What Pittsburgh free food events can learn from Doha free food events

I admit it. I am a big, big, big, free food junkie. Food-bot.com is like my idol. I have, in the distant past, gone to extreme levels of inconvenience to attain access to free food. I didn’t do this very happily – there were extreme levels of guilt, but not as much as there would have been had I actually spent money in a real restaurant. I have damaged my reputation much in the past due to this addiction. Fortunately, things changed a lot last year when I got time to settle into an apartment and have a kitchen mostly to myself. There is nothing more tastier, relieving, and cheaper than your self-made tasteless mash-up of ingredients. But just like any Bollywood movie, there needed to be a villain in my happy-go-lucky life. Here it was, the monstrous, mysterious and ever so deceiving: FAT. Having a kitchen to a modestly homely non-exercising student who loves food meant that you tend to make a lot, a lot and a lot of food. And so, recently, I decided to change my lifestyle and go back to embracing free food events so that I can defeat this evil villain. Early results: that shit’s not working. And I blame that on Pittsburgh’s free food (basically replace Pittsburgh with any US college city for your context) as opposed to Qatar’s free food.

Here is the gist of my argument: food in events in the CMU campus in Pgh (from now to be referred to as CMU-P) is fudging fattening. On the other hand, food in events on the CMU campus in Doha, Qatar (from now to be referred to as CMU-Q) is healthy. Despite reducing my meal count every day to ONE in CMU-P, I don’t see any good happening because free food here, 97% (according to a fake Nielsen report) of times is Pizza or some other really junky crap. On the other hand, free food in Qatar is either some Arab junk food or some small number of times, Pizza. And that’s because Pizza is not such a utility as it is in CMU-P.

So what’s important to know is that there is good junk food and then there is bad junk food. Everything I end up eating in CMU-P free food events is bad junk food. Layers of floating oil on 3 levels of cheese on a pre-oiled thick whole-flour bread, i.e. pizza, leads the pack. The only available side in most cases in packs of oily fried chips, and the drink option almost always is a i-want-to-ruin-your-teeth-and-stomach soda. Or there is the occasional sandwich, with 6 layers of Swiss cheese and olive oil for taste. Not healthy as your average fruit either.

On the other hand, I consider junk food in Doha to be good junk food. Fataayer (a 1/4 in thickness bread base) is your perfect pizza replacement – often served with some tasty zaatar (a god damn herb topping) just feels like pleasure to the taste buds. And if there is the occasional halloumi cheese, there amount is limited and it not burned to perfection. Falafel and shawarma wraps are kept really simple, and the fried contents are often really little. The sides include labneh (yes, as simple as a freaking yoghurt), hummus (mashed chick-peas with occasional drops of oil), babganoush (egg-plant), tabouleh (fine chopped parsley leaves), dolma (grape leaves wrapping non-fried rice), etc. How more simple and non-fatty could good tasting food get?! Not only that – there is an intentional focus on keeping it healthy. These all happen to be very finger snack-ish, which means it is almost as simple as grabbing pizza slices or sandwiches.

And thus, my proposal: I know pizza is easily accessible and cheap everywhere around campus, and the free delivery guy doesn’t mind not being tipped, but please take some time and think about how disgusted every person like me attending your event is from eating such unhealthy food. Trust me, we will love you, do more for you and even get people to pay for your events – just if you can learn this little small lesson from free food events at our little sibling campus in the desert of the Gulf.


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Doing an exchange semester abroad: 7 things they do not tell you

Having changed the plan/course of my life significantly from not wanting to pursue higher education to becoming a passionate enthusiast in educational experiences around the globe, I continue to accumulate knowledge and wisdom on the right approach and outlook you should take on studying in places where you aren’t enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student. Mind you – you don’t find this information on the LonelyPlanets & TripAdvisors of travel.

If you are planning an exchange semester of study in a new part of the world, your in for a roller-coaster ride whose trajectory your parents and friends cannot fully predict by merely listening to the screams of the ones with balls. Here is my heads-up on 7 things most people, schools, and websites will not tell you about planning for your experience which will play a big role in determining the quality of your experience: Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Living, Pittsburgh, Singapore, Social, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Road ahead

Dear reader,

Thanks very much for taking the time to scroll through the images and play the video clips (and occasionally reading our boring encounters :P) on Zaid’s and my blog throughout the semester. We appreciate your thoughts and visits to our rather simple blog.

I wish to update you on our lives. Zaid has finished his semester in Pittsburgh and is now excited to return to Doha for the last 3 semesters of his undergraduate life. His life has been busy – leading the planning for TEDxCarnegieMellonQatar, coordinating other DSO activities, traveling to London -> Doha -> Al-Ain -> Doha. Design is now an essential part of his life, and he has launched a very interesting blog on this critique of design: Critique-a-week. I haven’t quite asked him if he will blog on Doh Musafir this semester – do watch out for the comments on this post because I expect the answer of that question to be there.

I got done with my exchange semester at Singapore Management University (SMU) and returned to my home in Muscat, Oman. Very soon, I will heading to Pittsburgh, US, where I will be spending the next semester. Its cold, yet I am excited about the place, the people and most importantly, CMU. I have been busy with my grad school application, beauty products, giving my family a lot of time, and a couple of jobs. Inspired by Zaid, I will also be writing my own blog on something I am very passionate about: Development, technology and people. I am certainly going to try to blog this semester – whenever I get an opportunity. I am going to miss Doha.

If you think we can make an effort to make this blog more interesting (yes, we know we must blog more!), do drop it in as comments, shoot us an email, or FB message us. We will be thrilled to hear from you.

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Fall Colors

In my opinion, Fall is the best season. The colors are just beautiful, and you could just walk around the city stepping on all the leaves and making crunchy noises all day.
It’s kind of ironic, though, that the only reason it’s so beautiful is because all the leaves are dying and falling off trees that are slowly becoming dormant =/

Well, the point of this mini blog entry is just to everyone how it’s like to walk around in Pittsburgh at this time of the year. Enjoy =)

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Posted in City, Pittsburgh | 5 Comments

Top 7 reasons why I love CMU-Q (attempt 1)

While I must admit that this may turn out to be an awesome marketing device for Qatar Foundation’s third newest university, my understanding and appreciation for Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar is utmost genuine and comes from experiences of being away from the university for more than 4 months (during an exchange program at a university in Singapore). Continue reading

Posted in Academic, Culture, Social | 12 Comments

Nach Le’s Salsa performance

Nach Le is the name of the dance club I am with. Here is a glimpse of our first Salsa performance at Diwali Night. While we are not particularly good, you will notice that we do manage to pull it off 🙂

And yes, I think the frown on my face was due to the facilities around the place, and lack of space. Sorry!

Video courtesy: Celine Deschilder

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Second runners up at TATA Crucible

Second runners up at TATA Crucible

Has your mommy ever told you that when you plan for something, and prep really hard, you kinda don’t get it? But when you don’t plan, and don’t think too hard about it, you do??! No?! 😦 Okie, screw you, my mommy told me that. I don’t think I care about this theory of hers, but for once, it did turn out to be that way.

Two weeks ago, I asked a friend, Sayanee (I met her at this refining innovation workshop) to join me in participating at the TATA Crucible Quiz in Singapore. I am not surprised you haven’t heard of it – yes, it is not Who wants to be a millionaire? But it is rather popular among young quizzers in India, and I had watched few clippings of this quiz on television (yes, it is a TV show, unlike Education City Quiz Challenge :P) So I was only half serious about taking part. This can be believed from my comment before and after the quiz: “if I had to pay even a dollar of registration fee for this, I wouldn’t be taking part“.

It was a day before the quiz was to take place, and while there were streams of emails from the organizers on how we needed to prepare ourselves for it, me and Sayanee were yet to share our contact numbers or even a message on how we are going to go about this. Breaching all privacy rules, I hereby share my email to her, just a couple of days before the event, and her subsequent reply:

Varun: Unofficial reminder, as promised: Tata Crucible Quiz on 29th Oct at Suntec City 🙂 You are partnering a not-very-smart guy, so be ready!

Sayanee: Well, i think partnering some fun, wacky guy is the key… which I will be doing :p

Continue reading

Posted in Academic, Singapore, Social | 2 Comments