Book Four

I’m ready to make this public knowledge.

I’m going back to school!

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The process of deciding to look and eventually applying to this program dates back farther than most realize. Since you all are probably uninterested in reading my amazing admissions essay (you’re missing out), I will disclose lesser known and more personal details here.

Before going to Arizona State, I researched many other colleges and universities. I applied to several smaller schools, one of which was the Colorado School of Mines, a little but well respected engineering school. This was sort of a fantasy exercise, as I knew deep down the whole time I would attend ASU because I’d received a scholarship. Sometimes, its just nice to pretend to weigh your options anyway.

While studying at ASU, I really felt like I should go to graduate school. It’s just the next thing you do, right?  However, once I learned that employment is also a respectable option, I eagerly pursued that. A Master’s degree sounded nice, but realistically, I had stopped going to classes years ago and was ready to move on from student life.

You’re all well acquainted, or should be, with my life as a working woman. What you may not know is that I was constantly saying goodbye to friends who chose to leave the company, were transferred or let go. One particular friend left the company to go back to University of Cape Town for a Master’s in robotics. Do you remember that time I went on vacation to South Africa about a year and a half ago? The trip was life changing in many ways-  I met and interacted with amazing, diverse and intelligent people, took my first PADI course which turned me on to a new travelling hobby, soaked in so much culture and knowledge…. but the most instrumental thing was being inspired by my friend doing a Master’s there. I wanted to get to where he was- thoughtfully working towards something more and trying to change his sphere of opportunity. I left South Africa feeling motivated to make changes. I believe this is also what turned on my compulsion and at times obsession with traveling. When you travel, you see and experience things which trigger you to make decisions. 

This inspired me to research graduate programs and job boards. I looked at South Africa, United Kingdom, Norway, and other random places people suggested. I wanted to go back to the US; I wanted to keep living abroad. I just wanted to be anywhere but Qatar. I’m sure my family remember these times as I would call home, miserable and deliberating what to do with myself. Through this mental exercise, I discovered I don’t want to be an engineer in the conventional sense. I do want to stay in the energy sector. I searched universities in the USA. I stumbled upon a program at Colorado School of Mines which seemed interesting. The program involves studying 8 months in Colorado and 8 months at the French Institute of Petroleum outside of Paris. The degrees offered are “Petroleum Economics and Management” and “Mineral and Energy Economics”.  So- petroleum and energy related, but not engineering necessarily. I began working on my application and essay several months before the application even opened. In December 2014, I had submitted my application for Fall 2015. I put it out of my mind and went back to work.

In February 2015, I was laid off. In March 2015, I was accepted for the dual degree program. My parents and I deliberated the cost benefit of going to school or just moving to Houston and finding another job. This was again, a fantasy exercise, as I knew deep down the whole time I would go back for a Master’s degree. Sometimes, its just nice to pretend to weigh your options anyway.

And so, I move on to yet another phase of adulthood. I’m packing up my room again, this familiar task which seems to characterize the journey through my 20’s. I hope you all like cold weather.

Perhaps this is also the time to mention I will be transporting my belongings in a little U-Haul trailer hitched to my vehicle. I recruited/tricked a friend into making the drive with me and helping me get settled in Denver. I had a dream last night that I crashed the trailer because I was driving on the sidewalk because I was too scared to drive in the street.

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Summer Time

A quick summary of the last month or so…

It was Ramadan. The days were long, much longer than in Qatar. I fasted with my family. I fasted alone. I missed the camaraderie of fasting in a Muslim country. I missed planning meals with my friends in Doha and making Ramadan a season to celebrate.

Instead, the celebratory season focused on an American holiday, one I’ve really been missing and was looking forward to. I celebrated my first July 4th stateside since repatriation. An eagle somehow ended up painted over my eye.

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I wore red white and blue and cowboy boots and stomped around like it was my birthday. I traded off wearing two hats- one American flag cap I had picked up from “The Local” in San Diego, and one camouflage hat from a truck stop chain in Oklahoma called “Kum N Go”.  July 4 th was simply magical, nay, religious. My friends and I went to see Third Eye Blind in Dallas. My face paint literally melted as I jumped up and down in the pit, singing along with Stephan Jenkins and hundreds of other fans.

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High energy and majestic, it was everything I’d dreamt about. I’d been dreaming about it.

The holy month continued, and I took myself down to Houston to see some family and Noel. (You may remember her from my days in Houma). She adopted Jerome when I moved to Qatar. He’s grown to more than double his size!

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While in Houston, my cousins and I participated in a charity event hosted by Amaanah Refugee Services. Rock The Block, as it’s called, is an event where we unload some trucks of groceries, sort, and bag them for families. We then take the bags to the complexes where the refugees live and distribute the bags of groceries. The unloading and bagging part of the day was fun, and only somewhat labor intensive. My cousins and I sang in our assembly lines and lead chants and claps. The food distribution portion of the day was not as whimsical, as we awkwardly knocked on doors and gave out food. Many of the families did not know why we were giving them food and didn’t speak much English. As such, the food distribution was basically just handing bags of food to people and running away. Reverse trick or treating?

Anyhow- the summer is coming to an end and many people are wondering, “What are you doing with yourself?”

Now My Days

I went to Thailand. I came back and immediately embarked on a road trip to Tallahassee with some of my favorite friends I made while working in Doha.

After roughly 6 weeks of travel, I am prepared to provide a synopsis.

Thailand was beautiful and fun and relaxing and full of activities, as advertised. Francis and I had a great time. As a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some of my favorite pictures from our time there.

Tiger Kingdom

This is me hanging out with some tigers and Tiger Kingdom in Phuket. It should be mentioned that to get to this Tiger Kingdom and subsequent destinations in Phuket, we boarded a taxi cab out of the ferry dock, and allowed him to take us around. He waited for us at every place and eventually took us to the airport. After getting over our fear of being robbed, the fear of driving in his car in the rain up hills, passing cars in the oncoming traffic lane really took hold. A simple picture- but what a crazy day.

Koh Phi PhiBeautiful Koh Phi Phi Island, where we spent the second week of our trip.

Maya BayFrancis and myself doing cartwheels at Maya Bay. We saw this small island by way of a “Sleep Aboard Tour”. We had a bonfire on this beach, ate curry out of a bucket, and slept on a boat. Some slept more than others. It was a great day of swimming, kayaking, jumping off boats and enjoying the peaceful and secluded beach.

View at DinnerTypical Koh Phi Phi view while walking down the main road for dinner.

Fire Show

This is what is known as a “fire show”. This photo was taken on the last day of our guided tour with Thaintro on Koh Phangan Island. Following this photo, Laila stays out all night until after 4am, then proceeds to attempt to catch a taxi at 6am, ride a ferry to the main land, take a bus across the main land, and ride another ferry to Koh Phi Phi. Laila considers this to be one of her dumber ideas and credits her survival to a loyal travel partner, Francis.

Elephants

Just kickin it with some elephants in Koh Phangan.

Bottle Beach

Heading to Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan.

Ferry

This is for some reason one of my favorite photos. Please note: BEAUTIFUL water and limestone formations in the background, taking a ferry ride, matching fruit shirts, mini water bottle I’m wearing around my neck, completely disheveled hair, ridiculous dive watch that I don’t know how to use and was a great conversation starter, and big grins all around.

Khao Sok National Park

This is Khao Sok National Park, where we stayed one night in floating bungalows. It was another beautiful day of swimming, kayaking, and washing my hair in a lake.

Cooking Class

Before arriving at Khao Sok National Park, we took an overnight train, where I developed an atrocious and offensive cough, and before that, we were here- in a cooking class. I’ve included this photo because Francis can not look at it without laughing herself to tears. This is not one of Laila’s smarter fashion choices. Whatever- no regrets.

After two fun filled weeks in Thailand, I spent a couple days in San Diego, mostly sleeping and recovering from a small fever. I came back to Dallas and as I mentioned, started road tripping. Two Norweigans and two Americans, we spent a day in Dallas. We spent a day driving down to Houma. I was finally reunited with Albert and Alice and all my old Schlumberger friends down there. I introduced my Doha and Houma friends and watched my worlds magically interface. We went to New Orleans. We saw some jazz music and were tourists on Bourbon Street.

On the road

We went to Tallahassee, I went to my friend’s High School reunion. I had fun. We went river tubing. Then… I felt chest pains which kept me up all night long. Assuming it was heartburn, I drank anti acid liquids, took Zantac, and ate a bucket of TUMS. As the pain worsened and moved to be concentrated in my back, I saw a doctor after four sleepless nights. I had an ultrasound, which revealed nothing. I was given pain killers and my mother, most alarmed, flew to Tallahassee. We drove to Pensacola and stayed with a cousin there. Though I was experiencing a health crisis, I popped my pain pills and had as much fun with family as I could. We went out to eat, to a farmers market,  and planted trees in my cousins marshy front yard. After 4 days of eating oatmeal- I started to feel better. During this time, mom and I had some road trip adventures in Florida and Louisiana.

Laura Plantation Home

We toured Laura Plantation and learned about Creole culture in Louisiana.

Swamp Tour

On a swamp tour, we learned all about the unique characteristics and building qualities of Cyprus trees, swamp ecology, and alligator hunting.

Caverns

There are caverns in Florida!

Eventual diagnosis was that I must have severe inflammation or esophagitis. Cautionary tale, dear readers, there IS such a thing as too much curry and too many road trip burgers and too many Chick Fil A breakfasts. In a row, they proved detrimental. Thankfully, my health complications were self induced and I am doing much better.

Now my days consist of laying in bed sending snapchats to my working friends with the caption “#unemployed”, cleaning out my closet, and secretly plotting my next move…