West Liberty graduate now teaches in Qatar

Mary Atkinson · Thursday, August 22, 2013
For Kent Maxson, a typical day living near the Persian Gulf is actually similar to living in the the United States.

The West Liberty graduate, his wife Ashley and children, Kaylee, 3, and Finley, 6 months, live in Doha, Qatar, a few hundred miles south of Iraq next to Saudi Arabia.

In the mornings Maxson walks to the American school of Doha where he teaches an American curriculum to students from North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

The school has over 2000 students, grades kindergarten through 12. However, only 10 percent are actually from Qatar.

"The majority of children are from families of businessmen working abroad, or are professionals in the field of oil or gas," Maxson said.

After school, Maxson coaches basketball or track and field. On the weekends he and his family visit the beach or visit with other families.

"Qatar is a rather liberal country as far as the the Middle East goes," he said. "It's not like neighboring Saudi Arabia where women must be covered, can't drive and you can't consume alcohol, for example."

Qatar is ruled under Sharia law, which follows the Quran. The county has a ruling family with the power of an absolute monarchy.

Maxson said there is only one liquor store in the whole country, and citizens must pay $275 for a permit to shop there for alcohol and pork products. Other than that only a few four and five star hotels may sell alcohol.

Maxson said Qatari nationals are, per-capita, the wealthiest people in the world, but make up only 12 percent of the population.

"I have read that the country is 90 percent men, and the labor force is made up of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani and other Indian sub-continent workers," he added.

As a woman, his wife is expected to respect the dress code and dress conservatively when in public.

"In many situations, such as government offices or business, women have their own lines or areas where they are given priority," Maxson said. "There is a very clear separation between Qatari culture and expatriate culture, so many of the social or family norms of Arabs do not apply to us in any way. Nearly all expatriates live in private communities/compounds or walled villas where we lead a life very similar to anyone in North America or Europe."

Ashley said her life in Qatar has its pros and cons.

"While I am able to walk to work, drive a car, dress normally and feel safe, I am limited by the number of activities and availability of things in a small developing Middle East country," she said.

Ashely was born in Vancouver, Canada, but grew up in Spain. She graduated high school in Canada and then the University of Toronto with an honors degree in human biology. She currently teaches Spanish at the American School of Doha.

Even though they have lived in Dubai and Doha for 5 years Maxson said they have never felt unsafe.

"In the Middle East we have traveled to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Oman without incidents and fears." He said. "We did, with advice from our Lebanese friends, cancel a snowboarding trip to Lebanon when their parliament was dissolved and Hezbollah was making a presence in the streets of Beirut."

Hezbollah is a militia group and political party in Lebanon.

Maxson graduated from West Liberty High School in 1997 and later the University of Iowa. His parents both have taught in West Liberty as well as his grandparents.

"I proud to say that I am from West Liberty." He said. "I always enjoy telling people overseas that I am from a small town in Iowa to see their reaction, or if they have even heard of Iowa. I would not change where I grew up for anything."
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