October 20, 2005

Saudi part5

From Sandy:

September 18, 2005


For one thing, registration is still going on during the first week of classes. I was nearly hysterical because I had an 8:00 class on Saturday morning (first day of the week) and did not have a class list or a supply of syllabi because the copy center lady was gone all day Wednesday. I finally weaseled a class list from someone in registration who was not very happy about my request.

Well, folks, unlike UMD where everyone shows up the first day so the student doesn’t lose a seat, here, they don’t come to class. So, all my fretting was for not. My 8:00 class contained one student. Better than some other faculty’s classes where no one showed up. So, I had a great class with one student. Learned her name immediately. This is good. I sensed her enthusiasm. This could be fun.

The second class that day also contained one student, I was skunked by the third. The second day of classes were basically cancelled by the Vice-Dean of academic affairs when she announced that classes would begin in earnest on Monday (the equivalent of Wednesday). I had a full house at the 8:00 class – 9 students. We progressed through the syllabus, materials list and books. Overview of Basic Design. The Symbols class h ad 4 students. Not bad.

Then, a convocation with events all day was announced for Tuesday. Classes were cancelled after 10:00. Some frustration here, in an oh-well sort of way (I melted down the week before). The ministry requires very accurate records of what is taught including copies of all handouts, day by day schedules of lesson plans. I decided to create mine as I go (big surprise, eh?)

This decision was well taken because those who had worked out a semester long class plan are already in major revisions because the first week basically didn’t happen. The lag helped because I caught up on syllabi.

Class schedule has changed many times. First I was going to teach symbols, then Angela was, then it was passed back to me. In fact, I taught the first class period. It has since gone to my sidekick Kate and I inherited Typography. So, yes, I am teaching typography. I looked at the course files from previous classes – oh dear. So, this class will be very different. Very.

The students are eager. When I ask a question – get this – they all start talking at once. They are smart and most interested in design and in learning all they can from me. Or anyone who comes to Saudi Arabia.

They are very proud of their country and very sad that most people think Saudis ride camels and shoot people. Saudis are very hospitable people, very kind. They are nicer than Minnesota nice. Or at least the same…

And this school is remarkable. The Dean (equivalent of K. Martin) is dynamic and charismatic. She is also a mystic. She has dreams she shares along with the interpretation of the dream. This is a pioneering institution within Saudi Arabia and breaks new ground for women on a regular basis.

Faculty meetings are even more vocal than classes. Everyone participates. She says we are all one – the large “i” of Dar Al Hekma. That we need to be honest and transparent. Oh, is this my kinda place.

Last week student visas were approved for the first time. Now foreign students can come here. This semester Dar Al Hekma College is offering printmaking classes in the first print making studio for women in any woman’s college in the Kingdom. Kate is teaching animation (Maya). It is the first animation class for women in the kingdom. I’m teaching 3D graphics for the second time and next semester may teach exhibitions for the first time.

This is a private college; the tuition is very high. The Dean goes around Saudi Arabia collecting money from people to provide scholarships for bright students who cannot afford the tuition. So, students can be royal princesses or daughters from proud but underprivledged families. It doesn’t say on the class notes who is who. I’m new and don’t care. They are all my students.

This graphic design program is the first in the kingdom for women. There are design agencies in Jeddah owned by women. Women in these professional interior and graphic design positions are going to change some of the fabric of Saudi culture.

This week classes have been rather full, though there is some question about correct classrooms. The students in my basic design class worked on their in class project with the same diligence that students would in the US. Already there are signs of the proverbial perfectionism and competitive art.

Here the absentee policy is that after 6 absences in a studio art class, the student receives a DN – denial to pass the course, they fail. Medical excuses can undo the absences but I told them that the work must be done.

Moving away from classes for a minute.. there is a stretch of highway which has many car dealerships on it. Lamborgini, Ducati, Maserati, Porche, Infinity, Lexus, Ferrarri… I can’t imagine anyone buying that kind of car to drive on a Jeddah street.

The lizard is still around. I turned down the air conditioning so I have heard lots of clicks.

Internet was down Friday – a bummer because it was my one day of rest. We had a strategic planning meetingn all day Thursday. Imagine DAH in 5, 10, 25 years. SWOT analysis. I was toast when we were done.

So, I gotta trot.

Oh-most art classes are 2 hours long. Basic design is 2.5 hours 2 days a week. I am overload teaching – 5 classes instead of 4. It’s not like I have a lot of other things to do.



at October 20, 2005 9:22 AM