
Qatar's amusement park off in the distance.