May 19, 2006

Saudi 21

May 14, 2006

I should send these out more often. Saudilogues generate replies and though I am having a good time here, I sure appreciate the e-mails.

The rumor on the bus this morning was the someone(or two) attacked the American Consulate in Jeddah and that one security guard was killed. My office mate said that the shooting had nothing to do with the American Consulate, it happened near her house and no one was killed. There you go.

Today I had the opportunity to give my students a real world designer experience, presenting their work to a local company which had asked for a design student to create a logo for them. I made this part of a class project. The students were quiet (for once) and did a great job of presenting their work. The clients were impressed and had a hard time sorting through the possibilities.

Part of teaching here that still is just wonderful (though frustrating) is the way the class suddenly shoots into Arabic. The students are critiquing or discussing something related to the topic and I haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Inglisi, I say, Inglisi. Someone translates and away we all go again.

I am learning Arabic, slowly, very slowly. It is a very interesting language.

The semester ends May 31 with finals the week after that. The end is in sight. I am grateful that so far next year we are only scheduled to teach 5 classes. 6 is a beast, just a beast. I am tired, but rather upbeat about it all since faculty 15 and 20 years younger are more tired than I am. Of course, I turn into a pumpkin by 9:30 an am in bed trying to get enough rest to go for the next day.

Yesterday was steamy hot – whew. Checked the temp – 108 F with high humidity. Wow, a scorcher, for sure.

May 18, 2006
My office mate celebrated a birthday, that was fun also, accentuated with chocolate cake. I gave up on my diet. It was a great cake.

Before I said that birthdays weren’t celebrated here, that isn’t true among the younger generation.

We are preparing for the annual Graphic Design students show. Hopefully it will go well. With so many students and limited space, one faculty member suggested students take the responsibility of submitting their own work, which is a change from the old way of faculty selecting the work for the show. Somehow I am the head of the submissions process – so thank you Alyce! The UMD system is now going to be used here.

Congratulations to Dr. Tom Hedin, who is retiring. Condolences to the students who will no longer have the benefit of his knowledge and teaching skill. I’m thrilled to have studied under him as I took one of the last classes that Mr. Chee taught.

I dreamed about being in the States last night. I must be anxious to come home for a while.

Oh-saw a horrendous accident on the way home from school this week. It happened right in front of the cab with the driver saying oh oh oh oh oh, as dust flew all over the road as two cars flew off sideways onto the side of the road. I hope no one was hurt.

I did hear last night that Al Jazeera is going to start an English speaking station. Then I can get the news from all directions! CNN world is different than CNNUS, BBC is yet another twist – then Orbit and MSNBC and our version of FOX – SKY NEWS…. SKY NEWS has dramatic background music for the potion of the broadcast that is dedicated to just printing the news on screen. It sounds like a major war is about to begin … geez.

My basic design students are working on designing patterns for their own abayas as a final project. I think this should be quite interesting. We need to experiment with different paints on a black background. The materials are quite different and the final product should be washable.

Life moves slowly forward.
One day at a time. It is easier to live here that way, sometimes. Just spent a half hour sitting by one of the swimmijng pools, just watching the water, the neat birds and the gorgeous flowers.

Salam (peace in Arabic)

Posted by at 10:25 AM

May 15, 2006

Saudi 20

Saudilogue 20

Day 4 of my 5 day weekend. We are on spring break. Having reread all the Saudilogues, I thought I might bring you up to speed on positive changes here. Remember I said there was no recycling? Well, the LIFE club at school started a paper recycling program at the beginning of the semester. Two weeks later they had bins out for plastic by all the water coolers. I started putting my spent water bottles in them also. The funds received are going into the student scholarship fund. Because recyclers only pay 10 SR per ton, the money is minimal, which is why the administration of the school wasn’t interested in this project. But the club is doing it – so that is great and it is being supported by students and faculty.

Internet troubles have gotten worse. This time it is the major provider, not just the local provider. It is now Friday and internet has basically been down for three days. Seems better this afternoon. At least they say it is the problem of their supplier…. My computer is fine.

Tomorrow marks the second half of this semester. I gave a written midterm to one of my classes and half the class flunked it cold. Great. They have a project due tomorrow. Hope they do it on time and with good craftsmanship. I know. Don’t we all. After bombing the midterm, my attitude is sagging. The other classes are doing very well. I am just surprised by this one.

I’ve been here nearly 8 months now and can report that we have had a nearly 100% turn over in cats. Their numbers have increased because enough females remained to produce even more litters, but at least the current crop of cats is quite feral and therefore don’t walk right under you feet.

I see President Hu of China is in the US and is coming here next. The general rap on TV here about all this is that Americans need to recognize that China is waking up, has a 10 to 1 ratio of engineering graduates to the US and in the US 50% of engineering grads are foreign students. As more Chinese people drive cars and motorcycles and build companies which require energy, that 70 years of oil here may only be 35… (that’s my thought… nothing scientific. Just logical. I’ sure he’s here to make sure China and Saudi Arabia are on good terms. KSA provides 485 million barrels a day to China. I think that was the figure. Man, that’s a lot of oil.

March 10, 2006
Probably a month since I started this. I finally saw a construction worker wearing a hardhat. As I mentioned none of them do and some even wear sandals when they work. No steel toed shoes here, maybe tennis or leather shoes… Anyway,, this guy was sitting in a lawn chair watching some other fellows working. He had on the hard hat. My Mom called them sidewalk supervisors.

I created my first oil painting in years for a fellow who teaches at a local elementary school. He wrote a musical about the origin of weathervanes. The main character is “Half chick.? The play is set in Spain, so he decided to have two painters working on stage, painting away. One is supposed to be Dali, the other Picasso. So, I painted the Picasso (sort of) half chick. This was so much fun and so good for my soul, that I bought an easel and more canvasses.

I am scheduled to teach a Digital Imaging class this summer, then back to the states for a 35 day vacation. By the time I get back, the new wing should be finished and I will have my own office. I’ll miss my roommate, but the extra space will be wonderful. Currently we are teaching 12 classes between us and you can’t see the floor or walls because of the influx of projects.

No matter how fast I grade work and return it to students, the incoming is faster than the outgoing.

I’ve been taking Arabic classes from a teacher at the compound and can now read most of the Arabic alphabet. I try to read signs on the way to work, though I admit I can’t read very fast, but if I can identify the first 4 letters in a word on a sign, I feel rather proud of myself. I don’t know what the sign says, but Arabic is phonetic.

A new Panda store has opened near the compound. A HyperPanda, the biggest Panda,, the biggest store in the MiddleEast… I will go there Thursday morning. Some of the other ladies from the compound say it is toooo big. I’ll wear tennies.

This week I was invited to a restaurant premier. A new very high end Italian restaurant is opening and the manager asked a friend of mine to invite three others to attend and eat a 7 course meal. Lucky me. Wow. We ate in a leisurely fashion from 7:45pm to 10:15 pm. I didn’t eat again for nearly two days. We did get some pictures. Hopefully I can get some copies. David and Maggie are my Scrabble buddies. I have no idea howmuch the meal would have cost us. Bet it would have been over 2000SR. ($500 US) for the four of us. Maybe more. The desert was fabulous. So, I decided when it officially opens, I’ll have the bread and sauces (free), two crab cakes on avacados with other additions and then the to die for chocolate… ooooooo

Scrabble is getting very interesting as David collects Scrabble dictionaries – the ones with two and three letter words acceptable in international competition. Friday mornings are still pancakes and Scrabble at Maggie’s house.

Oh-the play I told you about…. Said teacher asked me to play in the band accompanying the kids. Since I got to Saudi I have been playing my guitar more and played it in public twice (blush). David did get a banjo, but it doesn’t tune well. Don’t know if I’ll bring mine back from the states next trip.

Seems like I remember what I want to tell you when I’m no where near a computer. Then I draw a blank – oh

On the Mom bragging front, my daughter is graduating from St. Scholastic with a degree in social work and has at least one job offer to date. My son has also landed fulltime employment and took third place in a strongman competition held recently in Chicago. MY SON, son of slug, pulled a 25,000 semi truck 72 feet in 37 seconds. I am impressed.

May 13
Two days ago I went to the new HyperPanda, a store the size of two football fields – they sure had lots of stuff. Bought some double-sided tape and found jeans that actually fit.

My daughter graduates Sunday and landed the job of her dreams working for the court system in Mankato. What a thrilling time in her life.

Proud Mom signs off.

Posted by at 11:34 AM

May 1, 2006

Saudi 19

Saudilogue 19

Semester is well underway. The classes are large, but enthusiastic.

Biggest bummer lately is the internet service. Expats keep in touch with the world
through the Internet and it has been down most of this week. It cut out when I was talking
to my daughter on Skype (a very cheap way of making overseas calls). Growl.

But, as long as it’s down, I moved my computer downstairs and have gotten loads of
work done sitting on the couch with my laptop on my LAP, Easier to use that way than a
small desk and I have lots of space to spread out my material.

It is very windy. I wonder if a sandstorm is blowing in. The breeze is cool, a nice touch
on an otherwise warm day.

Have gotten some interesting responses to my Saudilogues lately. One of them addresses
the issue to Saudi Arabia and oil. I believe the country is trying to expand its economy
because the King did say there was about 70 years worth of oil left. I remember that the
figure used to be 300 years left when I was in high school or early college. World wide
consumption has obviously gone up a lot.

Since the Al Quaeda attack on an oil installation in eastern Saudi Arabia, the police have
tightened up security. There was some other kind of shoot out with terrorists a day or
two later, with them all being killed.

Very stressful week at work. Wednesday I finally threw caution to the wind and ate the
last piece of chocolate cake in the cafeteria. The ladies there are wonderful cooks. They
not only make their own pasta, but they bake all desserts and finger foods. Yum. The joke
is that after you get here and eat the wonderful food, you fill out your abaya.

March 24

Other responses to the Saudilogues have required me to reread and edit them. Sorry to
those I offended. Live and learn.

Meanwhile, the wildlife has taken a dramatic turn. It is now late spring, early summer.
The large tree by my villa is full of ripe berries. I don’t know what kind of berries, I still
don’t know what type of tree, but the berries are a major hit among all kinds of birds and
fruit bats. Yes, folks. FRUIT BATS – which a wing span of probably 12 – 15 inches but
it looks wider when you see them for the first time. They are beautiful to watch (from a
distrance.) One can feel the air pressure change is they fly by, but you cannot hear their
actual flight. Among the many birds in the tree, I spotted what looked like a wild canary.
Never seen one before, but it was little and yellow. How scientific is that?

Geckos are back. Guess they sleep a lot during the winter (mid 70s low 80s). I did see
one of the big ones outside the day after I spotted the FRUIT BATS. It was very large.
The little guys I’ve seen in the house are 3-4 inches long. This thing was gray, had a head
that was over an inch long. The whole thing was probably 8=9 inches long. I realized that
the loud clicking I’ve heard since arriving here is probably from it – outside. The little
guys inside aren’t old enough to mate (maybe?) But I there has be a consistent clicking
from the front door area since I got here.

I have started learning Arabic, both written and spoken. Read my first sign a couple days
ago – not a big move, mind you. But I read the Arabic for "baba" which means father or
papa – and guess what! The sign was for Papa Johns Pizza. Hey, it’s a start.

We are five weeks into classes; I am feeling the mental exhaustion from teaching six
classes with five preps.

Gotta trot.


April 3

Still have internet problems. Am getting quite frustrated by this. I think I need a new
cable or something.

We are involved with a college fair today and tomorrow. The College looks quite festive.
One faculty member designed a very spiffy polo shirt graphic, then converted it to a gray
scale which looks good on the pens, mugs and notepads. Most of the student groups
coming through today spoke Arabic, so I handed out goodies. Luckily some students
came by and helped with explaining the program and walking visitors through the booth.
This was a very good experience for them.

April 13
The internet has been a horrible problem. They finally ran in a new cable. It has been
working much better ever since. It is horrible to not be able to contact people. I felt the
distance much more acutely.

I am being offered a new contract for next year and am taking it. I do like it here,
particularly when the internet is working. My students are wonderful.

We will be moving into a new wing of the building. The entire third floor will be graphic
design. The acting director has been asking for budget requests and furniture suggestions
for the new studios and offices. Unfortunately, no one thought about water when the wing
was built and here all walls are cement, so when I indicated a few months ago that sinks
were of primary importance in an art studio classroom, I was told no sinks. NO SINKS.

Somehow they have managed to get a sink into one studio. We sure do need the space. At
last report we have nearly 200 GD students. Wow.

The College fair was successful for the whole school. Our booth suddenly doubled in size
within the first 15 minutes of the show and it looked kinda disorganized for a while. I
said that could be a good thing since we already have more students than faculty can
comfortably teach. Usually a large class is 17 and they are rare. This semester I have 22
students in one class and the smallest is 12. Last semester, the largest was 17 and I had
two classes that were 5 and 6 respectively.

So, I have spent many hours revising my Saudilogues to protect the names of those who
do not want to be named. That’s only fair. David and Maggie (my scrabble buddies)
don’t care if they are listed. Maggie is currently on break in Ireland, so David and I have
been playing some one on one games. He has a dictionary of 2 and 3 letter words so these
games are getting rather technical. A colleague calls them cut-throat but they are not. In
fact, (sometimes without a comfortable lead) we help each other.

It rained twice this week. I teach a late class on Saturdays and Mondays, so I take a cab
home. The street were wet and in the distance it looked brown. I asked Mr. Khan (the cab
driver I always call) if it was a sandstorm or rain because it was brown. He said it could
be either one, which surprised me. I thought, also, that after the rain it would be less
dusty – washing off things, but it doesn’t rain long enough to do that and mostly it stirs
things up so there is sand in the rain (if that makes any sense).

So, gotta go. I am sorry it has been so long since I last wrote, but this internet thing has
been just awful and in the few minutes I was on line I barely had enough time to read
incoming messages.

Hope to be back in the US the week of July 26. Please keep Bush from attacking Iran…

S of a

Posted by at 11:03 AM