December 1, 2006

Saudi 28

Saudi 28

An amazing couple of weeks, folks.

First, Saudi Arabia will have door to door mail service here after the first of the year.
Each house has been assigned a number somehow related to global positioning. Many of
the streets here do not have names and none have house numbers. I think I told you that
the fire brigade had a hard time finding the Dean’s house when a fire broke out in the
kitchen. This will eventually create a new phase in Jeddah – junk mail. Since there is no
mail service, there are no flyers mailed to anyone. As shopping is a major pursuit here,
now large malls and retailers can access the community.

We were able to partake in a market survey for a new magazine targeting young women
in the Middle East. I think we can continue this relationship with this company in the UK.
Though many of you think I am in danger here, Saudi Arabia is a very politically stable
country. Much of the middle East publishing business has been located in Lebanon. Alas,
that country is in tough shape, soon to be in worse shape as the Shiite – Sunni
confrontation continues in that country. If the local censors back off a bit, I can see
printing companies comihng here, particularly since we are now graduating Saudi
designers who can continue the Saudization plan here.

As you may know, many jobs here are held by foreigners. Saudi Arabia wants Saudis to
eventually hold these positions, thus educating Saudis so they can replace us is very
important. Saudi women have a better reputation for having a strong work ethic, so right
now there is a female hiring preference. Yay, Team.

So, we had our Thanksgiving celebration – a major meal held in the recreation room on
the compound. Probably had 60 plus people! We cooked three turkeys, I made lots of
filling balls which were a touch too dark, crumb…. Started a serious smolder in my
stove… 15 pounds of mashed potatoes and there was little left in the way of food. I am
tired today because I was on my feet all day yesterday chopping bread, etc.

I started a Music Club at the request of the student affairs office. I expected maybe 15
ladies to join. Over 100 have said they want to join. Many have guitars they have had for
years and not been able to play. So, we had our first meeting. 20 students turned up the
first meeting. I made up a survey and a first guitar lesson. Quite a few students brought
their guitars. So, I taught them a G chord and a down strum on the count of three. The
students were thrilled. One student was shaking from excitement being that close to a
guitar. Then I gave her mine to learn a G chord.

In 1990, you could not buy a guitar in Jeddah. Jeddah is the most liberal city here. Now
you can buy guitars and music is not completely banned. There are bands which play at
small clubs.

The students sat in rapt attention (unheard of) as I talked about music, guitar action and
how we would proceed. They want to meet twice a week. I said maybe once a week
considering my teaching schedule.

Few of you probably know I play a guitar. I’ve been a closet player for years…. My stage
fright has gone away, I notice. I taught myself how to play when I was 12. I am unable to
read music – rather dislexic with it, but have learned through chord charts, tableture and
picking patterns how to play folk music, rhythm and blues and lighter rock and rolls.
Honestly have not learned a new song in 20 years and rarely played at home. I know,
however, that when a person gives another the basics of playing a guitar, they move
themselves into the music they want to play. But they need a start, the basics and some
transpositional theory…. Wow.

So, ironically, it may be that the gift I give my student is not graphic design, but music.
And, as often happens, the gift to me is having to play in front of people on the fly which
meant I didn’t have time to panic, I just sang.

Office politics are awful. I focus on teaching and the music club. One of the Vice-Deans
is organizing a talent show for spring. This is all ground breaking stuff. All forms of
entertainment are banned in Mecca women’s college, 40 miles away.

Hope you call had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I miss you all lovingly. I probably won’t
be back in the states until Aug 10 or 11 because of the 330 day rule – so the ten extra
days I stayed have to come off the end. But I will get there.

Day one of music club included 7 guitars. The second meeting included new members
and 16 guitars. To have 16 students with a down beat and major strumming on a G chord
and me singing Michael Row the Boat Ashore is a first in the Kingdom. Wow. As the
group continued, one girl showed another one how to play the theme from the Godfather,
one note at a time to another student. Good stuff, I say.

One student brought her harmonica and asked if I knew Blowin’ in the Wind. Life is

I was able to attend a tour of Balad (old Jeddah) yesterday with official tour guides so we
could take photos.
More later,

S of a

at December 1, 2006 7:43 AM