Sugar Soup

My sister and I used to be picky eaters. I like to think about what we would say now if we saw former versions of ourselves sitting at the dinner table for seemingly endless hours finically picking at and complaining about the food we had to eat.

We would be scolded for being so ungrateful. My mother always took matters of food and nourishment very seriously, a passion both my sister and I have come to share with her.

On one occasion, mom had made a soup. My sister and I sat at the table on a hunger strike, pleading for better food.

“I hate this food!” Sister and I would cry.

Though offended on several levels, mother was patient and explained, “You can not say you hate the food. Food is a blessing from God’.” She would leave us to sit and finish. The only way to escape was to literally eat our way out of the kitchen table prison.

“This is the devil’s blessing…” My sister said softly once mom was out of earshot. I snickered. We really were brats. These brats decided to take the soup into their own hands. What can we put in this to make it edible? After about 2 seconds of intense brainstorming, we came up with a brilliant solution. What makes everything taste good? SUGAR.

Stealthily moving from the kitchen table to the pantry, my sister reached into the giant bin of sugar kept on the floor. In the bin was a cup used for scooping out sugar. We looked at each other and signaled with our eyes the common thought: Perfect. With a healthy several lumps of sugar added to our bowls, we decided to spare other poor souls by dumping some sugar into the main pot, still being heated on the stove. Grinning silently, we proudly picked up our spoons and eagerly sampled the new and improved soup.



The soup was now actually nasty. Sister and I made faces across the table as we suddenly became aware of what a horrible deed we committed. We called it Sugar Soup, and we decided to dispose of our portions and never tell….. Maybe we put them back into the main pot… I don’t remember. 

I wish the story ends here, with us ruining my mother’s soup and our dinner, as mom and dad had eaten already. However, a guest came to the house a short while later. This was a red haired man who worked as a soccer coach with my father. I don’t remember his nationality, perhaps he was Irish. I remember he had an accent. Mom insisted he eat.

Sister and I sat at a distance, hiding in the hallway behind the dining room table. “Oh no!” we whispered to each other in terror, “He’s going to eat the sugar soup!!!” We felt awful for three reasons. First, PossiblyIrishMan made a face as soon as he put the soup to his lips. We saw him. We caused this man serious discomfort. He tried to be polite, but the soup was really, really bad. Secondly, my mother is a great cook. We did her a disservice, compromising her reputation. Lastly, we were so embarrassed and ashamed, we never told. We were not that embarrassed at the time. I remember giggling uncontrollably throughout the entire operation. I’m dying now reliving the night of sugar soup.


I’m sorry mom for ruining your soup. I’m also sorry for possibly contaminating it by pouring back my portion after eating from it. I realize how disgusting that is. I’m sorry sister, for telling this secret. I’m sure you had forgotten anyway.


Tourist Sites

There are many 4 and 5 star hotels in Qatar. There are exquisite restaraunts and cuisines from all over the world. Anything you want to do, you can. Foods and activities can be found anywhere.

Sites as this one are unique to a place. I pass by this place in the small market in Dukhan when going to buy carrots and soap. If only I were a man, I could go inside and see what it’s all about.

Two things to notice….
Hair Saloon

1) “Saloon”?
2) Nick Carter?

Keep On Keepin On

At it’s pinnacle, life as a wireline engineer for Whataberger is grueling. On a less than average day, the small details of the job and heavy responsibilities can wipe you out, much like a fly being swatted totally unaware. Keeping up the pace is exhausting. Keeping up your energy is even harder. I have a few simple tricks.


I’ve been making jobs in the desert. The town is owned by Qatar Petroleum. There’s a market, and a few restaurants. We go to McDonalds in the morning before heading to the rig. This is the breakfast menu. Please note the options are: Sausage McMuffin, Egg McMuffin, Sausage Egg McMuffin, and pancakes. For drinks, there is coffee and orange juice.


While I get to indulge in the pork free meats served here in Qatar, I have to miss out on iced coffee. I ask the man to fill a cup with ice, and pour the coffee over it. He does his best, but I usually get a soggy soda cup full of tepid coffee, sans ice.

Instead of being groggy and pissed off at the lack of a chicken McGriddle, fruit and oatmeal, or iced coffee, I pretend I am at McDonalds 25 years ago. McDonalds is the newest diner opening up in this desert oilfiled town. It was opened by a man name “Makhmoud McDonald”. No one has heard of it. Not only that, no one has heard of iced coffee. I take a picture with Ronald McDonald and think I can’t wait to tell me friends about this new place I just discovered. It’s going to revolutionize fast food. Just WAIT until the American’s hear about this!!


I enjoy the moments I have to myself. Today, my three operators and I rode back to Doha in the little pickup truck. The drive is roughly 1.5 hours on bumpy roads. I stare out the window at the desert while the buzz of the Filipino’s speaking to each other in their language provides a backdrop to my thoughts. It’s desolate. It’s lonely outside. Little life scatters the arid scorching sand. Everything here is covered in dirt. The dust in the air actually causes you to have more boogers. I did extensive research on this, as I felt I have more boogers than usual. I wonder how this country looked before they discovered oil and all the foreigners flocked to find work in the growing economy. I wonder if there are any critters hiding in plain sight in the desert. I wonder if I really just wondered that and if I am becoming my mother. I eat a whole bag of carrots and stare out the window. I even eat this one that looks like Gonzo the Muppet Baby…


The truck bounces over the road and I think about going to my grandparents house. We used to beg my mom to take a short cut by using the “bumpy road”. We used to chant, BUMP-EE ROAD! BUMP-EE ROAD!! I close my eyes and pretend I’m in east Texas. The vast desert disappears as I paint tall pine trees and red dirt on my eyelids. Every place is what you make of it. Small moments driving to and from the field keep me going.

The Time I Realized

I realized I do not actually know what makes me feel the way I do about this certain behavior. The behavior is common to all Arab societies.


It is called “chivalry”. And I hate it.

Going to Egypt to visit family over the summers, my sister and I always felt awkward having someone carry our backpacks. “You don’t need to do that…?” or “I can carry it myself.” We would say in protest. In my day to day life, it is a shame if I can not carry my own bag. It is embarrassing, and it means I am lazy.

Here in Qatar, I am experiencing this on another level, my professional life. There is much upheaval anytime I lift a finger. I find it frustrating and at times, insulting. Operators will say things like “Laila, no. You may hurt yourself.” or worse, “Lady must not lift anything.” I understand not lifting something which is too heavy.  The nature of my job is both technical and involves physical labor. When I want to get something done, I like to help in lifting, carrying, and assembling pieces. Doing simple work here tends to take more time, as we will wait for someone else to come lift something in my place. In Houma, I carried my bags offshore. I lifted tools with my crew members. I did a fair, though never excessive, amount of physical labor. I did it because it taught me about what my crew has to do. As the supervisor of the job, I must know what my crew is doing and HOW they are doing it, even if I don’t have to do their work all the time. Additionally, it shows them my support and builds a bond between us.


My new friend in Qatar, Eleanor Roosevelt! She is Colombian. We are here to conquer the oilfield!

I am noticing some oddities in everything here. For example, I went out to eat with five co workers. Our server wrote down our orders, placing a number assignment beside orders indicating their seat position. Next to my order was not a number, but rather just the word “lady”. It’s as if the number may have been confusing and the food runner would think…. Why does the lady have a number assignment? Is this not actually her food…? Though this is my instant reaction, I know the reality is that my order is marked “lady” so that they bring me my food first, which they did.

 I really dislike being treated differently than my co workers because I am female. It means less work for me- I equate this to respect. I resent having my food served first because I am female. It just doesn’t make any sense. I hate having someone carry something as simple as my back pack. I packed it myself; I have the straps adjusted so that it fits my back perfectly. It’s all very intimate and I feel like someone is forcing me to let them carry my sweatshirt even though I’m cold and I want to wear it.

All feelings have a reason. I tried to pin point what makes me so uncomfortable with the chivalrous society here.   


On the surface, it is easy to assume my feelings are a testament to how Americanized I am compared to my heritage; but that can’t be it. I think it has everything to do with MY heritage. I come from a family of strong, independent women (throw your hands up at me…) I won’t elaborate too much on these amazing women, but just an idea…

My mother’s family immigrated to the United States from Egypt when my mother was a young girl. While both my grandparents were doctors, it was my grandmother who moved the family to the US for her to pursue her career. She published several papers, has a brick in the UT Southwestern Medical Center library, opened her own practice in East Texas, and was still very well respected in her field when she died in 2007.


 Like my grandmother, my mother is also a lady of science. She is a professor of chemistry and worked to support our family while I was growing up. She taught me and my sister to be independent, productive, and respectful people. Most like my grandmother, my sister is pursuing a PhD in medicine. She attends UT Southwestern Medical Center, and makes all of us very proud every day. My sister was the muscle in the family. No physical task was carried out without her blessing. I remember an occasion with the whole family moving a refrigerator from the kitchen, out the front door, across the law, around the back and into the garage- all with my sister doing the bulk of the pushing.

I could go on blog post after blog post about the impressive strong women in my family. The point is:

 I wonder if it is my actually my family which makes me hate the chivalry of our Arab origins, or does that feeling come from growing up American? Maybe it’s both….


Cinco De Sergeant

Life moves much quicker here than down the Bayou. I returned from the desert and met an American on the bus ride home. He informed me there was a Cinco De Mayo party put on by the Marines at the US Embassy. I had to fill out some paper work and send to the Staff Sergeant to be allowed on the guest list. Enjoying my first weekend in Doha, and wanting to celebrate my first hitch in the desert, I put on my most Mexican looking attire, and headed to the Embassy.

I was basically expecting it to be like this:

Secretary of State and the US Ambassador to Qatar

Secretary of State and the US Ambassador to Qatar

It was not.

The Embassy is dark at night. Most foriegn Embassies are on the same street south of the down town area; however, the US Embassy stands alone surrounded by shanty houses, concrete yards, and run down areas littered with junked cars. Walking up to the Embassy, there was a boy in a sombrero and festive striped, fringed shirt. He had a guest list and after taking our ID’s, crossed off our names. We proceeded into the gate, surrendered all keys and phones and recording devices. The Cinco De Mayo party was hosted by the Marines and in their house, which is behind the main building of the Embassy. It is like a frat house for Marines. There was confetti, food, drinks, and sheesha. I met Americans, Scotts, Filipinos, and many Egyptians.

After introducing myself to people, they all said to me, “You’ve been here TWO WEEKS and you already made it to the Embassy?!?! How?”

I learned of flag football games, soccer games, shooting ranges, camel races, and scuba lessons. When I get my residency visa, I have connections to get a driver’s license and a car. I may begin running with the Marines a few mornings on the Cornish outside of my apartment.

Life in Doha is good 🙂