June 9, 2006

Saudi 22

May 24,2006

So, have I told you about all the singing here? Everyone sings, together and to themselves, as they work in supermarkets, walk down the street or the students, even. Everyone dances, too, but within the gender segregation that happens here.

There was an interesting program on Lesbianism on campus last week – looking at it as a part of Saudi society and that it may be attacking the structure of the society. I know the woman who organized the event for a student who wanted this program put together. Part of the discussion is that the genders are so segregated that homosexuality is inevitable, beyond genetic predisposition. And, as I think I have said before, many women here are afraid of men or male contact. Neither gender has much experience communicating with the other so here, men are from Mars and women from Venus – literally. Alas, I was so busy, I was unable to attend. I am so used to working in an all female environment, when men are around, I feel invaded, mostly because then we have to wear abayas and tarhas so the men won’t see us. Plus, they (the men) seem out of place.

I take it as part of the job, but some students are getting frustrated with it and abaya designers are getting more bold all the time. In fact, I have my Basic Design class designing abayas as their final project. Wow, are we getting some fabulous designs. That I can send you – so we’ll have a fashion show…. One student is designing her abaya based on typography by Ian Swifty. Great fun by all. One student said her Mom was so excited by the project, she ran out and bought two plain black abayas for her daughter to use. Quite a few students are designing more than one abaya.

They are (abayas that is) becoming slimmer, with interesting belts. We have discussed making them more useful. The male thobes have huge side pockets. Abayas don’t have pockets. I think they should have them. It would be quite helpful.

On the way to work today we passed a construction site where the workers were talking before they mounted the heavy equipment. All of them were wearing sandals. Many of them would be driving steamrollers. Not that steel toed boots would make much difference against a steamroller.

I have made flight arrangements – should be arriving in MPLS on July 27. Jen will pick me up from the airport and then drive up north the evening of the 28th.

More later.
S of a

June 1, 2006
The actual course work is done. I am exhausted. Six classes is tough. I think I have groaned about that before. But, the students did a super job. We are now in a two week finals period, but art students finish up the last week of classes which gives me plenty of time for grading and course files…. Except that we are creating a Graphic Design Dept magazine. The deadline is looming and it is still in the air a bit… And we are having our GD student exhibition in two weeks. I handling submissions. In previous years, faculty chose the work that would be in the dhow. We are trying to wean students from faculty dependence, so we’ve asked them for two works per student from the last 12 months. This has generated into some interesting faculty ego conflicts. That utterly surprised me.

Oh – the big news is the fashion show. One of my basic design students asked if we could hold our fashion show in a larger room so more people could attend (besides just classmates…) So, at the last minute… this Saturday, I signed up for Room 151 which is a small auditorium…. The size of the Dudley. The class made posters, then were dispersed on the campus to post them. I used Ida’s uncle’s CD. So at the appointed hour, with Soewe Mesna in the background, the students walked the runway to an amazingly large crowd of faculty and students… I was the commentator, describing each abaya as the student modeled it. One student, who is normally shy came into her own, organizing the girls behind the scene and showing them how to model. Another student, who usually is in my face about class projects and “when is the class going to end….? Would not walk across the stage alone.. So, I escorted her. Both times, since she created two abayas.

The crowd roared and cheered at each new design. The director was in the crowd, front row, no less. So she had us all wait around until she found the dean (equivalent of Dr. Martin)…. And eventually all the students, plus the director wearing one of the extra abayas, modeled their wares (wears…?) infront of the administrative staff of the school. Turns out we are considering adding a fashion design program. One could see the enthusiasm.

So, if anyone had told me a couple years ago that I would be on the faculty of a private women’s college in Saudi Arabia, putting on last minute fashion show, I would have looked at them with two heads.

To keep in the flavor of the moment, I wore one of my favorite thobes…. Life is grand.

S of a

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