December 15, 2006

Saudi 29

Saudilogue 29

It’s winter here now. It actually is not only cooler but lower humidity than before.
Currently 75 degrees heading for a high of 87. That’s cooler.

Thursday night a group of us walked along the Corniche (seashore area). Along the sea it
was cooler. It just felt very, very comfortable. Then, zooming around a corner: two kids
wearing mad-bomber hats (pulled down) and winter leather coats. Wow.

So, for folks who laughed at me when I turned heat on in the house when it was down to
63, plus I was wearing two layers of clothes… bodies adjust to all kinds of things.

There was a shooting in town Thursday night. A while ago the Saudi security forces
rounded up 139 Al-Qaeda suspects. I think the gunmen were trying to free some of the
new prisoners. Anyway, two guards at the prison were, alas, killed and the gunmen got
away.

I notice that there is a furor in the US about our Muslim representative wanting to be
sworn in on the Qu’ran. One fellow said no, because Islam is a dangerous religion.
Personally, I think any "holy" book in the hand of a fanatic becomes dangerous.

Students here are watching the Bush vs the world in Iraq with interest. He still doesn’t get
it. After living in the Middle East for over a year, I can tell you some things with
certainty. First, Arabic is a very difficult language. It is subtle and poetic. The same word
can have many meanings and the dialects vary from country to country. The spoken
dialects, that is. Written Arabic is the same in all Arabic countries, however the spoken
Arabic is quite different from written Arabic.

The Sunni/Shia separation is almost as old as Islam itself – and relates to how the
leadership of the faith succeeded. There are some similarities between that schism and the
Reformation in Europe. Remember those wars? Continuing into Northern Ireland to this
very day.

There is much concern here about all the looming civil wars in Lebanon and Gaza. We’ve
had some interesting discussions about Iraq, but probably not as heated as they would be
if I had ever supported the war. Supporting war. Wow, what a concept!

I am staying home over Hajj. Perhaps I can again get into painting and designing.

Music Club continues to be a hit. We only had six or seven people last meeting, but what
they lacked in numbers, is made up by enthusiasm. The harmonica player is a big Dylan
fan. She asked where I was from. Minnesota, says I. Wow. How cool.

Today, one of the faculty members said that she can tell the difference in her students on
Music Club days. They have their guitars, are much more relaxed even though the club
meets after her class. She said she has always wanted to learn how to play. Come one
down, says I. But I can’t read music. Neither can I, says I. Hope bursts forth in her eyes.
Oh, I just love country music. I want to learn how to play it. You, I can help, says I. I
think of the girls who want to play rock riffs. Not I, I know.

Today I realized I have never seen a hitchhiker in Saudi Arabia. I mentioned this to one
of my classes. A sea of blank looks. One student translated in Arabic what a hitchhiker
was. Oh, no, Miss. We don’t do that here.

The weather is noticeably cooler. Almost chilly in the morning. We do not need the air
conditioning on the bus, it is that cool. The mosquitoes aren’t as bad as last year. I
wonder if it is because it is cooler with much less humidity.

I’ve started reading the Qur’an again. I’ve been looking up the verses that pertain to Jesus
and Mary. It sure raises a lot of theological questions. For instance, it talks about the
Archangel Gabriel telling Mary she will have a son, name the son Jesus and that he will
be the messiah. Muslims accept Jesus as the next to the last prophet, Muhammad being
the last prophet. After saying Mohamed, one is supposed to say "peace be unto him",
Muslims also add that after talking about Jesus or Moses "peace be unto them."

The Qur’an is not a history and though I have only read a few chapters, no one has been
killed. I tell you – no smoting.

I keep saying that I do not understand the violence from a non-violent religion – though
one can say the same about all religions. Guess there’s a group in the US now – terrorists
for Jesus…. Unreal. And there were the Crusades, and the Inquisition so no one is
perfect.

Students in my Editorial and Book Design class are creating a four page newsletter.
Newsletters are unheard of among this age group because there is no mail service in the
country yet (door to door) – due to start in January… anyway, all these things are a
learning experience for me. Each culture takes so much for granted.

I think I told you that any Muslim can attend or pray in any mosque. It never occurred to
them that in Christianity people belong to different denominations, belong to different
churches and that a church would claim exclusive rights to the truth. Within Islam, all
Jews, Christians and Muslims are going to heaven if they have lead good lives, given to
the poor, etc etc, because each group believes in one God.

I was reviewing symbols today with one of my Symbols and Trademarks class. I was
going over the icons on my digital camera – obtained in the US. The envelope on the
camera indicates sending the picture (over the internet). I mentioned this symbol – they
thought it might relate to storage. Bang. It hits me. Since there is no mail service, the idea
of sending something in an envelope is rather foreign to them.

I still say I have learned more than I have taught.
S of A
Me again.

From e-mails I’ve received, I guess I forgot to mention Thanksgiving. Over 60 people
this year and truly a compound-wide event. We had a great time. Somehow we scored
three turkeys. The toughest one was a butterball, by the way. And they were small by my
let’s have a feast standard. 2 12s and 1 15. So, I cooked two, Maggie cooked one,
Stuffing and gravy from me, also. I invited everyone on the compound, but the workers
didn’t feel comfortable eating with the rest of us, so when the crowd had cleared out, they
all dashed in for a plate of food. Reham and I fixed huge plates for the security guards
and the army guys.

I am disappointed that King Abdullah of Saudi wants the US to stay to restore order. I’ve
heard the government doesn’t want a Shiite Iraq on its border – particularly if they fear a
genocide against Sunis.

Have a super Christmas. I’ll probably write before then. And, I’ll try to attach the other
photos I tried last time.

s

at December 15, 2006 10:20 AM