January 31, 2008

Saudilogue 35

Saudilogue 35

Happy Hijjra – the Moslem new year. 1428 is gone and 1429 is just begun. There were
celebrations yesterday at school. People wrote the worst incidents of 1428 on sheets of
paper which were put through a shredder. Not a bad way to celebrate a new year.

The Moslem calendar is based on lunar cycles and the beginning of the year as well and
the year itself, are based on the date Allah (God) told the Prophet to move from Mecca to
Medinah, where he is buried in the grand mosque in Madinah.

So, today is the second day of 1429 and the 10th day of January. And something
miraculous happened. It rained. We haven’t had rain in over a year. For a brief while it
poured. The skies are still cloudy, but the streets and patios of the compound are drying

It is winter here. A joke for any of us from northern climes. But, the weather has been
beautiful – upper 70s. Breezy. Low humidity. Locals complain about the cold. It’s great.

School has started again. I swear these fall semesters are unending. Two more weeks of
classes, then two weeks of final exams. We started the 10th of September.

Incoming crop of freshmen are super. We have had lots of fun.

Here, security has been beefed up for a variety of reasons. Some Al Qaeda activity in
Jeddah – 28 guys were picked up over Hajj. They were going to bomb some of the holy
places around Mecca and Medinah. Another bust at a local compound has pulled the
strings tighter. More check points. More car searches. I am looking forward to going
home, I admit. Not that it is that dangerous, but I fantasize about jumping in my car,
driving to Wal-Mart, then stopping by a friends house on the way home.

I told one of my Saudi friends that the country is finally beginning to get to me. She said
– congratulations, you are now a Saudi. But I can go home, says I, because I am not

On the yippee front, I am now able to get Minnesota Public Radio on iTunes. I probably
could have gotten it years ago, I just didn’t understand that simple feature of the program.

Music club is dwindling. It always does because students find out that fingers get sore
and practice is a must.

I have been watching the beginnings of the primaries with great interest. I look forward to
voting in the election next fall.

I think Bush believes that "the surge" is working. Maybe. I just think there is a lull in the
sectarian violence. I wait for the day that moderate muslims decide that somebody
claiming to be muslim and wants to blow up holy places in Mecca is not on the side of
Islam. This time of year, the new year, the solidarity of Islam is part of the practice.
Because unity is so important, I think moderates are less likely to go against extremists,
even though they don’t agree with the extremist points of view.

Happy (both) new years to everyone.

Oh – general celebration that the King pardoned the young raped woman. Conservatives
have put the lean on our school so the next exhibition will be strictly segregated.

More later.

Jan. 24.
My Dad’s birthday. I miss him.

We have had quite a bit of rain. The skies have been very cloudy and the rain floods the
streets a bit. People don’t drive well in dry clear weather, the rain makes things worse.

Jan 25,
More rain. It’s getting down right tropical….

Cultural differences:
One of our colleagues is very ill. She is from the Western Hemisphere, and like most of
us want to be left alone when very ill. The tradition here is "sitters" where family and
friends take turn sitting with the person. In fact, anyone who cares can sit with the person.
So, our colleagues was inundated with caring Muslims. She, being western, felt obligated
to be hospitable to them. Talk, talk. This brought forth discussion the next day at school.
We appeared uncaring because we weren’t there and we saw them as inconsiderate.
Interesting, eh? So after further conversation, the "sitters" realized the difference in
perceptions as did we. But since the college was sick, all visitors have been turned away
as she got sicker and eventually ended up in a major cardiac unit here in town.

We also had to hold an exhibition using the old-old rules of Saudi. The turn out was
rather poor for those who qualified to attend. Whereas we still see constrictions "the new
way", this was a reminder of how things used to be and it irritated quite a few of the

I willl turn in my notice of non-renewel next week. I am coming home end of June for at
least a year. We are so short handed that we will be teaching six courses a piece…
maybe more next semester plus we have the opportunity to take a course online through
Harvard’s grad school of education.

Going to be a very busy semester. I will have to cancel music club.

Look forward to cold weather. Snow.

S of a

at January 31, 2008 11:40 AM