CORNER BROOK The opportunity to travel and see parts of the world he might never have the chance to is what enticed Greg Taaffe to take a job in Qatar.
Taaffe spent the past year as a math instructor at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Doha. He arrived home for a seven-week break in early July and by the middle of August will be getting ready to return to Qatar after signing on to teach at the campus for three more years.
A math teacher for 33 years in the city, Taaffe spent much of his career at Regina High School. After retiring he took on a part-time teaching assignment at Immaculate Heart of Mary School. He was at the private school for about two years when he saw an advertisement early last year seeking math teachers at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Qatar.
“The big draw for me was the opportunity to travel. The opportunity to see the world,” said Taaffe of what first interested him in the job. “I knew that travelling to that part of the world coming from Canada can be very expensive. The opportunity to travel from here would be limited.”
He said if the job was good and went well, he knew the opportunity to travel from Doha would be phenomenal.
So he applied and some four months later was offered a position with the campus’s math department. With his wife Joy on board for the adventure, the couple packed up and on Aug. 20 headed for Qatar.
“We flew over there with a little bit of apprehension at first,” said Taaffe. Most of that apprehension came from the fact the couple we’re not big travellers and some from not knowing what to expect.
“Getting off the plane in 42 degree heat with humidity that made it feel like 50 was quite an abrupt welcome,” said Taaffe. “But you adjust to that.”
He and Joy quickly settled into life in the Doha and he said the year has “been a phenomenal experience.”
The math department is located in one of 20 buildings on the campus. Taaffe said the department is excellent and the people he works with are great. He said the campus has a staff of over 600, the majority of which are Canadian. There are quite a few Newfoundlanders among the staff, many of which Taaffe already knew.
As for the experience in the classroom, Taaffe said the Qatar students hold their teachers in great respect.
“I’ve always prided myself on being able to connect with my students, so that followed through with the Qataris,” said Taaffe.
“They have a great sense of humour and that was I guess part of my forte in the classroom,” said Taaffe, who is known locally for his humour in and out of the classroom. “My ease in teaching and sense of humour really helped me connect with students over there.”
Taaffe and his wife lived in an apartment in Doha, but when they return this year they will move to one of the compound living areas the college has near the campus.
When it came to everyday living, he said the biggest adjustment was the heat.
“Joy and I are walkers, we both walk a lot, but we just couldn’t walk in the daytime,” he said. “It was just too hot, so we did all our walking when the sun went down.” He added the city is very safe and at no time did he ever feel unsafe.
From their apartment, Taaffe said they only had to walk five minutes in either direction and would be in the heart of all kinds of restaurants and shops. He said the service industry in the city is fantastic and getting to try so many new types of foods was a wonderful experience.
On the weekends him and Joy would go out and explore Doha and Qatar, and on longer breaks they took advantage of the travel opportunities that drew them to the country.
“You think the Middle East is not centrally located, but in six hours I can be in London, go the other direction in six hours I can be in Thailand,” he said.
The couple actually spent three weeks this past Christmas in Thailand. On another break they travelled to Oman, and on another flew to the Dominican, via Newfoundland.
They already have a safari planned for the upcoming fall break, possibly in Kenya, and will have their three children, one grandson and their children’s spouses visit for Christmas this year.
Taaffe said while being so far away from their family can be hard, it’s made easier with the technology of today. From Skype to Facetime, he said they are able to stay in touch.
Being able to maintain that connection with home and the positive experience of the past year all played a role in the couple’s decision to sign on for longer.
Taaffe said in the beginning all he really wanted was a one-year contract.
“To know if this is what we want to do the next few years,” he said. “And it turns out to be what we want to do.”