May 21, 2009

Saudilogue 45

I don't remember the number of the last log, so I'm going to start with 45.

Much has happened this year. I forgot to mention earlier, the reality of the Israeli attack
on Gaza. For a month, students, faculty and staff raised money to help Gaza citizens who
had no food, fuel or medical care. I asked where the money was going. I would not
support funds to Hamas, but the millions of residents of Gaza were, as always, caught in
the crossfire.

Israel used phosphorus bombs on Gaza. CNN showed the images, so did BBC, not just Al
Jazeera. Israel denies it. I've seen the pictures. You cannot limit the area of a phosphorus
bomb. It explodes high and rains down burning phosphorus over a wide area. This is a
lose, lose situation for everyone and it is difficult to be an American here when students
ask why the US supports Israel, no matter what, without trying to limit the harm to

And it isn't just Israel. Egypt closes it borders to Gaza, also. Gaza is an island blockaded
by sea and roadways (I don't think there is an airport). There are few jobs in Gaza. Most
of the employment is in Israel. They are trapped and being used as hostages by all parties
who are trying to make political hay out of the whole thing. It is sad.

And, since I teach here I have students who did not know, from day to day, if their
grandparents were still alive.

So, students boycotted American made products. Coke and Pepsi for example. Then they
realized that Pepsi has a local bottling plant so they were potentially harming a local
business with local employees.

Thankfully the war ended for now, but it is still a powder keg with a conservative
government now in Israel which does not want a separate Palestinian state.

I have put Bush 43 down for many years, but one thing he refused to do was wonderful.
He refused to sell bunker busting bombs to Israel so they could take out the nuclear plant
in Iran.

Just this week (May 16-18th) Dar Al Hekma College hosted the first ever graphic design
conference held in Saudi Arabia. Our presenters included Terek Atrissi, a world famous
designer and typographer who even created the identity for the country of Qatar, Will and
Doug from Adbusters, Jonathan Barnbrook of Barnbrook Design in London. A designer,
typographer, connected to Adbusters. Mohammed Harib, animation director, designer,
known for development of FREEJ, a 3D animation of 4 Emeretic grandmothers in a
modern world. It is hysterical. You can buy it with English subtitles. Nadim Karam, a
Lebanese architect and sculptor who has work in Australia, the middle east and Japan.
Anja Lutz, a book designer, who developed "Shift". Teal Triggs, from Texas by way of
London, explores design criticism and is a professor graphic design.
The presenters gave workshops to students during the day and lectures to students and the
general public at night. It was fascinating and inspiring.

Teachers, after all, are the in-house staff of "moms" whose advice is often minimized.
When known designers say the same things, ears perk up. And, many of our presenters
were from the Middle East. They speak from the same heart and background as the

Many of our students would like to address greater issues. One of my students has been
floundering with loss of focus until she met the guys from Adbusters and say their
presentation. They discussed Digital Detox Day and the Don't Buy Anything Day. It
reminds me of Joellyn Rock's Take back your time day –

Quite a few students have told me this was a turning point in their education. It was
inspiring for me also, meeting people in person and talking to them about teaching and
design. I am currently designing a publication for Dar Al Hekma. My team worked to
create a bi-lingual logo. The one we currently have has been approved by the client, but I
asked Terek if he would look at it. He did, was excited to be asked, gave great feedback
and it is now ever better. Masha'allah.

On another note, if you haven't seen the movie Helvetica, watch it. Show it to your

So, I am tired, planning to rest most of the weekend and study Arabic. I am in a class. I
now recognize most of the alphabet, and read it with the same skill as a kindergardener. I
often have no idea when at I am saying. Vocabulary follows reading… weird way to
learn, but I can see it is working.

I will be heading back to the US July 12, spending some time with Jen before heading

I have been here nearly four years. I've watched the country grow, face itself and struggle
into a new future. One advantage of having a king is that things here can change more
quickly than a factionalized democracy. The current king, Abuddullah, is trying to push
the country into a newer way of thinking. He recently replaced many of the people in his
Council with more liberal individuals. He is trying to stop the child bride system still in
place here, has instituted a Council on Women's Rights and even appointed a woman to
his Council (for the first time).

The five economic zone cities he is building here will allow coeducational education,
movie theatres and women to drive (perhaps) in the city limits. One of these will contain
FAUST, a new science and technology university. It is 30 miles north of Jeddah. One of
the guys on our compound is designing the seaport there.

The last part of this is also recent: EARTHQUAKES. Yup. 4.9 and 5.6 on the richter
scale in NW Saudi. We didn't feel anything here, but I saw in the newspaper that last
month there were two small quakes in the area with extinct volcanoes. Knowing there is a
rift valley in the middle of the Red Sea, I wondered if the volcanoes were extinct or
dormant. Well, folks, the earthquake on May 20th, send villagers running into the streets.

Aerial photos of the area after the quakes show large cracks in the earth. Civil Defense
people have advised citizens to avoid breathing the gasses coming from some of the
fissures. Volcanic activity is beginning… whatever.

Wow. So, war, design conference, natural history making a new chapter…

S of A and A

Posted by at 9:44 AM

March 17, 2009

Saudilogue 41

Saudilogue 41

In an hour I go to the hospital for cataract surgery on my right eye. I am looking forward
to more balanced vision.

A rather humorous situation arose during one of my presurgical visits. As you know,
there are ladies sections everywhere because men and women are segregated. So, I
arrived for my appointment and sat in the ladies section. I am usually the only westerner
at this hospital… and I don’t cover my head, though I have a scarf with me if I need to do
so. Anyway, another couple ladies came into the area, saw me and decided to sit outside
in what usually is the men’s section. Then a guy showed up and had to chose whether he
should sit with the covered ladies or me.

So, now we’ve got a guy sitting in the women’s section and two women sitting in the
men’s section. A third lady showed up and was about to join me in the women’s section,
saw the guy, then backed out at looked at the wall to see if there was a sign.

About 15 minutes later, the guy was called by the nurse. Meanwhile the incoming men
and women had no idea where to sit. That’s the problem with over control, I guess..

I am on Hajj break. We are off until December 14. (It is now February 27. No wonder I
am getting are you alive e-mails from people.)

Back from surgery. Last time my eyesight in the bad eye was immediately much better.
This time the repaired eye is cloudy, but every hour is better.

As they were getting me ready for surgery, the staff asked where I was from. America,
says I. What about that Obama, they said. You bet, says I. Woo-Woo. Says I. They were
quite happy.

Except for Pakistanis who fear a US invasion under Obama, everyone else is quite happy
to have a change in administrations. I understand from talking to some folks in the US
that there is some kind of fear of Obama. Outside the US the joy is universal. It’s fun
being proud to be an American again. Really.

I’ve never been a raging patriot, but see that the US can be more of what many of us hope
it will be more of what it can be: equal opportunities, life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness (without driving over the top of other citizens.)

I bought some little lights and some decorations. Now all I want to get is either a palm
tree or Norway pine to decorate…

Christmas has come and gone. Same with New Years. Jake turned 22 and I turn 62
tomorrow.. 62. That’s a concept.

Here, the King appointed the first woman to one of his councils. A good move. And for
every step forward there is one backwards – when the Grand Mufti said it was just fine
for 10-12 year old girls to marry old men. My students were more upset than I was.

Our semester ended, finally. My director went to the States for a conference leaving me
as acting director for a week and a day. My signature is now permanently changed.
OMG I have never signed so many papers.

Over break I helped chaperone a trip to TAIF up in the mountains. It was beautiful and
very cold. Windy, too. There were cable cars. Ugh. I do not do cable cars or towers – just
ask my sister. So I gleefully stayed on top while the rest of them went off into the blue.

The girls sang most of the way from Jeddah to Taif. To me the interesting part was the
sharing of national anthems. I rather blew the Star Spangled banner, but received a round
of applause.

Been watching Obama’s first month. He’s sure trying hard. The Republicants (as my Dad
called them) haven’t said a positive thing about anything since he was elected, except the
three moderate Republicans who understand comprimise and that the tired old ideas
didn’t work.. Look what happened.

The winter (giggle) has been very nice. I haven’t spent much time on the patio of my new
villa because the mosquitos have been fierce.

Security is very tight as Saudi asked Interpol to help find 85 terrorists on the loose who
have threatened violence again foreigners in Yemen and the government of Saudi.
Nothing has happened, and God willing, it won’t.

I’ve made my flight arrangements for this summer – arriving in MPS on July 12. I’ll stay
with Jen for a few days, then drive home to Cloquet.

If I get my act in gear I will send some photos. The other exciting thing this week was
going to the Afghan souk. I bought some beautiful carpets and wall hangings. The
maintenance guys from the compound help put them up on the walls. I am very pleased,
but am sneezing a lot. I think from the dust. Pa-choo.

So, that’s is from the Middle East.

Hugs: S of A n A

Posted by at 8:58 AM

November 6, 2008

Saudilogue 40

Yup. 40. This is the start of my fourth year here.

As a service to you all, since I noticed while in the states that the national news there doesn’t carry much international news:
• Congo erupted in violence again – 250,000 refugees have fled the rebel area. The dispute is over an oil agreement negotiated with the Chinese. The rebels believe a better contract should be written.
• Flooding in Yemen, Gaza and now Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as all areas of have too much rain.
• Worst flooding in 20 years in Viet Name, particularly around Hanoi

Meanwhile, my flight to KSA was short to me, as I took too many sleeping pills on the plane. The first one didn’t seem to work, so I took another one. Slept like a rock until just before we landed. Sadly, I do not remember getting off the plane or riding the bus to the terminal. I tuned in just before customs. I’ll never do that again. Geez.

Here, we have had three days of rain – unheard of. The storms have consisted of lots of lightning, thunder and even some rain. Parts of southern Jeddah have lots of water standing on the roads from last night’s storm.

In fact, last night a group of us was at the Green Island, a wonderful restaurant built out over the Red Sea. We were seated outside when the first band of rain came through. The ladies wanted to wait out the rain, so we ate in a light shower… then it got heavier, so we moved into one of the rooms built over the water. All the windows were open, sea breeze. It was lovely… we watched an electrical storm come ashore from far off in the sea.

THEN… all of a sudden my body felt so weird. I mean weird. I was about to stand up or ask for help, when there were bright bursts of light behind me and three explosive sounds. The top of my scalp went wild. One of the others said the lightning hit just north along the sea from where we were sitting. I have never heard such a loud series of noises. The same lady said the lightning in Texas is the same way… So, my friend Craig, who has been hit by lightning a number of times can confirm if that was a very near miss…

This illuminating even followed Obama’s win in the election. I was so happy and so were my students. Other faculty and staff congratulated all of us Americans and expressed a deep relief that America will become, again, a positive force in the world. I’ve told you that our reputation abroad is horrible – the bully nation that attacks anyone with or without warning… memories of a kinder USA are out there…

….my own included.

Posted by at 9:50 AM

July 7, 2008

saudilogue 38

June 20

Gee – I didn’t realize nearly two months have transpired since my last communiqué.
Spring semester is nearly done. Classes have finished, grades are in and I still have
course files to make up for every class. Summer semester starts tomorrow.

I have started packing for a return to the US on July 20. A month from today Wow, time

Saw a cute sign across the street from the Hospital I use: a restaurant selling sandwiches
including: Humbergers. Yup. Humbergers. The musical sandwich. Funny.

There is a critical water shortage in Jeddah, so we are all doing our part to reduce water
consumption. Practice for when the same ordeal hits the US.

Seems like the world is physically falling apart. Course, we have a lot to play in some of
it. On the upside, I think the Gaza/Israeli truce is holding. That’s a good thing.

I was very distraught with all the wars and human catastrophes in the world recently.
Then this truce came from nowhere. Well, folks. It really is up to them. If they decide to
stop fighting, they will. Just as I have the choice to be vindictive or angry myself. My
choice. So, I hope they continue to choose peace. It will work.

We had our spring student exhibition during the first week of finals. It looked very good,
but was exhausting.

I am attaching a few photos. A couple are of the Red Sea Mall foundtain show. I did take
a long shot across the fountain to the main food court so you get get an idea of the size of
the place…. Since the food court is only a small part of the center court of the mall which
has 4 wings.

Also, I have taken photos of the color coded garbage containers, attending trucks, etc.
Am still trying to snap-poof a shot the workmen, portable bins and brooms. A package
deal, you know.

Tim Russert’s death is saddening. I am grateful that so many other people noticed how
special he was. How can we hold a national election without him. And what about his
son. I was really impressed with his presence.

So – that’s it for now.

Posted by at 4:26 PM

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

Posted by at 11:40 AM

December 3, 2007

saudi 34

Responding to questions about the "ceremony" for the wedding, there is none. What is
called the wedding is the feast, the celebration of the marriage.

The actual marriage takes place when the father of the bride meets with the groom and
his father and a maazoom, a muslim cleric. The papers are signed. It is a done deal.
Within Islam, the couple could start sleeping together. By Saudi tradition, they are
married, but cannot cohabitate or have sex until the wedding feast. The feast can follow
the paper signing immediately or be put off for years. If the couple decide to not have the
feast, they have to get a legal divorce. Sometimes there is an engagement party, but that
celebrates the soon to be signing of the paper or something like that.

I admit I kept waiting for the culminating moment when the crowd burst into applause.
Nope. Not a local custom. No one stood at a certain time. A great time was had by all!!!!

Another topic:
Someone told me recently that drinking diet soda causes brain damage. Other than the
fact that it rotting my teeth and adding unwanted weight, I had not heard about brain
damage. The broader view, however, proves that my memory (what’s that?) is getting
worse and worse.

This semester I have 80 new students. Egad. Remembering names and faces is so hard. I
wonder if the two are related.

Ironically, the head of the nursing school sent out a paper on improving their memories. I
noticed the first suggestion is to tell yourself to remember it. This is the exact opposite of
my telling myself – oh, crumb, I have to remember all of this.

Wednesday nite I went another dinner theatre. It was hysterical. A British comedy called
"Natural Causes" about an assisted suicide to be performed by a guy from "Exodus".
The meal was very nice. I was going to say quite nice, but my British friends tell me that
"quite good" means not very good.

Anyway, the play was very funny – black humor about death and dying. Hoho

Last night was Thanksgiving. I ordered three turkeys and made 4 loaves of bread worth
of stuffing. I was lots of fun. The rec room on the compound has really taken a beating
though from earlier parties and the compound kids who have treated it harshly. No fridge
anymore and the stove was horrible. It boiled on every setting… At least the gravy was
hot. Not as many people came as last year. One group had a "by invitation only"
Thanksgiving by the pool. Kinda weird,

The meal and the company were terrific. One guy works for Mazolla here in the Middle
East. He brought some presents for people – t-shirt, oil and mayo. First Thanksgiving
I’ve ever attended where there were gifts. I love the cultural mixes here.

Today, my legs ache and I am relieved that soup makers have the carcasses, extra turkey
doled out with a supply for my lunches next week.

The compound chicken
So, I noticed a chicken (live) panting under a tree a few weeks ago. It was not afraid of
me when I walked by. I asked another resident about said chicken. He didn’t know about
it either, except that some of the guys had designs on it. Later, I found out that one of the
assistant managers purchased two chickens. When he butchered the one, he saw a tear go
down the cheek of the other one, so he doesn’t have the heart to butcher it. It is now
named Coo-Coo. It follows his wife as she works about the compound and scratches at
the door if he isn’t out at his normal time to go to work.

The square dancing group put on a demonstration at another compound’s Tday dinner
yesterday afternoon – another reason the day was so hectic. That went well too. I sure do
enjoy square dancing. We have a new group of students who are learning very quicklcy.
One couple is from Minnesota.

School is very busy. There are the regular classes as well as accreditation papers with an
upcoming visit by U.S. officials. This is for U.S. accreditation. That has made classes
longer, so the workload is heavier. I am tired most of the time, but faculty 15 years
younger than I am complain about it, so I guess I’m not doin’ too bad.

November 30
Egad, I’ve been trying to get back to this without much luck.

I recently noticed that all the pick up trucks in Jeddah are white. White with detailing,
white with logos, but white none-the-less. Since I started trying to confirm this discovery,
I have seen a silver pickup with detailing around the box. Then I saw anothing silver one
with the same detailing. It could be the same truck.

A U.S. Congressional delegation was in Jeddah on Wednesday. They visited our school. I
met a very astute woman from John Conyers (D-Michigan) office. I was very proud of
the accomplishments listed in the presentation made about our college. We are making a
difference and will continue to do so.

Our dean said we will open the first driving school for women in S.A. The guys need to
learn how to drive, trust me.

The press is controlled here, but Saudi is making the news worldwide, thus I can keep up
by watching CNN, BBC and MSN. The 200 lashes case is now being discussed in local
media – which means someone has allowed it.

Quite a few of my students are very embarrassed that this has happened. A few thought
she must have done something (adultery) to get this punishment. One report said that she
staged a protest or wrote an open letter demanding that women drive. This means she is

The retired judge who appeared on one of the discussions must be a mutawa – no
headband and a long beard. He talked about protecting the marriage bed for the husband.
Some, he missed, that the marriage bed had already been destroyed by a gang rape. It
takes the pleasure out of being close. And then add 200 lashes (no back) and that further
diminishes the desire to be close to anyone.

Her lawyer is right – this case could help institute the changes in the legal system the
King wants. He has just established a council to protect women’s rights. Within Islam,
women have equal rights with men. It is local cultural traditions which put women in a
submissive, objective position. I have said it is over protection, in many cases. I still
believe that. Anyone who has been overprotected knows how awful that feels.

Anyway, because of the international media attention, I do hope the woman does not
have to serve a sentence or get 200 lashes. Lashing is common here, though. I don’t kow
if they have probation.

On a lighter note, music club has started again. There was a mob scene last week. I feel
overwhelmed. A good feeling though – knowing that the students who play are finding
each other – they can keep the club going.

S of A

Posted by at 5:02 PM

October 18, 2007

saudi 32

Aug 30, 2007

Hey, the world is full of little victories. I have another computer which successfully
allows me to use Skype without me sounding like a verizon commercial. There are still
some bugs to work out … and I can now listen to Minnesota Public Radio. Yippee.

So, I just finished listening to the local station that plays Arabic music and now listening
to something wonderfully baroque…. Life is good.

I’ve been here 10 days, square danced twice, scrabbled nearly every day. First day back I
was clobbered 915 to 556 (super scrabble, more tiles and quadruple score squares).

Customs went rather well. At first they complained about something when looking at my
passport so I thought they questioned my citizenship. No red ink, I finally understood. I
had filled out the form in red ink – a no no. I was told later it is a throwback to
communism. Once I filled out the form in black, it went very smoothly. I did receive
some minor scrapes and bumps in the line around the baggage claim machine.

I had to rework my office and I admit the first days back at work have been filled with
hugs and coffee. The main cafeteria is closed. We have a Coffee Bean (like starbucks) on
campus. The ladies came in to get set up for the start of school, but they made the mistake
of leaving there door unlocked. A small herd of us walked in and the marketing teacher in
the herd convinced them to open since we were thirsty and starving. So, the first day
there were some kinds of coffee and the ladies who work there haven’t spoken English in
two months. The most challenging part of the first week at work was communicating
with the Coffee Bean staff. But one must understand when there is a will there is a
way… and when humans decide there is mutual trust it is even better. So, I paid for
breakfast (for 2 of us) with a 50 riyal bill; the lady had no change. So she wrote 16 on a
piece of paper. Later in the day I went down for another coffee and something, and paid
for it with a piece of paper with 16 written on it along with some more cash.

I look forward to seeing some students next week. We are registering freshmen next
week as well. I hope they will let us cap enrollment at 40 – no more than 50. We are still
short faculty – so any MA or MFA female is interested, let me know.

The world is an amazing place. When I came back to the US, the first new thing I saw
was Coke Plus. What’s that? Coke with vitamins and minterals. An oxymoron if you ask
me. Her a company is making a sorbet, either raspberry, lemon/lime or mango. Oooooo
are they good. The company name is Miranda (I think). I did find flavored water in the
US that was not carbonated and sugar free. I hope to find it here, too, so I will be
encouraged to quit diet Pepsi. Pepsi, by the way, is a much bigger brand here than Coke.

My dishwasher died while I was gone. They brought in another one from an empty villa.
The guys hooked it up and within minutes they were shutting it down and running for the
mop. So, #2 was hauled out. Good that I got used to handwashing dishes in the States. No
choice, as my dishwasher died just after I came to Saudi Arabia in 2005.

Oh – a new restaurant opened a couple weeks ago: UNO Chicago Grill. I guess it is
American chain, but it is very good. One of the desserts is beyond brilliant – a chocolate
/peanut butter filling on an oreo cookie crust with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, covered
with chocolate and peanut butter sauces… ooooooooooooooo.

They also have the first pizza "pie" I’ve had since I left Kansas City in 1968. It is more
like a pie shell filled with the topping and cheese. Yum.

Recognizing that I am back in the land of carbs and great food, I have walked the track
once (sort of), danced twice and gone swimming.

Swimming – there I admit I am spoiled. I have always like warm water – a bit of a wuss
when it comes to cold water. I don’t like the adjustment period. The pool water is hot. It
would kill yeast. I thrive in that kind of water….

Otherwise, the world is good. The Kings Abdullah continue to press for peace and
understanding in the Middle East.

Sept 7

Friday. School begins tomorrow. Most of the freshman still haven’t registered yet.. I
expect next week to be a bit zooey…

Did I ever tell you that potato chips are in the ethnic food aisle of the super market?

The stores are preparing for Ramadan – a month long celebration. No one eats or drinks
between sunrise and sunset. It marks the month that the Archangel Gabriel started
dictating the Koran to Mohamed. (The Prophet)

There is a special colorful cloth that merchants use to decorate the entrances of their
stores. May stores hold drawings for gifts. One store is raffling off a Mercedes. This is a
time of generosity also. As Eid (the end of fasting approaches) merchants pile bags of
rice on the corners of streets for the poor to take.

This time I did not have visa trouble getting in, nor did Ms. K, the one who usually has
visa trouble. But, for those getting work visas this year, a last minute form has faculty
stranded in Canada, Jorden and Godknows where else.

Again, good see everyone this summer.

S of a

Posted by at 2:04 PM

January 16, 2007

Saudi 30

December 27, 2006

Hope you all had a great Christmas. I bought myself a 12-string guitar and a computer
Scrabble game. I do not have any plans for New Year’s Eve.

Once I told you there were no privately owned airplanes in Saudi… I was wrong. There
are no SMALL privately owned airplanes here, but there are a lot of privately owned
747s set up with dance floors, business center, wow.

It is Friday with Saddam heading to the gallows, perhaps as early as today. I know the
guy killed lots of people, but it has an eerie feel to it. No sitting on death row for 14 years
for him. And, sounds like it will spawn more violence. More violence.

January 1.

Saddam is gone. It is very sad that those who executed him chose to take the lower road
by heckling him as they got ready to kill him. Don’t think any of this will end until
people realize that more blood won’t solve anything.

Hey – on a brighter note, did I even tell you that the ads on TV here usually are not about
products? Nope. Programming announcements, previews of movies on other channels.
There are a few. Some are really excellent – on empowering women (a
commercial) and AID/HIV alerts. Mercedes Benz has a short one about their armored

Other ads suggest traveling to other countries: Armenia, Croatia, Malta,Egypt, India,
Hong Kong, Singapore and some African countries. Other advertisers want people to
invest in countries. Nigeria and Poland for instance. The Kuwait Fund boasts investment
in African countries which are helping pull Africa out of poverty.

January 2, 2007
Well, whoever allowed partisan Shiites to participate in the execution goofed. Apparently
the executioners danced around the body. Not good.

I was quite disturbed while watching a BBC end of the year/next year discussion group.
Two panelists were adamant that Saudi Arabia is a very negative influence in the region.
One accused it, again, of state sponsored terrorism and being the source of Al Qaeda.
The government here goes to great extremes to find Al Quaeda people and though there
maybe individuals who contribute to that cause, I’m sure, if caught, they are stopped. Bin
Laden wants to over throw the royal family and install a fundamentalist Islamic
government.. There may be conservatives here who want that, but no one I know. Jeddah
is a more liberal city. The King wants to modernize some of the policies here. Dar Al
Hekma could not exist under a fundamentalist regime.

I’ve only been here 16 months. That doesn’t make me a middle east expert… I know that.
But, Saudi Arabia is not the evil country some people try to make it and neither are the
Saudi people. Dunno. Lots of sabre rattling. Doesn’t help that the King did say they
would support Sunnis in Iraq. Since Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US, that is seen as a
viable threat. It is true the Saudi government does not want to have a Shiite country (with
the Sunnis having been eradicated) being on a Northern border. The Saudis fear that
country with the help of Iran would invade Saudi Arabia.

If the current government in Iraq wants to unify the country, the PM is going about it the
wrong way.

So, 2007 is here. Somehow we made it into another year. Oh – one of my students
created a newsletter (the actual assignment for Editorial and Book Design, they could
pick their own topics) on war – keeping score on all the conflicts around the world. The
tagline is: War Watchers.

S of A

Posted by at 9:23 AM

December 15, 2006

photo 'abayas in souk'

Posted by at 10:34 AM

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

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

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.


Posted by at 10:20 AM

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

Posted by at 7:43 AM

November 13, 2006

Saudilogue 27

I went to a Halloween party here last night. It was a costume party and I was surprised at the variety of costumes considering that you cannot buy adult costumes in Jeddah. Toys R Us has kids stuff. There were a few more belly dancers than one might expect in the states. One of the ladies at our table had an axe in her head (plastic, only plastic) and a rubber knife in her stomach. She gave up on the long nails part way through dinner. Nails were too long to enable eating. It was a charity affair. The funds raised pay the tuition for 14 –18 non-Saudi kids in Jeddah so they can go to school.

I thought it might rain in the last two days. Skies were very cloudy and the wind was brisk. A few drops may have fallen or I could have imagined that. However, no storm or thunderstorm. Crumb.

I notice that Ramadan is blamed for the violence in Iraq. That is like blaming violence on Christmas. A truce by warring factional parties in Iraq was signed here in Mecca just before Eid (the celebration of the end of Ramadan), King Abdullah has been trying to bring the fighting to an end, as he is not only the King of Saudi Arabia, but the Protector of the Two Mosques (Mecca and Medina), so he feels obligated to try to settle the 1000 year old rift in Islam.

In some ways the rift is much like the Reformation in Christianity.

Then there is the furor over veils. This has been quite interesting to watch. Though the abayas are not really a sign of chatteldom, some women here do not like wearing them, or have made them fashion statements. I saw a woman wearing a beautiful burgundy abaya in a grocery store yesterday.

Also, during Ramadan stores do not open until 9:00 at night, I have not done any major shopping for a very long time and not been to Balad since I returned to Saudi. So, for those of you who gave me money to purchase abayas or blouses, as the weather cools I will head off to Balad to make those purchases and well as see if there is a reasonably priced way of getting these goodies to you before I return next August. Keep the faith. I have not forgotten about you.

S of A

Sunday morning school started with a bang. Thunder that is – lightning. It was so cool. I awoke in the middle of the night to the sights and sounds of a thunderstorm. Then next morning it was still raining. I have had my first experience with a storm in the desert.
The temperature dropped to 70F, the coldest daytime temperature since I arrived.

Remember, Jeddah does not have any storm sewers, so the water backs up quickly. Streets were flooded, traffic slowed to a crawl. We left the compound at 7:10, heading for school. It took nearly two hours to travel the distance normally covered in 35 minutes. The Ring Road was a sight! The road was dry, but half the town decided to try it so there were six lanes of southbound traffic (both shoulders were traffic ladened) plus another three lanes on the sand. Cars were going under the underpasses on the upward slope of the structure. Nine lanes had to merge into four so we could then merge with another three coming in from another freeway. Eventually we made it off the Ring Road to a major thoroughfare. The water was over the curb and still rising. We talked about a video camera on the bus. At the next intersection, five men, two of them cops, tried to direct traffic approaching the intersection correctly, as well as those driving the wrong way on a one way street hoping to miss some of the congestion.

Finally made it to school, only to have classes cancelled at 10:30 because of the rain and that very few students made it. Stalled cars. Hydroplaning Pepsi trucks – you name it. Most of the men wear thobes (the long white robes), so they were walking along the streets holding up their thobes.

I now know how much water needs to amass outside my villa door to avoid a long drive for nothing. It has been an amazing experience.

One of the ladies on the bus said that a bad storm was coming. Bad storm? What is this, I asked. It has rained. Oh, says I. The advertised storm did not appear.

If it has been a sandstorm, though, I understand they do shut everything down because no one can see.

Meanwhile, I am getting better at square dancing. This is like a class somehow and by the end of the year I will have some kind of name tag that indicates I am some kind of recognized square dancer and can dance with any group in the world. Okay. I will be part of the Red Sea Squares.

S of a

Posted by at 10:26 AM

October 10, 2006

Saudilogue 26

Saudilogue 26

Wednesday (Humda’allah) (thank God).

First, let me say how much I enjoyed being with all of you during holiday. I did not lose
an ounce, but ohhhh the food was so good. See you again next year – really I will.

So during my marathon drive around Jeddah that first night back, we were passed by a
goldenrod Dodge Viper and then found ourselves behind a Porsche SUV. Porsche SUV?
For those who asked, I have been looking again at the car dealerships we pass on the way
home from school: FAST MOTORS, they carry Ferrari, Mazerati. Another outfit carried
Lamborghinis. There are BMW, Citroen, Astin Martin, Lexus of all type, caddies. I saw a
Margane (something like that) parked in the compound. Mgs, Corvette, Lincoln Town
cars. Ducati. I’ll look again on the way home tonight… Jaguar, Mercedes (lots of them). I
saw at least three Mercedes dealerships on the way home. Probably all owned by the
same dude, but three none the less. KIAs even, for the appliance shoppers and Honda.
Mitsubishi, Hyndai. On the streets the really fast cars are hard to identify because they
zoom by so quickly. The guy who took me home from the airport said that his Dad had a
Viper, but totaled it in a really bad accident. Ououououououou, poor car. I like them,
actually. Oh, and Jim, how could I forget – Audi! Jeep for my sister. Oh, and those little

Ramadan has started and the number of traffic accidents has gone ballistic. Some of these
are very severe. Hope everyone’s okay.

The square-dancing was a kick. Night one was the first lesson. It took me back to
elementary school when square dancing was part of phys ed. Again, folks from all over
the world. I have learned some Arabian dancing and Scottish steps since I got here. A
whole crew of South Africans were also first timers. Everyone is going back for another
shot at it. I ran into more Americans there than I have in one place since I got here. That
was rather nice. Couple folks from the Midwest.

I confess I am a bit more homesick this time coming here. I already know the routine, so
coming back held few surprises. Today, however, was one of those days my daughter
cheers about. Per centage 80/20 today…. (that is 80 – come back/ 20 stay here next year.
Haven’t had too many days like this really in all the time I have spent here.

Considering that state of the world, that’s really pretty good. 70/30

There is an IFTAR on the compound tonight. Iftar is the break-fast held every night at
sundown during Ramadan. Since I am picking a colleague up at the airport HEY, that
means we finally have a full staff!!!!!!!!, I will, alas, miss it, unless it is still going by the
time we get back.

Hope all is well with everyone. More later.

Now a week later. My colleague arrived. Went through hopping heck to get a ride to pick
her up when other entities would not do it – but when I got there, someone from the
school was already there. This is a good thing, though I was really ticked. Cosmically, the
camel who is a regular at Wednesday nite, transmitted sanity vibes and after a hefty Step
2, I felt much better the next day.

We have some wonderful new staff members. This has nearly eliminated the bus
squabbles. Hurray.

Maggie found two more folks interested in playing bridge, so we now have a Tuesday
nite bridge game on the compound. That is so nice because even though it is easier to get
to square dancing on Monday nites (one of the square dancers is a guy on the compound
is in the group and he has a car), it is great to have something local.

One of the newbees is trying to arrange taibo lessons for us – also on the compound. I am
still trying to wrap my head around that one. Kick boxing? Jake tells me I should pursue a
form of exercise that I will actually use longer term. Taibo. Dunno. I might need more
than a surrogate camel for that one.

Gotta trot.

S of A

Hiho-Ramadan break going well. Basking by the pool, putting together classes.

I saw the ultimate electronic devise in a new store today. Watani is another superstore.
Football fields in size – everything you can image. So, I saw a small oven (about the size
of a microwave, perhaps a touch larger, with a three burner hot plate on top and FOR NO
EXTRA CHARGE – a mini ironing board. All packaged together. Amazing.

One of the swimming pools sprung a leak, so it is being torn up for repairs.

Bridge is going well. My partner (new to the game) refuses to pull trump right away. If
he was partnered with my late father, he would be a late bridge player. I confess I have
gotten very irritated with this, but we is doing it his way. Some folks learn the hard way –
I sure have.

I had a gecko in the bedroom for a long time. Named it Harvey. Last night is was on the
wall such that I could catch it with soft lid and a piece of stale flat bread. (Don’t ask)
With some success I moved the slightly beat up gecko (scrap the stale bread) outside.
Said a little prayer that the little guy survived the ordeal. This morning the gecko and the
flat bread were gone. I assume cats ate the flatbread.

The cat population seems to be regulating itself through inbreeding and feline leukemia.
There is another cat disease which seems to attack eyes.

One of the compound dogs is gone, so the evenings are quiet. As always, except for
howling cats (on occasion).

Keep the faith!

Posted by at 10:28 AM

September 28, 2006

Saudilogue 25

September 11, 2006

Well, I’ve made it as far as Frankfurt on my way to Jeddah. We were stacked over O’Hare for 20 minutes on stage one. Stage two (Chgo-Frankfurt) we left l hour late because two people didn’t show up, but their luggage had been loaded, so they had to unload it. I had my first experience with a 747-400. The flight was very smooth, but the plane was very hot – either that or I had continuous hot flashes all across the Atlantic. We arrived a tad late, but I can attest to dinner being quite a nice meal. Breakfast was a sandwich with a twix bar.

The problems began when I decided to get a diet pepsi or coke. I accidentally left the area where I arrived and where my Jeddah departure gate are. I couldn’t get back without a security check. And the security ports didn’t open until 8:00 am. I would have to wait in a line for a half hour before it opened. So, I wandered off looking for a coke. Found it, but then couldn’t find a place to sit down. So, I went to another gate just to sit and drink the pop. Being very spacy because I did not get any sleep the night before I left and haven’t slept yet due to a) a crying child on the plane again and b) I still haven’t mastered sleeping on a plane.

Sooo, I realize I had lost my jacket. Went back to the gate where I drank the coke, found my jacket there. Okay. Then tried to go through security check so I could go back to my gate. Well, they won’t let me go through until 11:00 am. It is 8:20 am. Finally found a non-gate on the shaded side of the terminal so I can sit, write this and try to keep myself together. I am so tired. I am trying to stay up until 9:00 tonight because I have to go to work tomorrow and advise students on which classes to take…. A dangerous thing, if you ask me.

I sure enjoyed being back In Cloquet with family and my family of friends. I gained weight, ate at least six meals at the Mexican Restaurant … I love you all.

So, as the clock SLOWLY ticks, I have just one leg left on the journey back to D-2. Supposedly one of the college drivers will be there to pick me up.

Sept 23, 2006

Well, no one was there from the college to pick me up. This was discouraging as I was tired and resembled toast by the time I got here. I didn’t have enough cash to get me home with a taxi and was hesitant to do so because the compound is small. My mobile phone wouldn’t work so, at last, a young man who worked at the airport took me home. He thought he knew where I lived, but it became quite obvious he didn’t. I told him if he could find Prince Sultan street, I could find my way home from there. So, after flying all day all night maryann, we drove around Jeddah for another hour and 45 minutes until at last I was home. Wow.

Went to work the next day thinking I could at least pull classes together. I always late at that somehow, only to find that I had to move to a new office immediately. Thankfully, I have my trust powerbook. It functioned nicely in the new office until the mac my old roomie and I shared, came into my new office. Phone worked after a couple days.

I ended up helping with registration, which was a learning experience. On the first day of classes, the only fulltime faculty members on campus were the new lady from Poland via Canada, and me. Newbie to senior staff in one year.

The program is enormously popular. We all were overwhelmed by the number of new freshmen. We need more faculty pretty darn soon.

So, I am back. Have joined a Monday night square dancing group and already played quite a bit of scrabble. Maggie has me signed up for bridge, too. Nice to have things to do besides school.

I do admit that all the plans I had for this weekend were put on hold by the Ryder Cup.

So, keep the faith.

S of a

And happy Ramadan!

Posted by at 4:55 PM

July 17, 2006

Saudilogue 24

I think I started this before and can’t find it. It is July 15th. I leave for the states on the 27th = wow, 12 days from now.

The conflict north of here is very sad and very out of control. I am not afraid for me, but I now have friends all over the area. Huda went home to Beruit. My dentist is in either Gaza or the West Bank. A colleague planned a wedding in Beirut for July 26th. So much for that. My office mate is from Lebanon but I think she’s in Canada right now. Another colleague is from Lebanon but is in Brazil right now.

On the local front – 4 more days of classes, turn in grades, process the clearance forms so I can get paid, then head home.

The construction north of the compound, it turns out, is not just for any princess, but rather the widow of King Fahd. Or so I’m told. We’ve been thinking that when she moves in, we should do the neighborly thing and take over warm rolls.

I have one more trip to Balad, the major souk in the old city before I come home. Goodies. Sandy’s sleigh.

I look forward to seeing lots of friends and family. My garden probably needs major attention. I really look forward to meetings as I am getting very fuzzy around the edges.

I have taken more photos of Jeddah and the statuary. I am giving a talk at the VDIL on August 1st inshallah on teaching graphic design in Saudi Arabia. Amazing Saudi sweets will be served. Yum.

So, hang in there. I will do the same. See everyone soon.


Posted by at 9:09 AM

July 6, 2006

Saudi 23

June 2, 2006

Friday afternoon. Tis hot and humid… low hundreds…

Two nights ago I attended another dinner playhouse event. The play was called Bouncers – a British play about pubs, drunkenness and sexuality. The thick British accents and pub slang made it difficult to follow and some of what I did understand was disgusting, taking me back to the not-so-good old days, as they say. The ladies sitting next to me were appalled and my friends David and Maggie were less than enthusiastic.

I went to bed feeling yucky. Then I thanked HP for the best meeting with multi-drunkalogs. A great reminder.

The next night I went back to the same compound for a Scottish Kalee (misspelled). The food was stupendous and the dancing was wild. There were Scottish dances to learn (sorta did that) and then regular rock and roll. I realize I have done more dancing since I came here than I have in the past 25 years. If I did the dancing thing every night without taking in so much rich food, I would tone up and lose weight. Oh well.

The biggest part of the evening was real you know what. So, I was very glad to have seen the play the previous evening. I told one fellow who kept offering me liquid refreshment that if I did that I would re-act the previous night’s play. He laughed, but I was dead serious.

The westernern/whitish expat community in Jeddah is very small. When going to one of these events, one sees all white faces. I think only one or two of us is American. Most are Brits, South Africans, Irish, New Zealanders and Australians. It seems so foreign to me because the environment I live and work in is so different. But, after a while, I begin to recognize familiar faces, even if I don’t know who they are.

When I first moved to Northern Minnesota I wondered where everyone went. Chicago is multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Where were the Hari Krishna people? Everyone was white with blond hair… gee.

I was pleased to learn that Saudi Arabia is also blessed with great mineral wealth which has never been developed. They are starting to do that now as oil’s future dims.

Saturday night I am one of the jurors in a photography competition at the Saudi Natural History Society – which has also been an interesting group.

Almost July 1at.
Just watched Germany defeat Argentina in the world cup.

Spring semester is concluded and summer classes 25% done. This is my first experience with the expat year end. Of the four of us who came over this fall, one is already gone and another chose not to stay for next year. Of the 4 who were here (Americans, this is) when we got here, one is already gone, two are leaving, with only one coming back next year. The compound is clearing out. One family of South Africans moved to Dubai yesterday. My Scrabble buddies are gone until fall. Quite a few of the other ladies who worked on staff are gone, also, so the compound is getting very quiet. A few new people have moved in, including the family from Scotland I met through these Saudilogues. So everyday someone leaves. It is kinda sad. Some I won’t see again and others it is just summer holiday.

My friend Maggie says that here we learn how to make friends fast because often you don’t see people again or since time is limited, one must develop the ability to decide who will be good friends and who won’t very fast.

With Spring semester done and summer underway, I spent quite a bit of time bobbing about the pool without feeling guilty. I’ve started packing myself for the journey to the US – to happen July 27.

Politically, I am distressed that Israel has launched such a severe reprisal against the Palastinians in order to secure the release of the kidnapped soldier. 10 to 1 the guy is already dead. But blowing bridges and the only power plant negatively impacts millions of people who are already undernourished. Even CNN Hong Kong talks about the hospitals in Gaza which have no medicine. Just like Basra in Iraq. There is no money to rebuild the bridges or the power plant. The headlines in one of the English speaking Saudi newspapers was: Crimes against Humanity. War never solves anything. This is very sad. All this does is polarize the area even more.

So, I’ll see y’all soon.

My daughter is planning a party for August 12th at her Dad’s place in Moose Lake. It is a combination graduation party for her and a hello and maybe good by party for me. Let me know if you want to come.

S of A

Posted by at 11:30 AM

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

Posted by at 3:08 PM

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

March 6, 2006

Saudilogue 18

February 22, 2006

When I first sent these Saudilogues I thought I was sending them only to friends and
colleagues. The VDIL started posting them on their website and again, I figured that the
only people who would read them were curious folks at UMD. Guess what. If you do a
google search for ice-skating in Jeddah, my comments about ice-skating in Jeddah appear
very near the top of the responses.

I have heard from a new administration member at Effat College, the other private
womenÕs college in Jeddah. The VDIL staff let me know I had a response to one of the
Saudilogues. Recently, the new manager of the New New Sawari mall I spoke of earlier
contacted me. He isnÕt even here yet ? will arrive next week. The audience for these
ramblings is much wider than I thoughtÉ blush. I should at least put these things through
spell-check. (I know, I should have done that anyway.)

The first week of classes is over, thankfully. It is a non-week. Most students cut the first
week, which leaves the professor with a pile of syllabi staring at mostly empty seats. I
feel for the student (note singular form) who actually shows up and is face to face with
me for an awkward ten minutesÉ both of us hoping someone else will show up. Oh well.

Heavy load this semester. Six classes. Art of the Poster, 2 sections of Symbols and
Trademarks, Drawing, Editorial and Book Design, And Basic Design. Whew. Still donÕt
teach on Wednesdays, so that is a good time to grade and prepare for classes. Everyone
has a heavy load because one teacher, as I said earlier, left.

There are rumors that bird flu is in Saudi Arabia, but nothing official yet. Just in case lots
of people here have quit eating chicken.

A group of us were eating at a mall this week. A mosquito flew into the hamburger that
one of the women, who is a devout Muslim, was eating. She put down the burger and said
"hallas" meaning finished. We asked why ? the mosquito had contaminated the food. The
mosquito had already flown off, but the damage was done. We asked if she could break
off the part around the area where the mosquito landed and she said no. Most of the
dietary requirements in Islam come from the Quran. Like the Bible, these codes protect
people from diseases experienced thousands of years ago and even today of food is not
prepared correctly. The 5 second rule (if you grab it off the floor in less than 5 seconds,
the food is not contaminated) is not applicable in Islam.

Feb 24
ItÕs getting hot. One of the compound folks said summer has startedÉ a bit early.
Winter,, in my mind lasted 4 or 5 days ? when the temps were in the mid to upper 70s.
Sigh. It felt hot, but I must be adjusting. I figured mid 80s and it is 93.

Classes start for real this week. I am looking forward to it.
And I fear a civil war in Iraq and that it could lead to inter-Islamic wars anywhere that
Suni and Shiite Muslims live. If a person thinks the street riots were bad regarding the
cartoons, that is nothing compared to destroying that mosque in Samara. It will be
interesting to see the reactions on campus tomorrow.

For anyone quick to point a condescending finger at the Moslems, please consider
Northern Ireland before making any negative judgments. There is enough blame to go
around here. One thought is that Alkawi his Al Queda network did this. Seems that if that
were true, more Moslems would turn against the Al Queda movement. Never know.

Food: Ate at a wonderful Turkish restaurant last night. We ordered lots of food, thought
the bill was wrong because it was too low (87SR or $23?) and took a doggie bad (here it
is call takeaway) for our cab driver Mr. Khan to munch on during the night. If I havenÕt
mentioned it, a very common tasty drink here is green tea with mint. Fresh mint. So, pour
hot water on said Green Tea bag and add 3-5 mint leaves. Yummy.

March something.
February 28 was my birthday. A student in my first class that day gave me a CD mix of
her favorite songs. Between that class and the next a larger group of students burst into
song (happy birthday to you), gave me two brownies and a small chocolate cheesecake.
We divided it all, had a great quick snack and went into the next class. Still had some
brownie left, so I gave it to some other students.

We had an emergency faculty meeting later that day. Cake appeared for that, also. Went
to a mall that night ? had dinner with friends and topped off the evening with scrabble
with Maggie and David. A very nice birthday. Received greetings from friends in the
states, an ecard from Jen and another from Angelo and Gretchen. Nice day.

Classes have switched quite a bit since the beginning of the semester. The enrollment in
graphic design is ballooning. I remember those days at UMD. Though it is great seeing
the program grow, I hope recruitment efforts at CAA were successful.

Had a baby shower for one of the ladies whose baby is due March 8. Any day now, as
they say.

Went to a party given by two Indian faculty members. It was awesome. This morning I
remembered one of the major differences between Western and Middle Eastern/Asian
partiesÉ Here there is talking and snacks and dancing which can go on for hours. Once
the meal is announced, everyone eats and then goes home rather quickly.

In the West we tend to visit, eat quickly, then talk, dance and play games with desert
later. Not here.

Parties like the one last night, were women only. And the dancing was just great. I am
trying to learn how to dance in an Arabian fashion. So far I look like a stuck tippy doll.
Try moving your hips without moving anything else. Course, if I ever figured this out, I
could probably lose a lot of weight.

Started Arabic classes tonight. One of the women from school is teaching us. She is a
special education teacher and that is very important with three older ladies trying to learn
such a complicated language. I figured we would just learn conversational Arabic. Nope.
Started with the alphabet. If nothing else all the signs on the say to work will make more
sense even if I donÕt know what they say, I can identify how to read them. (In timeÉ.)

She is very patient. I still have a great blank look when I have no clue what is going on.
Many of the letters sound the same to me, but IÕm sure the fog will lift here pretty soon.

Back to work tomorrow, but wanted to say a quick hi.


S of a

Posted by at 1:08 PM

January 10, 2006

Saudi 15

Saudi 15
Nov 27

It has definitely gotten a bit cooler. All the trees are flowering and the cactus, too. (Photos will follow.) Here it gets too hot to bloom.

The mosquitos are very small. You can’t feel them bite, but the bites do itch. They leave me alone, perhaps because anatomically I have very thick skin. I have been told by surgeons over the years, that my hide is hard to hack into, perhaps that’s why the mosquitos leave me pretty much alone. Obviously, my skin emotionally is quite thin, though it has slowly thickened a very little bit.

It’s midterms at school. It is scheduled for midterms. I wrote midterms and am prepared to given written midterms. All the UMD faculty on this distribution list are saying “duh?. The students told me they have never taken a written midterm in an art class, except maybe art history, ever. So, I asked my department head today about it. She confirmed it. But, I am sure they will do well. I have given them a sample test. Spent two days reviewing all the information I discussed which might be one the test and will give the first of their kinds written tests at Dar Al-Hekma in art/design.

I learned more today about the issue of women driving. In order to allow women to drive, the police force must expand to include policewomen. A male cop could not give a female driver a ticket. He could pull her over, but they would have to wait for the female cop to arrive to issue the citation.

We also talked about conducting usability tests in the malls around here and some of the problems which might occur. I was overly sensitive to some and completely ignorant of others. Big surprise. If just young women were conducting this they would be swarmed by young men. I think I told you about Kiki’s field trip to the Corniche for sculpture viewing. If I didn’t let me know. So, I could see this could cause a very big problem.

The students in my typography class want me to meet them at a mall in Jeddah so we can eat – they can introduce me to more local foods.

Dec. 20, nearly a month later. Much has happened.

First, I have been quite sick. Just after Thanksgiving I thought I had a lower intestinal bug. Kinda like getting ready for a colonscopy – only it didn’t stop. So, after two days of this one of the other faculty members in the compound said she would take me to the ER. I have now experienced an emergency room in Saudi Arabia. As you all gasp, this was a wonderful experience – seriously. I was immediately attended to – they started an IV because I was dehydrated. That went in rather fast, so they gave me another one. Here, the doctors insert the IV lines. The nurses clean up the mess. Margaret said blood spurted all over the place. I was pretty limp and didn’t care. Anyway, I received an IV antibiotic and mild pain killer for the headache. Tests came back (stool sample folks) – bacterial dysentery. Ooooo. This puppy wasn’t going away.

Doctor sent me home with a pile of drugs, a diet: rice, potatoes, toast, apples, tea and water. He strongly suggested some prayer. He specified Egyptian rice – not just because he is Egyptian, he said, but because it is very high in starch. So, I missed three days of work – unheard of for me… and probably should have stayed home another day. Though it has been a couple weeks, I still am weak. I finally added peanuts and meat and some milk to my diet for the protein. One interesting note is that NO TIME during my stay did anyone ask if I was allergic to any medications. Not once. And when they started giving me the IV I was quite interested in what they were giving me, since I am allergic to so many meds.

There is some humor to this. Remember this is Saudi Arabia, so when I left my ER bed to go to the can, I had to drape my abaya over my shoulders because of the IV holder. And, Jeddah, city of 3 million people --- would you believe that a student was at the ER to visit her Dad, saw Margaret who said I was in the ER. Before I left the ER many students already knew I was very sick. You can’t get away with a thing, I tell you.

My return to school was amazing. Hordes of students greeted me with hugs and concern. They are either the best brown-nosers in the world, or one bunch of caring souls. I vote for the latter.

During my typography class one of the students reported that she had to go the ER the night before because the computer file for the project she was making for me, died without a back up. She was so upset, she couldn’t stop crying and breathing too hard. They gave her an IV, too, so we compared IV marks. They give Ivs here for nearly everything – lots of saline….

And the students are very emotional and quite expressive. It is quite a trip.

We have organized a Christmas potluck dinner at Kates for Christmas night with a gift exchange. Should be nice, but we’re really gunna be tired the next day. The school kindly gave us Christmas day off, but it is nearing the end of the semester and I am still trying to catch up from being sick, so I’m working anyway.

We are having a faculty art exhibition. This is a ridiculous thing, folks. It only last ONE DAY – with invitations that are just ready now and posters that were just printed. You must remember the mail doesn’t work here very well, so drivers take invitations to people…. The show is Christmas eve. I wonder what our director was thinking. Because of events scheduled at the college,, we have to go in on Friday (the weekend) to hang the show which will be up Saturday with the opening and closing that NIGHT from 7-10 pm. Bus back to the compound, work the next day and then do Christmas. Yawn. Am tired thinking about it. (Having worked all day Saturday, mind you…)

Probably lots has otherwise happened. I am just not on top of it.

Looks like my trip to Egypt will really happen. Thank you BJ for being so flexible. Because I am still on a visitors visa, I have to get a new one in Cairo. This presented huge logistical problems, which have been resolved. Like I said.. thanks BJ

So, Keep the faith

Watch out for contaminated water and bear this in mind: if you are constantly going to the bathroom and your bones = get that BONES ache – it could be dysentery.k

Still alive and nearly kicking,
S of a

Posted by at 1:56 PM

December 12, 2005

Saudi 14

November 22, 2005 (this is rather a long one)

School has been in session for nearly two weeks. I have much to report. Though I should
take notes on this rather than trying to remember it.

Oh- construction workers here do not wear hard hats. They wear their muslim head gear.
Sometimes they don’t wear shoes or just wear the sandals that everyone wears.

The quiet still amazes me. There are no trains, sirens, no dogs barking – just large jets
coming into the international airport and some fighting cats.

Cats. There are so many cats now that even the cat lovers are asking the staff to catch
some of them for the fish market. Mr. Dong, one of the managers, assured me they really
do go to the fish market – it is why they live trap them.

I have a new friend from the Jedda Prep compound which adjoins ours. A bunch of us
were playing Boggle – I had to run home for the timer, which I had forgotten. Between
his place and mine there were 6 cats in his compound – 1 only in mine. Dashing back
moments later, there were no apparent cats in Conty Village and 11 in Jedda Prep. We’re
talking less that two city blocks. Tonight Heidi and Kiki asked if I wanted to go to the vet
with them; Heidi’s cat needed another shot. They had her cat in a carrier and another 6 or
7 hissing fighting cats around their feet. No, says I. They left with their herd of cats.

Some of them are feral, all of them are hungry for both food and attention. Drives me
nuts. They are not very well taken care of. The idea is for them to eat mice and rats, but
they would rather be fed by locals and raid the garbage. I think I said that before. And
cats are all over town.

It is very good to be back at work. Classes are wonderful and students continue to be a
delight. One young lady told me just before Ramadan that she knew she was doing
horribly in my class and that she had already failed intro to graphic design once already.
She looked at me with deep sad eyes and said. "I’m a loser." Followed by a soft smile.
No you are not, says I. "I hate design, I’m not creative…." A couple of days later she
wandered into one of the Basic Design classes I teach. She knows some of the students
and for some reason I end up with a few floaters from time to time. Well, she really got
into the project we were doing. Made some great suggestions and was all over the

Next time she was in Intro, I told her she was creative, she could do it, I had seen this in
the Basic Design class. Well,…. She said. So, I saw her just before Ramadan Break. I
wrote LOSER on a piece of paper and told her to burn it over break. Okay, she smiled.

Attitude is everything, as they say. So, she said she didn’t burn it, but she threw it away
and proudly announced she wasn’t a loser anymore and is creating some beautiful work.
She is such a sweetie.

Some of these girls have never been allowed to do anything in their lives. They have a
nanny from birth who follows them everywhere and does everything for them. Hence,
they don’t have self confidence because often the opportunity to play and explore had
been denied AND the K-12 educational system is based on rote learning AND their
families expect perfection on rote learning, so the approach each project with fear of
failure, there are no parameters.

Betsy asked about family dynamics and how young people live as they become adults.
First, single women cannot live alone or in a group in an apartment in Jeddah. My
students have said they wished they could have the opportunity we do in the compounds
of having there own places.

There is no dating – the word means nothing, but many of the students have boyfriends –
they text message each other on mobile phones they have that their parents do not know
they have.

Marriages are often arranged. The actual ceremony takes place in the courthouse where a
muslim cleric has everyone sign the papers. At that point the couple is married, but do not
live together until the feast/reception – which often follows on the same day. I have not
seen one yet, but I hear they are fabulous.

Getting married is a serious obligation. The male must support his wife and any children
– even if they get divorced. The woman may keep all over her salary and use it for
whatever she wants. The man must pay for everything. If he is wealthy enough to have
more than one wife (muslim males may have four wives. Many kings have had more than
that), he must also provide another house for the second wife to live in. The wives talk to
each other, so if he buys one a necklace, he better buy the other one a necklace, also.

One situation I have recently seen is very distressing to me. If a couple is engaged and
one of them becomes seriously ill, it is that person’s responsibility to IMMEDIATELY
end the engagement to free the other person so they can marry someone else. To stay
engaged is a dying person brings shame to the family. There is no room for compassion
for a soon to be mate. The person I know in this situation has lived in the west and is
caught between two cultures. It is awful.

My radical nature would be to stick with the person to the bitter end (if the feelings were
still strong..) but to be caught between the pull of the heart and not wanting to dishonor
parents is very difficult – it is cultural.

Color: I asked my students what feelings red brought to mind…. Love and caring. In the
west it is anger…

Had a class creating to music when one student said – Miss, miss, turn it off… I raced
over thinking someone was dying outside. No, Miss, they said. When the call to prayer
goes out no other music can play. Oh, says I. I learn something everyday.

Last night I went to a dinner theater at another compound. The play itself was "The
Importance of Being Earnest." The play itself was very good, the food was wonderful.
The people were disconcerting. I think I was about the only American in the place. I have
been told that after 9/11 and particularly after the bombing in the American Embassy in
Jeddah last year, most Americans left town. Since I work and live with six Americans, I
don’t really think about it much. Most of the people last night were from Britain,
Australia and South Africa. Without exception they were all white. That in itself was
weird to see. Usually, I am the only or one of the few "white" people in the room and it
doesn’t cross my mind as a race thing. One of the Brits at the table last night said he had
just moved into that compound because it was mostly "white faces" like were were
supposed to think that was just great. I went with my friend David, who is a Scot and not
to thrilled with British attitudes. He lives in Hungary.

Anyway, I said listening to them talk about big boobed black African nurses and brown
this and blah, blah, blah. Didn’t like it. They asked where I lived – a very international
compound – people from all over the world – all sizes, shapes and colors. And I love it.
They didn’t talk to me much for the rest of the evening. I didn’t care.

And, they talked against the Saudis. I like Saudis. I think as a group they are a wonderful
people. Arabs are just great. If more people had a chance to meet arabs on a regular basis,
I think a lot of attitudes would change – just as the cold war was really ended by Russians
and Americans meeting each other in person and finding out that we were all just people
with families and fears and a sense of humor. So, all the condescending attitudes just
blew my mind and ticked me off.

Those of you who know me very well know that the arrogance of white people drives me
nuts and since I am also white, is embarrassing. Some people want a sex change – I could
go for a body die on occasion.

Lastly, I went downstairs yesterday at school and there was a tall Saudi man standing at
the bottom of the stairs. I knew there were men in the building – I had on my abaya and
tarha but was not expecting a man to be in that part of the school. It actually startled me. I
hope you understand that there are NO MEN in the school. NONE. The maintenance
crew is female. So after less that three months, I am so accustomed to just women in the
workplace, that a male seemed very out of place and I felt like my space had been
invaded. We can all dress the way we want until some guy shows up – and the students
and other staff feel the same way.

Even more lastly – I started reading the Quran over break. I am not looking to convert to
anything, but I understand the culture better. Did you know that the entire Quran can be
chanted? That millions of muslims have memorized the entire thing – all 800 pages?
Wow, I’m impressed since I have a mind of mush.

Well, Thanksgiving approaches. We are having a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday – our
Saturday. The school is suddenly having a whole day of strategic planning. I’m making
the stuffing. It is a mandatory meeting. Supposedly.

But, the plan is for 45 people around the pool from all over the world. Dr. Houda (who
loaned me the Quran) isn’t sure if she can make it because she has a disk problem in her
neck. I told her were would bring her a plate. Really? She was surprised.

So, she got this amazed look on her face and said – oh, so Thanksgiving is not just
thanking God it is sharing. Sharing. Huge smile. That’s wonderful, she said.

So – have a great turkey day. I even found jellied cranberry sauce in the foreign food
section of the super market – that’s where some American foods are easily found –

Oh – yeah – at the store this week Kate and I spied Cracker Barrel cheese. Together we
said "IT’S CRACKER BARREL CHEESE1111" and gave each other a big hug. People
around us thought it was kind of silly, but hey, what can I say. It truly is the little things
in life that are so charming.

S of A

Day after Thanksgiving.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast last night by the pool. Attendees came from the
US, Australia, Britian, South Africa, Scotland by way of Hungary, Canada, Brazil, Egypt,
Lebanon, Denmark, Bangledesh, Pakistan and India. Two turkeys gave it their all. The
US women brought lots of the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. I chopped up 5
loaves of bread for stuffing to actually stuff the turkeys and made 4 dozen filling balls.
Those who have eaten Thanksgiving dinner at my house are familiar with them – an old
Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.

Proudly, the only plate licked nearly clean with the few remaining going to new filling
ball fans, were the 6 I placed in the fridge for later.

Party lights glistened by the large swimming pool. It was probably 82 degrees and the
usuall group of cats tried their darnest to get at the food.

I took a place to Dr. Huda who was too tired from a meeting to attend. She was so
surprised. I said, geez, Dr. Huda, I told you I would do this…. It’s what Thanksgiving is
all about…

I missed my kids, as can be expected, but had a wonderful time. I got to tell everyone
who wanted to know about the filling balls and how Mom taught my sister and me how
to make them. My son knows how to, so it is on to the next generation. I told them that
somewhere in Midland Michigan, my sister would be fixing the same thing. Some things
I just take for granted in this world.

Had another gecko in the classroom experience on Tuesday. This one was caught on film
by students who brought a video camera to class to prove they their attempts and their
sculpture met with failure… So, if I am able to get a copy of the video shot in the
classroom and permission to send it to you, I will. With the insistence that you not pass it
on. Between that and a discussion about animal rights which suddenly switched to
Arabic in the Intro class, my jaws ached from laughing. The students were, also.

More on the Intro class later. You are probably hoping I have run out of things to say –

So, happy Thanksgiving,


Posted by at 2:13 PM

November 14, 2005

Saudi 12.5

From Sandy:

Nov. 6 (I guess) 2;25 am

Can't sleep. Just heard from my good friend Jim that another good friend, Dennis, died last Saturday night. What a shock that he is dead. And what an honor to have known him.

I call this 12.5 because I'm being superstitious.

Meanwhile, I started noticing what I don't see or hear here. In Cloquet I felt a comfort from hearing the trains move through town, blowing their horns at road crossings. It occurred to me suddenly this week that I have never heard a train in Jeddah. Then I realized I have never seen tracks or a moving train. I did see one that is parked like the steam engine in Cloquet. I will have to ask if there are trains anywhere.

Today, while sitting at the pool, I saw a sweat bee. Then it hit me. I haven't seen any bees. I did see one hornet a month ago. One. No snakes. I wonder if the lack of anything except ants, a few mosquitos and a few pesky small non-biting flies is a result of all the spraying. There are song birds and morning doves. The morning doves have a different call than the ones in Cloquet --- yea, yea, yea - they speak Arabic. Gr. Did see a monarch butterfly, or something similar by my front door. Didn't know they existed outside North America.

I have started using the gym at the compound lifting some weights and fiddling around with some of the machines. And, have also started taking advantage of the pool tables in the rec center. Once upon a time I was a real pool shark, but after I quit drinking, I no longer went into bars. I never learned how to shoot sober pool that is, see the pool balls through clear eyes. So, for two days now I have been shooting pool alone trying to regain the vision of the angles. The first day was embarrassing even for being alone.

Today was better. There was no chalk, which makes shooting difficult. I asked about it and the managers said they would try to find some. Meanwhile, it occurred to me that my chalk pastels were a chalk. I selected a nice gray and used it today. Don't know if it was the chalk or just the practice, but today went much better.

We have one week of vacation left. I still have classes to work on, but believe I have used this two weeks well. I look forward to a return to school, though and trying to establish a new routine. Until the next break, which is in January another two weeks for the Hajj. Return from that, teach another week, then begin finals on Jan 29. Long semester. Very long.

Captured and released another gecko tonight. The silly little thing wouldn't come out of the plastic cup, so I left the gecko cup and all outside.

Oh tonight I got take out, called take away, from a Chinese Restaurant. It was run by Indians and Pakistanis and truthfully, it was the worst Chinese food I have ever eaten. Bleck.

Just wanted to let you know a bit more about Jeddah. And say a few words about Dennis who was also a retired high school art teacher. Once he came and taught a project in one of my intro to art classes how to make a face with clay, starting with creating the skull, then adding parts. I enjoyed the project so much that I have used it since (with his permission). In fact, I scheduled it into my 3D class here after the Ramadan break. I always think about Dennis when doing this project. Before it was gee, I gotta tell Dennis that the students made faces. Now, no Dennis to tell directly. I'm sure he'll be there in spirit.

He was such a good teacher and shared all he knew with humility, grace and a lot of heart. Crumb.

S of A

Nov 11.

School starts tomorrow. This has been a wonderful break. Amazingly, I accomplished much of what a wanted to do. The main reason for this is no longer playing computer games. I left them all in Minnesota.

A couple days ago I went to the beach. Also attached, pls find a pdf file of photographs of the beach and mostly of the Red Sea. It is beautiful.

Download Red Sea pdf

I went into the swimming area without beach shoes, which I later learned could be dangerous because there is some kind of clam or muscle which is poisonous if you step on it. Only the good die young, so I was in no real danger. Anyway, I will get the beach shoes, flippers and a snorkelset. The fish that made it through the fence which protects the swimming beach from larger fish or sharks were beautiful little things and very unafraid of people. They came up to me and I walked to them. Later, as you will see in the attached file, I went to the sandy point where the snorkelers and scuba people go.

Though I didn't go in with the right equipment, some beautiful larger fish were swimming around just by the stairs and on the reef. They also were unafraid.

Women are not supposed to scuba dive in Saudi Arabia, but some do anyway, but they are still quite proper so they wear a special hood while underwater and then put their tarhas (scarves) on as soon as they get out of the water.

I made sure not to take photos of people when I was shooting images at the beach. One can get into trouble if one is blatant about it.

So, that's it for now.


Posted by at 9:45 AM

November 7, 2005

Saudi 12

From Sandy:

November 1, 2005

I have now been here just over two months. For a lazy vacation, some fun things have happened.

Halloween for instance. It is celebrated in the compound I had more trick-r-treaters last night than last year in Cloquet. The kids were from all over the world. The muslim kids participate, too. A good friend gave me a red nose that blinks as a going away present something to cheer me up if I was down and, hey, I did my usual dress up to hand out candy. A clown I was, with a blinking nose and lines painted on my face. Giant bow tie made from a tarha and my new floppy hat. The kids were surprised to see me in costume and they were all either cute or terrifying (scream masks). No one was dressed up like a bum though one kid said can you tell Im dead!

After they all went to the recreation room for a halloween party with haunted house, I went to the New New Sawari on the bus. This brings up a wealth of information.

As I have said, Jeddah is growing like mad. I didnt realize how fast or how much until yesterday when Mr. Dong (one of the compound managers) told me that five years ago there were one two malls besides Balad, Bawadi and the international market. You would not believe the number of malls and superstores (called hyper markets) there are now.

This presents some interesting problems. Somewhere there is a Sawari mall. Then they built a new Sawari Mall, which is referred to al the New Sawari. Another, even newer Sawari mall has opened rather near the compound. So, that makes it the New New Sawari mall. You pass by the Roshan Mall, under construction, to get to the New New Sawari. And, not to far from all than is the new hyperGeant which is advertised to be the biggest mall in the Middle-east.

Anyway, we went to the New New Sawari last night. The whole mall was open at last three floors and GET THIS: on the second floor there is an indoor ice-skating rink. Yup, so I sat there eating ice cream watch little arab kids trying to skate. An older girl, probably 11 was doing very well, skating about with her abaya flying in the wind. Another older girl had her abaya tucked into her pants. A young guy, the scating instructor, helped a couple of the little kids. At one point he picked up this little guy who must have been 3 1/2 or 4 and took him for a spin around the rink. Little kid was in hog heaven and you could see the caring in the young mans eyes.

The third floor of this mall is ENTIRELY and amusement park with merry-go-round, little bumper cars and a small ferris wheel where the little kids sit inside camels, portrayed as if laying down. Did see laser tag, but I was looking for it.

This country is truly heavenly for kids. There are water parks, amusement parks, ice skating and even skiing throughout Jeddah. Heidi was with me yesterday and said she was on sensory overload. Half of the upstairs (third floor) is video arcade and one thing, I would like to have tried, you bang on a drum to try to splat something for points. Looks like a good stress reliever. Anyway, Heidi said she thought this was like the Mall of America. Nope, says I, that is even bigger. By a lot. But this place is quite huge and had a wider selection of stores than many of the current malls. Even though many of the shopkeepers do not speak English, the mall is more western (las vegas style) and interestingly, I have never seen so many male-female couples holding hands. You just dont see that here. Men hold hands. Women hold hands. (Both can just mean friendship) But public display of affection is OUT. So that was very nice.

I finally got my ATM card to work. I had really needed until this week and the first attempt was a bomb. I was rather worried about not having a usable ATM, but found the appropriate one last night on the way to New New Sawari.

Other stores have the same problem: Danube, New Danube, new HyperDanube in the Mega Mall. Panda, new Panda, Panda in Tahlia and the new hyperPanda.

Trivia question: Which city contains the largest Chuckie Cheese in the world? You got it-
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It is huge. It is on the Corniche which is the area along the Red Sea downtown. There are two amusement parks right next to each other and another just down the way along the sea itself.

The weather has turned a bit cooler low 90s which means the bugs have come out. When it is very hot over 100 everyday up to 120, its too hot for bugs. Now the mosquitos are out as are the pesty flies. The compound staff sprays diesel fuel to kill mosquitos. See previous Saudilogue about toxic fumes.

Fumes Shannon and I were hanging out by the pool, when she said hey, a sandstorm. In the distance you could see a sand colored cloud slowing rising in the distance moving to my right (I am directionally impaired. NSEW better suited to those who can handle them). Our compound is surrounded by a high wall and there is a fence on top of that which hold 4 strings of barbed wire. I really wanted to see what the sand cloud looked like. Wall was in the way. So, I tried climbing a rock fountain that leans into the wall. I could not get high enough to peek over. I decided that to try to climb a bit higher at my age and calcium level would be dumb. UNDAUNTED, in the face of this set back, I climbed up the kids rock wall/swingset thingy. That put me up high enough to see over the wall. Shannon said there really is nothing to look at. The sandstorm does not move on little cat feet like fogs do. Im German. Just had to see. And, yup, the color simply went down to the horizon. So, I got down off the swingset.

She showed me pictures of some sandstorms she had seen. The sky turns black and you cant see anything. Apparently this sandstorm was just out in the desert and didnt come into town.

Trying to scale the barbed-wire fence did feel a bit odd. I thought about Martha Stewart. Even if it looked like our compound, it still was a prison. I do not feel like Im in prison but a couple of the other women do just because getting a cab is a hassle and it costs money. Most of us are either sending money home to support family and/or pay off student loans or credit card bills so even though we are paid very well, we are all playing catch up on other events.

The local television (CNN London) is making fun of Americans complaining about high gas prices. Gas in UK was $9 a gallon not to long ago. The commentator was talking about Americans being very attached to cars even walking the dog with the leash out the car window. They all had a good laugh about it.

See that Bush put out a new Supreme Court Candidate. I wouldt be surprised if he purposed nominated Meirs, knowing she would be distressing so he could then nominate a very conservative judge.

Oh have you ever wondered what that object is that muslims walk around in the grand mosque? I thought it was a rock, and they guy on the plane told me it is like a main alter and that it is the center of God but it originally was built by Adam (yes that Adam) at Gods request for God. I dont know how much of the original house is still there there is something there. The Hajj has been celebrated long before Mohammed here because it all related to Adam building the house, Mekkah was first settled by Ishmael (Jacobs brother) and Abrahams second wife. Ishmael was a baby at the time. Abraham is referred to as Grandfather. I borrowed an English copy of the Quran. Hard reading for a non-sectarian. But it is interesting that Jews and Christians are mentioned throughout since Mohammed came along 500 years after the death of Jesus.

Anyway, Ramadan is nearly done. Then we will go to Eid which is the end of the fasting, the stores will go back to the normal time schedule, the bus will go back to the more normal bus schedule (5:30pm instead of the current 9:00pm). A neighbor game me a plate of Ramadan cookies. Oh my are they good.

So off now, until another day.


Posted by at 8:25 AM

October 27, 2005

Saudi part11

From Sandy:

Oct 26, 2005

I forgot to tell you about my bank experience. Since I do not have a bank account and cant get one until I have a work visa and an Icama (country id), I have to transfer funds to the US through another party. The first pay was wired through the account of one poor soul in accounting who had to transfer funds for 4 Americans.

I did not comprehend her plight until last week, when I had to transfer it through another person which required going to a bank. It is Ramadan, so stores (including banks) open at 9:00 pm and close between midnight and 2:00 in the morning. Only grocery stores are open all day. Stores in the malls open for a while from 1 4 Banks open early but close at noon, until 9 pm , when they open again. It is much more confusing that Sicily.

Anyway, the Dar Al Hekma College bus showed up at the compound to take what turned out to be two of us to the bank to meet Rawan (the head of HR) who was going to help us wire the funds through her account. Since it was Dar Al Hekma payday, the bank had quite a few Dar Al Hekma people there also. A nice off campus visit with a few folks.

We went to the Ladies Bank. The windows are frosted so no one can look in. The women who work there wear business suits and do not wear tarha (the scarves). Any banking forms are very long and so was the line. And, get this, they have ONE TELLER. ONE. Everyone was complaining about it. So, in the states you jump in your car, drive to the bank, go through the drive in teller, deposit your money, go home. In Cloquet, if there is no line at State Bank, this operation takes 5 minutes.

Jeddah bus leaves compound at 8:50, drives across town to the bank (30-40 minutes, heavy traffic). Get to bank at 9:30 pm, stake out a place in line. Finally get to front of line, need to fill out more forms. 10:30, back in line again. Have great compassion for the lady to did this alone for 4 Americans last month. Ooops, need to make adjustments to form. Mission finally accomplished at ready for this 11:45 pm. Took bus back to compound, arriving at 12:20 am. Yup, just a short hop to the bank. Sigh.

I am closer to getting the skype connection up and running. Java applet problem is still a mess. One of the compound managers gave me the number of the only Apple rep in Saudi Arabia. I need to enshrine that puppy quickly.

Yesterday I rescued two more geckos. Im nearly even on killed to saved lizards. Discovered they change their skin coloration to match surroundings when I let one of them loose yesterday.

Went to Balad (the outdoor souk) again last night. Love that place. Some merchants from Afghanistan were selling strings of real, beautiful pearls for 90SR. The lady I was with knows her pearls but was whittling them down on the price. They were at 70SR which struck me as fine, but she thought it was too much, we would be back. So, off we thundered. Then she said they were very good quality pearls and that string with a clasp would see for $1000 US. Even at 90SR thats under $20US. I was quite surprised.

To purchase what she was after in the gold souk (a place you would just not believe) we had to go to an instant teller. There was already a weirdly shaped line. It became apparent that the guys up front could not get any money. The next guy did and then it was our turn. Margaret (not the one in the pictures I sent. This is a super lady from Ireland) started going through the sequence of buttons. The line behind us had gotten longer. After some time, the machine announced the transaction had not gone through. There was a general groan from all the people behind us. We tried again. It seemed to take forever and then suddenly, it worked. Margaret and I cheered. I so did everyone else. We grabbed the money and I told the lady behind us to do it twice. She nodded.

This is all at night remember Ramadan

So she bought this very wild star pin with emeralds, diamonds and rubies (the stones where small) for $620 SR, divide by 3.75 for US price. IF that sounds gawdy, thats why you wouldnt believe the jewelry stores here. Saudis major sparkly lots of gems and swoops and swirl jewelry. There is no such thing as a simple watch or it is rare to find a simple ring. Next time I go Ill see if I can take pictures for you.

Then, as we were waiting for the compound bus and Mr. Bin, a fight broke out between it looked like a storekeeper and a kid with other kids tagging in a major ruckus ensued. Usually there are police all over the place, but even here, wheres a cop when you need one or three. So, a crowd grouped around the fighting people. Eventually it stopped.

Someone suggested that one of the parties had stolen something from a vendor. If caught doing that here, one loses a hand. It gets cut off, and Ive seen the mosque where the beheadings and hand choppings occur. Theft is a severe thing and thus this is, in many ways, a very low crime country. Only problem is that the very wealthy sometimes steal things for kicks. Since they are wealthy Saudis the laws are not enforced equally on them, just like the US. Result is that we have to lock our offices at school when we are not there because rich students might steal our computers for kicks. Go figure.

So, thats the latest. My first week of vacation is nearly done. I have made major progress on completing the typography class. Done some swimming. Won a computer war and lost two others (as of this writing). Not bad for government work.

Posted by at 8:50 AM

October 26, 2005

Saudi part10

From Sandy:

Oct 22 (I think).

Well, I did it took a dip in the pool. Am now officially on vacation and it was a culture shock. The pools in northern Minnesota and Central Michigan tended to be cold. I always tried to find the warmist spot in the pool. Here, the pools are very warm not a big surprise mentally, but gone is that first bone-chilling dive into the water. Its like swimming in a bathtub. Im told that sometimes the water is too hot to swim in. Parboiled, I guess. That is actually the challenge with showers here. Both the hot and cold water taps produce some variety of hot water. I nearly boiled myself alive the first few attempts.

Like I said, we have all these feral cats. A whole bunch were rounded up and taken to the fish market a month or so ago. Now we have a new batch a batch that has been fed more than the others, which means
a) they dont go after mice and rats the purpose of the cats in the first place
b) they are major pests under foot at every turn, always wanting food
c) some of the residents feed them constantly, so they are spoiled, want into your house and it is tricky trying to get in without letting a few of the five cats at your feet in with you.
d) Depressing to know how quickly a cat can become annoying. Sorry, Doreen.
e) The staff says they have to get rid of this bunch because they are not doing their job and generally drive everyone crazy. They are too feral to adopt. One nearly took Heidis nose off last night.

I finally found a guitar. I was very excited. Kate, Heidi and I wandered through the mall looking for other goodies and I realized quite a few people looked at the western woman wearing an abaya with a guitar in a nylon case slung over her back ah, the good old days thinking of the guitar, anyway.

Lots of people are heading out for Ramadan break. By tomorrow morning more will be gone. I look forward to their return.

Hopefully I will get my work visa and Icama (a country ID) very soon so I can get a bank account. It will make wiring money to the US much easier.

Another successful shopping trip yielded a new mobile phone (they call them moe-biles) so my number is: 0561548728i

I brought home lots of books, have the guitar and plans for reading, preparing the rest of classes and swimming in the pools. (We have two.) On a warm sunny day, sitting the by pool under the forever blue sky, this really is a bit of a resort.

On another note try to find a sweatshirt in Saudi Arabia. No easy deal. So I was thrilled to find a denim (my favorite material) work shirt in a super market. Oh, and they have a new kind of supermarket here called a hyper-market. We westerners kid around about being hyper to go into one. You cannot image how big these are and how many items they carry. Minus the pharmacies, a hypermarket is like a super Wal-Mart with more produce, a bakery from heaven, delis carrying food that baffles me still. These stores have bakeries with stone fired ovens.

On another note: Most of the cheese here is white because they do not color the food. That is interesting. The tostido chips for nachos are very hard to find and the bag says genuine from America. The yogurt to me is bitter. I finally had Laban, the stuff that is packaged similarly to milk. I was told it was like buttermilk. Wrong, it is a liquid yogurt and it is bitter tasting. Found that out at one of the Iftars I went to last week.

So, its nearly 11:00 at night. The compound is quiet. Wilma is stuck over Cancun and Tom Delay had to appear in court. Giggle on the latter. He claims this is all politically motivated, but boy, when Clinton was in office he sang a different tune.

So, Ive been trying to get hooked into some of the phone services that are free. Am afraid Im going to have to buy a second computer a IBM so that all this will work. Cloquet is off sequence for voynage and dont know if you folks can get skype.

if you set up an account that with a headset you can call pc to pc at no cost and on this a mac supposedly works if Saudi Arabia does.

Bella cleaned today and left the front door open because I keep my house to cold for her. The screen door must have been slightly open and I have thus hear the clicking of a you know what. At one point I was gecko free.

Happy Ramadan.

Posted by at 8:23 AM

October 20, 2005

Saudi part9

From Sandy:

October 16, 2005

So much I keep forgetting to tell you. (I think meaning, I should probably read the old Saudilogues.)

I noticed Saloons in town when I first got here and wondered what saloons were in a dry country (no booze). Then I decided they were pretend bars, because those do exist here and are a bit comical since they have all the trappings and glasses and swizzle sticks and drink makers and none of it contains liquor. Anyway, I finally discovered that they are barbershops or mens hair salons saloons.

I do run into problems here we just dont face in Duluth. Really. Saturday morning Basic Design Class I ran to my office to get a pencil and when I returned found 2/3 of the students against the back wall of the classroom. Miss, Miss,, they screamed a lizard Sure enough, a gecko was on the ceiling. Its just a little gecko, I said. Miss, we cant. the group was now huddled by the far door, hands over their mouths two looked like they were going to faint. Knowing that I have already murdered 3 geckos in my lifetime, I saw another little gecko coffin in the future. I took off my shoe, thinking if I knocked to the floor I could step on it. No, No, they screamed. So, I finally told the class that all students terrified of lizards could leave and that I hoped no one had put it there. I did notice the students who stayed were at the drawing boards as far away from the gecko as they could get.

They bite, said one student. no, says I. They have saliva that can make you sick, another announced. No, says I. I think thats kimono dragons and if one of those puppies came into the classroom, Id freak out. So, class slowly worked its way to a quiet end, though anytime the gecko moved, the remaining students jumped and howled. The gecko was maybe 3 inches long.

After class I found a housekeeper, told her about the gecko and Ill be she killed it.

Anyway, thinking this was a fluke, I mentioned it to my next class. Two girls put their feet on their chairs. I was beginning to stop a trend. Mentioned it to Kate, who saw aforementioned gecko before I reported it to housekeeping. She personally cant stand slugs (really), but cannot see the harm in geckos. In fact, they eat bugs, most particularly spiders.

She mentioned this scenario to her next class who all said they would not stay in the same room with a gecko and were genuinely freaked out. Hearing this, I asked my office mate, Nina about this thinking that she, being an adult, a designer and a professor would find it comical. Wrong. She also doesnt like lizards and told me one of the reasons.

When the prophet Mohammed was trying to escape some people who wanted to hurt him, he hid in a cave. A spider built a huge web over the front of the cave and a bird quickly built a nest. When the men came looking for Mohammed, they reasoned he could not be in the cave because the huge web and the nest were undisturbed. This, spiders and birds are revered (except for crows which just entered the country) in Islam. THEREFORE, anything that eats spiders is not very nice. THEREFORE geckos are bad guys.

Gecko part III
So, tonight I got home, not feeling well and decided to lay down. Saw movement from the corner of my eye. A gecko (you got it) at the base of the curtains. I am sick of the gecko carnage. So I made a gecko catcher out of a plastic cup and plastic plate, cut to size for the purpose. Armed with my new device (humans are resourceful, right?) I trapped said gecko and after some false starts and stops, successfully captured said gecko. Took the little guy outside and let him go. My soul rests easy.

Last night we were invited to an Iftra ( the break-fast meal) that follows evening call to prayers) held on top of the Nassif house remember the room where we were all seated barefooted. Well, this time I participated in the fast. I only had a 1/2 cup (if that) of water all day, when I took my pills that morning. I faded in and out of hunger and thirst all day and remembered the meaning of Ramadan of feeling hunger pains, etc. Blood sugar level dropped, brain became a tad confused and, like first time fasters everywhere, I was a tad grumpy towards the time we went to Balad and the Nassif House.

Got there and had to climb up the six flights of stairs to the little room on the top. The sun was a gorgeous red/orange, slowing sinking behind the skyscrapers. Mr. Sami told us that there were 36 mosques in the area and that the call to prayer from 36 mosques would be an amazing experience. By then I was past hunger, past thirst , past the headache and just loving being in this special place, with a cool breeze blowing around us.

Then the first calls to prayer and the 36 males voices echoed around the area, harmonized and dis-harmonized. It was a very mystical experience. Mr. Sami wanted us to eat dates, to breat the fast. We were too busy listening to the call. After a time we did eat traditional food, which I thought was super. Some kind of bean meal called fuol and a lentil soup I thought was wonderful.

After eating and talking, we hiked down six flights of stairs in the dark. I was carrying an oil lantern which was smoking heavily. At one point, I commented on the choice between falling down the stairs in the dark or setting myself on fire with the lantern The guy walking behind me offered to carry it which was nice. When one is wearing an abaya which is floor length cloth, going downstairs, trying not to trip AND carrying something with a live flame in it, one questions personal sanity.

Mr. Sami presented a history of Jeddah with maps and photos. It was very interesting. He showed us another room of the house which had wonderful artifacts from the area some of which were 3000 years old. Turns out this house has 107 rooms in it. Ive been there three times now and seen more new rooms every time.

I sure do appreciate the e-mails I get from the states. Those connections are very important to me. As my boss says, you face every fear you have ever had and a few you didnt know about when you come here. Shes right.

I dont think it is because his is Saudi Arabia probably because its a new place, new job with a few more new twists. Id have to ask Ida, since she is getting settled in Eastern Kentucky, having already adjusted to the Twin Cities and then Duluth.

One thing is for sure, whether I officially take Arabic or not, I will have been exposed to Arabic, philipino and urdu (Pakistan) on a daily basis. Eventually, I will be able to muddle through some of it.

We have raised money for Pakistani earthquake relief. I see tonight on CNN that King Abdullah donated 113 million dollars to the cause. It is very dire. Pakistani television is covering this tragedy daily. Because the earthquake strunk later in the morning, many children have been killed along with most of the doctors and nurses in the effected areas when the schools and hospitals collapsed.

I see Katrina victims are still homeless. I encourage anyone who hasnt yet, to contribute something for one or both groups.

I have a new definition of insanity: riding a motorcycle in Jeddah traffic. Apparently they have just been made legal. The drivers dont stand a chance. One of the guys in the compound just bought one as was heading out the front gate. I waved good bye - possibly for the last time. Hope he survives.

Oh I did go to one of the drink and drool parties to see what they were. On the up side I have found a place in the compound to recycle my pepsi bottles. And it was fine, until the tipsy stuff started, so I just quietly left. But it was nice to enjoy the outside.

The mosquitos have started appearing and with that the fogging for them. It reminds me of when I was a kid in Midland, Michigan when the city fogged for mosquitos. My Mom would pull me in from outside to avoid some of the fumes. I can smell the stuff inside the house. I think they use diesel fuel here. I wonder what they used in Midland and if that has anything to do with Midland being a cancer hotspot. I hadnt thought about the fogging for years until I experienced it here.

Well, am off. While typing this I heard another horny gecko in the house. At least I am feeling more confident in a way to move them outside unharmed.

S of Arabia

Posted by at 9:27 AM

Saudi part8

From Sandy:

October 14, 2005

I didnt realize Saudi 7 was two weeks ago. After a few e-mails wondering where the next installment was, here I am. It is the second week of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. This fact alone brings up more of my Saudi learning curve.

When King Fahd died, his age was estimated. From a superior point of view, one could say they dont keep very good records. Heres the reality. Until very recently Saudi Arabia and much of the muslim world uses the Islamic calendar which is based on the moon. Because the moon cycles differ within a Gregorian year, the date on which one is born is relative. That specific day would be impossible, if not silly, to try and figure out each year;.; Thus, birthdays are not even celebrated here. Some of the younger people might, if they knew which Gregorian day corresponded to the day of their birth Sept 1 for example. But the concept of birthday and celebrating it, is unknown to the generation of King Abdullah, remote to the next generation and I guess I could ask students about it. I have never heard a student wish another student a happy birthday.

This does not mean that birth is meaningless, They do not have baby showers here. When the baby is born, friends and relatives bring gifts to the mother in the hospital. This weekend a lady in our department had an official baby shower for her newborn. Another lady from out department went and was the only person at the party with a gift. The purpose of a baby shower here is to welcome the new baby into the greater family. So, at the appointed hour, all the children from the greater family cousins and siblings went upstairs and then proceeded downstairs, each carrying a lit candle. The mother followed, bringing down the baby who is now about six weeks old. Margaret, the American who attended this, said it was quite lovely and very loving.

Ramadan itself is that time when healthy muslims do not take food or water from sun up to sun down. The daily fast is broken with a break fast Iftra meal after the sun has gone down. The purpose of Ramadan is to experience poverty and hunger, to remember those in the world who have nothing by having nothing. This is the time of year when Muslims donate money to charities a requirement of Islam. It is also a time for prayer and self examination. A time to heal broken relationships and develop patience.

Ramadan is not a set date. The imams at the Grand Mosque at Mekkah determine if Ramadan has begun, by the shape of the moon in the evening of what will become Ramadan.

The reality of Ramadan in life is rather amazing. First, there was a date on the bus schedule which was marked happy Ramadan. And we are now teaching on a Ramadan schedule whereby classes are shorter because the students and staff are fasting, tired and have focus problems. So, I knew about my new schedule (having finally learned when and where I was supposed to be under the old schedule), and then found out we wouldnt know if it was really Ramadan until 8:00 or so the night before the proposed date. Depending on the shape of the moon, it would either be the assigned date or the next day. I found this quite amazing and my German sense of order was quite shaken by the thought that I would not know the bus schedule or teaching schedule until maybe 9:30 that night. Auch-du lieber.

So, at 8:00 that night I turned to Saudi television and the broadcast was interrupted to say that Ramadan had begun. Yippee. I thought. Students have been telling me how wonderful Ramadan is and that it is like Christmas for a month.

What happens is that the fast is kept during the day for Muslims into puberty (periods have started in the women). Nursing mothers, menstruating women and anyone who is ill or very elderly or has diabetes, lets say, do not fast. But, after Iftra (the first meal after sunset) everyone goes to visit friends and family and hit the malls. So everyone parties and eats all night. Even if one stays at home, there is a meal at 3 or 4:00 in the morning to help one fast during sunlight.

Result: students are also tired because they have been up all night frolicking with their families. Make for some very interesting classes.

Next week is the last official week of classes, then we have three weeks off for the rest of Ramadan. First day back is Nov 12, my sisters birthday so an early Happy Birthday to Gretchen.

Anyway, the cafeteria is closed, so those of us who are not fasting get a bite to eat from the backdoor of the kitchen. My new office mate, Nina, is muslim so on the first day of Ramadan, not wanting to eat in front of anyone, I was sitting on the floor, back to the wall with all the picture windows eating a sesame stick. Nina walked in, I palmed the sesame stick. I had been having a very bad day very close to the melt down day my first week here and Nina knew that, so she assumed I was just that bummed so she ran over and said Sandy, my God, are you okay at which point is showed her the sesame stick and followed it up with a sheepish grin. oh, for heavens sake, she said. you can eat it in front of me I told her I wasnt raised that way, so I have learned how to eat and drink kind of on the sly.

So, one day this week I was in the kitchen when a hoard of menstruating students came in and ordered all kinds of food. After getting their goodies, they loudly ate them in the little one table dining area set up for non-fasting students and staff. After that, I no longer hide my diet pepsi on the floor by my desk.

Ramadan is very colorful and we can all wear thobes. Ill send photos of that later, too. These are beautiful, colorful, embroidered floor length dresses (my hippy heart burst with joy the first time I saw a thobe shop here). Everyone can wear these and I now a few and wore one last week. It bore a cross-stitched symmetrical design on the front. I was a walking design question: What principle of organization does my thobe represent?

The times for stores change radically during Ramadan. Grocery stores are open all day because the Iftra meals are very special. Malls open from 1-5, then close again until 9:00 at night when the whole town opens up. So, our compound bus goes out at 9:00 in the evening which has been bedtime for me since I got here.

We have risen to the occasion, however. The stores are mobbed. Last night we went to another souk area: Bawadi. It was huge, more well lit than Balad but along the same line. I finally found a shop with the kind of tops I have wanted, so I snapped up quite a few.

So, Happy Ramadan, to you. (Oh, another side of Ramadan is that nearly everyone who is fasting has a low blood sugar problem so they are quite short tempered, sometimes.

To some other subjects.

Did I tell you that some of the scaffolding used here is not metal, but rather wooden poles with lots of rope?

I had another run of geckos. Nailed one and I think Bella the maid got the one I had chased around the downstairs bathroom with a cup.

Okay, I have spent two+ years in the VDIL and fought with computers since 1986. I learned much over the years and have had relatively good luck with electronics over my lifetime. This all ended when I got here. 9/10 of this is operator error.

I got here Aug 31. Have fried on boombox because I plugged it into a 220 line (it looked just the same as the 110 volt sockets and one of the 110 looking sockets upstairs seemed mis-labelled. This is the same boombox I took back to Extra (like Best Buy) twice becaue I thought it didnt work. Sigh. So, I toasted it.

Bought a second boombox at a grocery store, got it home and realized it didnt have a CD player, just a CD line. It did have a tapedeck which is cool because I brought all the cassette tapes my Dad recorded for me when I commuted from Cloquet to Hibbing three days a week when the kids were little. Thank you, Dad. Purchased a third boombox with a CD player the week after that.

The mobile phone I got as a hand-me down from Kiki died this week and the first attempt at a laser printer was not compatible with my mac. Again, my fault, because I didnt read the box. I assumed that at this point in time any HP printer would work with both platforms. Wrong.

Took it back the to the store on the first day of Ramadan. After much discussion I ended up buying the next printer up the line, at twice the money. Got it home and the prints are horrible. Loaded the toolbox program on the CD to troubleshoot the printer. Meanwhile Bella came for her weekly cleaning of the house; she threw away the boxes. After loading the new software, the printer wouldnt even talk to the computer.

Went back to Jarir (the store). They said they sell Hps and that obviously there is something wrong. The printer is covered by a one year warranty so just take it back to HP at another commercial center near the American embassy in Jeddah. Right. That is easier said than done.

Went home, downloaded all the software updates, uninstalled the toolbox program and bingo, the printer now talks to the computer. The copies or either darker or just fine when compared to the hassle of taking the printer anywhere.

I have also been struggling with getting my computer set with the right java applet so I can join some on line 12 steo meetings. I have found them, but cant enter. AUGGHHHHH. Why I didnt think to round up tapes of 12 step speakers before I left the states is beyond me. Havent been to one of those meetings since August in Minnesota and I find my emotional vulnerability is higher than usual.

Two of the other Americans who have been here for at least a year said that anyone doing this will face every fear they have ever had. I am facing some of these and have learned quite a bit about myself since I got here. No pain, no gain, somebody said. And growth does begin at the end of your comfort zone.

Oh, another topic: (I go for a long time and look what happens) Being gay.
Because the genders are separated here, being gay and even openly gay is easy here. It is not uncommon to see to men holding hands. Just friends hold hands, too, so you dont know what kind of relationship the two men or women have. Dont ask, dont tell is the theme for the whole country. AIDs is here, too. There is a mens section in restaurants so again, spending great amounts of time with ones own gender is common. Ive only seen one or two heterosexual couples holding hands. That is kind of taboo because it is an outward show of affection between the genders.

Well, this has gotten rather long. Sorry.

See you later at Saudi 9. Again, if you dont want to receive these, please let me know and I can drop you from the list.

S of arabia

Posted by at 9:26 AM

Saudi part7

From Sandy:

October 1, 2005

So, the funny thing is I thought I was going to a remote location. Dar Al-Hekma in Jeddah. Not exactly the French foreign legion, but at least off the main stream. Wrong.

So, last week classes were cancelled so we could hear Karen Hughes. Karen Hughes, I said. Oh no. Not her I promised to be nice. Really, I did.

So, at the appointed hour, I accompanied by typography class into the Auditorium. We were all wearing abayas and tarha (the scarves) because there were men present. One guy, a Saudi, dressed in typical garb, (robe and red&white checked scarf) was armed with a machine gun. There were Secret Service people, the press corps and bunch of aids, the aforementioned Hughes and a wonderful undersecretary originally from Egypt. After the usual welcomes, she talks. There were some microphone problems. That surprised me since the army of test 1, test 2 etc had them all going.

At any rate, after talking about her appointment as special diplomat, she said really she was a MOM. Oh no, I thought. So, with our without soccer ball, she started talking about how Americans honored faith, family, and freedom. That we have freedom of religion in America (in Saudi Arabia one can only opening practice Islam.), and women are free and speech is free. She talked about the need for everyone to get along, to understand each other and her job was to spread democracy around the world. Some students behind me groaned. So, did I. The local perception on this is much different than the speaker, as many of you already know. Then she talked about the freedom to drive and that Saudi women needed to be able to drive and then talked about a bird with one wing cant fly so the Saudi society would be much better off if they allowed participation of women in everything. She then asked if we had the internet. At least she didnt ask if we knew what it was

So, question time. The students were not hand selected to ask questions. Nothing much at Dar Al Hekma is staged; it comes straight from the heart. Sometimes that can seem very schmaltzy. Anyway, one student asked her how she planned on improving Americas image in the Muslim world. Karen Hughes said that Americans knew that only a small percentage of muslims were terrorists and that a muslim lady sat next to her in her Presbyterian church pew after 9/11 and that both Christians and jews accompanied muslim shoppers to stores after 9/11 so they would be protected from the few Americans who might mean them harm. . . Next question.

A student asked if the US was more right wing and if the press was less free. She said no the press was quite free and that the country wasnt right wing. There were red states and blue states (this to a Saudi audience.) and that the election was quite close. (Tell Bush that he thinks he has a huge mandate.

Another student gave her two suggestions. She looked visibly stunned. Another woman who is faculty got up and said Muslim women on the whole are quite happy. She again said howmuch happier people could be if they knew true freedom.

There was often loud applause for student questions and no applause for her answers. One of the suggestions was to have an exchange of educators to enhance middle-eastern studies. Her response was that yes, many students should come to the US to study the west. After talking about that for a while, she suddenly said oh, and some of our students could go the Saudi Arabia. (duh)

So, after the event, she, her staff and the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia went to a cafeteria on the first floor of the college. I was allowed to enter this mass of men and women. Some students were holding their own, suggesting a blog chat so she could learn more about muslim or middle-eastern women. She truly looked shell-shocked.

I cornered the US Ambassador (I said I would be nice, I didnt say I would keep quiet), introduced myself as new faculty and told him how intelligent, eager and enthusiastic our students are. He said he knew. I told him she should spend more time than one hour. I have learned so much in one month. He nodded again and said that Americans just dont get it.

I also thought, before I got here, that having to wear a black abaya was a symbol of servitude. It isnt. It is a required dress code according to Islam here, but also bear in mind that most of the men wear a white robe and the red&white checked scarf or white scarf with the headband. The men cover themselves also. None of these dress codes has anything to do with perceived intelligence.

Women dont drive, but many families hire drivers, and others take cabs or have other drivers they can call. I am new to this, but it does work and though putzy, I would rather have a safe driver or the compound bus than drive in Jeddah. This sounds like an excuse, but it is the truth. The women move around the city freely. Women can go shopping alone in the malls without a problem (in Jeddah). Riyadh is probably more severe. Saudis dont like to go to Riyadh because it is so conservative so even in Saudi Arabia traditions vary by area.

Anyway, Karen Hughes left. Hum. I wonder if it is worth mentioning this in Saudi 7. Before I could even think of an answer, a copy of the New York Times article started circulating on the DAH e-mail circuit. I started getting e-mails from friends in Northern Minnesota saying they had read that article and one in the Duluth News Tribune and was I there? Yea, I was.

All of this has put Dar Al-Hekma on the map because this event, with men and women in the same room was a first for the Kingdom. That sounds like prejudice. But here the separation is like the separate but equal thing that was theoretical in the states and obviously there is room for improvement here, but the Saudi system will change (and it is daily) within its own guidelines.

On the way out of the auditorium my students asked if I voted for Bush. No, says I. Yea! Said they. Karen Hughes talked down the the crowd and every person on the receiving end knew. As American faculty I was embarrassed (again) at the arrogance and ignorance Karen Hughes displayed. I hope she got some of the message from the students.

Of course they want more independence; it will come.

So much for thinking I had dropped off the end of the earth.

Gotta trot.

OH saw my first camel a couple days ago in the back of a pickup truck along with a steer. It was laying down and not very happy.

Have another gecko in the house. It is living in the downstairs can. I now have a cup to try to catch it and take it outside. Wildlife. How exciting.


Posted by at 9:24 AM

Saudi part6

From Sandy:

Sept 24, 2005

Last Tuesday I learned quite a bit about Saudi Arabia. I asked the 3D graphics class members were sharing examples of effective and not so effective packaging. One student showed a Saudi wedding invitation. It looked like a stall thin stationary box. She indicated it was overkill, considering that it contained one sheet of paper and looked more like a corporate identity piece than a wedding invitation. It was constructed of heavy boxboard similar to a cigar box. I pointed out that postage for something that heavy would be quite high. They looked at me like I had two heads, possibly three.

Mail? No, wedding invitations as with any invitation are delivered by the drivers by hand. They were stunned that we would use the mail for anything. This explains why we dont get any mail. There is no junk mail. I asked how we would know if we had mail at the compound. The person I asked said to just buy a postage stamp and put it at the main office here. No, no, says I. Incoming mail. I got the same pitch about the stamp.

My boss confirmed there really isnt any mail and if someone sends it, it might never get delivered.

Same class, same students. I asked them to sketch or photograph (without getting caught) some of the apartment buildings with balconies. These are very creative. They were surprised. Why? Well, surface texture, for one, says I. No one uses them, I was told. Not only it is too hot to be outside, but a woman would still have to wear an abaya and head scarf. So, I suggested a balcony design which would allow people to use it during the cooler parts of the year.

Three heads again. No one uses them. The newer apartment buildings dont even have them. So, I am looking oddly at them. Americans use them? They asked. Sure. The barbeque grill is out there. Chairs, toys, plants. It becomes another room of the house. They were surprised.

We (some faculty) drove to a new restaurant called Senses for dinner Tuesday night. It is a new, rather swanky restaurant and it was stunning. The family area (where women or families must be) was upstairs. The bottom half of the stairway was lit up orange, with a spiral rail. Upstairs was quite nice. From my vantage point I could look into the mens eating area waterfalls cascade down the walls and the guys sit on the floor on pillows and eat amid pools of water that are recirculated the waterfall.

Turns out the king lives in Jeddah. I assumed he lived in Riyahd, but I guess he has palaces all over the kingdom. King Fahd (recently deceased) has a palace which is easily half the size of Cloquet.

There was a party in the compound last night described by another female here as a drunk and drool party. Lot of the guys in the compound are married, but there families live elsewhere. When that description came of the wires, three of us decided to eat at my place. We watched CNN and Hurricane Rita.

I have started watching a Saudi news program in English. Two men read the news with appropriate news clips. They just read it without editorial comment. Though it tends to be boring, it is just the facts, even when talking about Israel. No sensationalism. This is an interesting contrast to US news.

The print ads here are more graphic than in the US and the foreign ads for US companies or middle-eastern companies are humorous or quite beautiful.

Oh-I finally feel like Im in Saudi Arabia. We went to a place called Ballad today. It is a huge market by the Red Sea - yes I have finally seen the Red Sea. This market has some very expensive department stores and a couple of air-conditioned buildings with three floors of little stores but OUTSIDE in the heat are the little shops which reminded me of the street markets in Sicily. The further you go into this long alleyway of stores, the cheaper the prices are. I purchased much needed local clothing and some cashews called morning cashews which have been slowly roasted for two days and were warm. Oh, were they good.

And trust me folks, being an old hippie, the Ramadan clothing (which I guess are supposed to wear to school) is a dream come true. It is colorful and embroidered with wonderful patterns all over the piece. Photos to follow.

Guess when the king travels they shut down the route for and hour or so and run all kinds of vehicles so you wont know what hes riding in including an ambulance and a fire truck. Ok. The general take on King Abdullah (who has been running the country since King Fahds stroke in 1995) is that he is a very nice man. Everyone likes him.

Every cabbie in town is well versed on the number of wives and children each of the sons of Ibn Saud have. Ibn Saud (who united the kingdom) had 60 wives, 100 sons and 80 daughters. I wonder if he had children he had never met. One cabbie said that Abdullah who had 30 or so wives and over 100 children (I cant keep it all straight) as 7500 descendants when you figure children, grandchildren, greats and great=greats, but the spouses of all these folks.

I noticed that there are quite a few black African women who pick through the debrie fields where buildings have been torn down and others use these places as dumps. They basically are the recycling crew. I understand they are freed slaves. Gasp. Slavery ended here during the Kennedy Administration, so the pecking order starts with the royal family, then goes to Saudis then down the ranks to the lowest Indian castes, where the women beg and then the homeless freed slaves.

I dont know if I endeared or upset my class when we were all talking about recycling. They were stunned to know that some Americans take recycling into consideration when purchasing products let alone taking that into consideration when designing the product. One student pointed out that recycling was done by the homeless. I suggested that with some help, if they started recycling businesses, they could pull themselves out of poverty and perform something wonderful for the kingdom.

Some of the Americans here consider this abhorrent and put down the local culture. Somehow they dont look at the similar circumstances in the US. We all have a lot to learn.

Tomorrow classes only meet until 11:00 and then there are National Saudi Day celebrations for the rest of the day. Today was national Saudi Independence Day. When Margaret and I were in the Ballad a museum which she had always wanted to see was open. In it were the hand written, illuminated, illustrated texts of the Koran from hundreds of years ago. They were beautiful. It reminded me of the trip I took as a grad student with Janice Kmetz to the manuscript museum at the Twin Cities campus. I thought of you, Janice.

So, I think I learned more about S.A. last week, but this is what I remember learning. I havent gained any weight, which surprises me. Ive been eating so many carbs.

I sure appreciate any messages that come back and as always, if you dont want to be on the mailing list for these, let me know.

S of Arabia

Posted by at 9:23 AM

Saudi part5

From Sandy:

September 18, 2005


For one thing, registration is still going on during the first week of classes. I was nearly hysterical because I had an 8:00 class on Saturday morning (first day of the week) and did not have a class list or a supply of syllabi because the copy center lady was gone all day Wednesday. I finally weaseled a class list from someone in registration who was not very happy about my request.

Well, folks, unlike UMD where everyone shows up the first day so the student doesnt lose a seat, here, they dont come to class. So, all my fretting was for not. My 8:00 class contained one student. Better than some other facultys classes where no one showed up. So, I had a great class with one student. Learned her name immediately. This is good. I sensed her enthusiasm. This could be fun.

The second class that day also contained one student, I was skunked by the third. The second day of classes were basically cancelled by the Vice-Dean of academic affairs when she announced that classes would begin in earnest on Monday (the equivalent of Wednesday). I had a full house at the 8:00 class 9 students. We progressed through the syllabus, materials list and books. Overview of Basic Design. The Symbols class h ad 4 students. Not bad.

Then, a convocation with events all day was announced for Tuesday. Classes were cancelled after 10:00. Some frustration here, in an oh-well sort of way (I melted down the week before). The ministry requires very accurate records of what is taught including copies of all handouts, day by day schedules of lesson plans. I decided to create mine as I go (big surprise, eh?)

This decision was well taken because those who had worked out a semester long class plan are already in major revisions because the first week basically didnt happen. The lag helped because I caught up on syllabi.

Class schedule has changed many times. First I was going to teach symbols, then Angela was, then it was passed back to me. In fact, I taught the first class period. It has since gone to my sidekick Kate and I inherited Typography. So, yes, I am teaching typography. I looked at the course files from previous classes oh dear. So, this class will be very different. Very.

The students are eager. When I ask a question get this they all start talking at once. They are smart and most interested in design and in learning all they can from me. Or anyone who comes to Saudi Arabia.

They are very proud of their country and very sad that most people think Saudis ride camels and shoot people. Saudis are very hospitable people, very kind. They are nicer than Minnesota nice. Or at least the same

And this school is remarkable. The Dean (equivalent of K. Martin) is dynamic and charismatic. She is also a mystic. She has dreams she shares along with the interpretation of the dream. This is a pioneering institution within Saudi Arabia and breaks new ground for women on a regular basis.

Faculty meetings are even more vocal than classes. Everyone participates. She says we are all one the large i of Dar Al Hekma. That we need to be honest and transparent. Oh, is this my kinda place.

Last week student visas were approved for the first time. Now foreign students can come here. This semester Dar Al Hekma College is offering printmaking classes in the first print making studio for women in any womans college in the Kingdom. Kate is teaching animation (Maya). It is the first animation class for women in the kingdom. Im teaching 3D graphics for the second time and next semester may teach exhibitions for the first time.

This is a private college; the tuition is very high. The Dean goes around Saudi Arabia collecting money from people to provide scholarships for bright students who cannot afford the tuition. So, students can be royal princesses or daughters from proud but underprivledged families. It doesnt say on the class notes who is who. Im new and dont care. They are all my students.

This graphic design program is the first in the kingdom for women. There are design agencies in Jeddah owned by women. Women in these professional interior and graphic design positions are going to change some of the fabric of Saudi culture.

This week classes have been rather full, though there is some question about correct classrooms. The students in my basic design class worked on their in class project with the same diligence that students would in the US. Already there are signs of the proverbial perfectionism and competitive art.

Here the absentee policy is that after 6 absences in a studio art class, the student receives a DN denial to pass the course, they fail. Medical excuses can undo the absences but I told them that the work must be done.

Moving away from classes for a minute.. there is a stretch of highway which has many car dealerships on it. Lamborgini, Ducati, Maserati, Porche, Infinity, Lexus, Ferrarri I cant imagine anyone buying that kind of car to drive on a Jeddah street.

The lizard is still around. I turned down the air conditioning so I have heard lots of clicks.

Internet was down Friday a bummer because it was my one day of rest. We had a strategic planning meetingn all day Thursday. Imagine DAH in 5, 10, 25 years. SWOT analysis. I was toast when we were done.

So, I gotta trot.

Oh-most art classes are 2 hours long. Basic design is 2.5 hours 2 days a week. I am overload teaching 5 classes instead of 4. Its not like I have a lot of other things to do.



Posted by at 9:22 AM

Saudi part4

From Sandy:

Sept 10, 2005

I keep forgetting to tell you all that recycling in unknown here. Conservation of water and electricity is, however. So in my villa, there are separate hot water heaters in the master bath, the second bath and the kitchen. I have the one in the second bath turned off (a switch on the wall) because I dont need it and it is a waste of both water and electricity to keep it on.

As Ive said, my room here (master bedroom) is huge. Considering the room I had in my house in Cloquet was 7 x 9 feet, this is enormous. (havent measured it yet) and it contains a king size bed. I feel like I would have to use a cell phone to contact someone on the other side of the bed if there was someone on the other side of the bed. Kinda funny.

Today was the first day of classes. I had one student in the first class, one student in the second class and no one showed up for the third class. Then an announcement was sent out that classes will really start on Monday (the third day of the week.) This means that all my huffing and puffing last Wednesday was ridiculous (big surprise)

I have been here over 10 days. Seems like I have been here much longer than that. There is still much to get used to. I havent found a local TV channel with Jeddah news. The TV is pretty wild. There is a channel in French and quite a few in Arabic. Then there are movie channels with Arabic subtitles. I watched the beginning of a rugby game on one channel and theyre covering The Ashes which is a British/Australian cricket match on quite a few channels. Then we have ABC and NBC sometimes, CNN worldwide all the time. No Fox. Thats nice.

There is a big typhoon heading for Taiwan. Just a heads up in case someone is going there.

Oh. Women do drive in the countryside away from the big cities. If caught, the ticket goes to the husband. Wonder if they would go after my ex. But after dark in Jeddah, sometimes women put on the male head gear and drive around town. Thats only fair, because terrorists dress in abayas (the womens black outer robe) to escape authorities. The last time there was a bombing in Jeddah (a couple years ago), the school moved the women back to the compound in a school bus so the army would know it was really women and not terrorists.

Actually, one of the women in the compound drove to the gate to pick up a friend. It stopped traffic. A woman driving. No one knew what to do. And because this lady is so nice, all the guys, with their jaws on the ground, processed our bus fast to Dr. Houda could get back into the compound quickly. The only people who were insensed were some of the Saudi women who live on one side of the compound.

Am still trying to find a relatively cheap way to call the US. So far, no major luck.

So far the only e-mail I can pick up both at school and at home is my UMD acct:

A professor from Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates spoke to us on Wednesday. He was a very interesting guy. We all had to wear the abayas with scarves because there was a MAN in the college. They brought him in through a special door. Some of the faculty members actually wear full face veils so I didnt even know who I was sitting next to. I asked who decides about head covering and it is usually the father or husband, but the men are increasingly not wanting their wives to go with the face veil or even the entire covering. One actually can see rather easily through this veil if you remember some of the total cover Halloween masks from a few years ago. Anyway, some of the women just prefer it. It is the ultimate in anonymity.

Gotta trot.

Sept. 14

Well, the typhoon is history with minimal damage. I have received many Bush in New Orleans jokes from people.

Classes started on Monday, but there was a convocation on Tuesday, so classes after 11:00 were cancelled. So basically, the first week of classes was a non-happening. The students I did meet were very sweet, alert and eager to learn.

Saudi 5 will address teaching and the amazing changes in Saudi Arabia that are happening weekly. This is a great time for an old 60s person to be here.

Dar Al Hekma College has the first Graphic Design program in the kingdom for women. The first interior design department, which may add a masters program next year.

Just last week, papers were signed allowing student visas, meaning that foreign students can now apply for acceptance to Saudi schools and come here on student visas. Last week. Wow.

The GD program will graduate its first seniors in the spring. That means we can examine our curriculum and make needed changes. (following graduation of a first class)


Posted by at 9:19 AM

Saudi part3

From Sandy:

Tis Wednesday, Sept 7, 2005. I am nearly finished with my first week at Dar Al-Hekma. Yesterday and today have included all kinds of orientation programs. Ive been here for a week.

The driving here is absolutely wild. There were two accidents on the way to work the first day. We drive to school in a largish bus. Though there isnt as much beeping as in Italy, the driving is wilder, though there are very few motorcycles or motorskooters. I bet the riders dont live very long if they try. The roads are quite wide sometimes 6 or 8 lanes (sort of) heading in one direction. Most of them do not have lane dividers marked and even if they do, the guys drive in two lanes, sometimes. And the Saudi men wear head garb which interferes with their peripheral vision. I understand some of them starch their head scarves which makes this even worse. The accident I saw was when one car sidewiped another on an entrance ramp. (Or even just driving down the road.

The creation of a driving range on the Dar Al-Hekma College campus grounds was discussed this week. Apparently there are efforts to let women drive. That would double the driving population which is a scary thought and to be honest, Im just as glad to let Mr. Bin drive since I have no idea where I am going.

The Warming House (next to Gordys) in Cloquet has fake electric palm trees. Think thats weird? Try orange plastic palm trees in front of a restaurant in Jeddah where the real thing is only 50 feet away.

Or, comically, the three barricades which are set like a slolam course between two machine gun nests on the frontage road in front of the compound, have please come back written on the reverse side when you leave.

Now that Ive been here a week, the machine gunners (there are three of them) wave at us on the way by. That must be a hot boring job. Last night one of them was sleeping in his nest (the furthest one away from the entrances.

The college is beautiful. White granite floors with granite in-lay. The school is laying ground for the new Saudi Arabia it is very exciting. Here the term Dean applies to the head of the school (like the Chancellor at UMD). Vice Deans are like Deans at UMD.

The food is incredible. A wide variety of food from all over the world. Being hospitable is very important in this society. It is very quiet. I have only heard one siren the whole time Ive been here and this is a huge city.

Construction is all over the place and the huge private dwellings are like palaces. Jeddah has sculptures all over town. I wanted to take pictures of these to share, but I am told there is a book on the sculptures of Jeddah in the art supply store on campus it hasnt opened up yet. So, Ill get the book.

Havent seen the Red Sea yet. Its out there somewhere. Ive been too tired to go anywhere other than a few shopping centers. The food stores are quite interesting. There are all kinds of fruits I have never seen before. I wouldnt know how to eat them, but they sure are beautiful. I think I told you that. Beggars hand out in the parking lots of the grocery stores. It is very hard to deal with. I am a soft touch I must avoid some of this, especially now that I see in one store there is an old man who has a raft of children working for him begging.

The Phillipinos and Bangladeshis here are at the bottom of the food chain. They are paid very little and do all the menial tasks. This is a very clean country. People are constantly sweeping, dusting and hauling out garbage. The cooking and cleaning staff at DAH are all Phillipino. Some of the cooks are Somali, a group, I am told is even further down the pecking order. But everyone is very nice to everyone else. There is no meanest shown the service workers, but obviously they make very little a month. I am told it probably about 7% of what I make. Food is relatively cheap, unless on is looking at the pay of the service people. Service workers at DAH also get two free meals a day, which helps them I am sure.

It took most of the week, but I finally have a computer and a telephone with a dial tone. The extension number was changed to 271, so I had to revise syllabi to reflect that. Put them in the copy center for reproduction. That, however, didnt happen. Neither did the class list. So I meet my first class Saturday morning without being as prepared as I like to be. You know how that freaks me out. So, by late afternoon I was fit to be tied and madder than I have been in years. Lisa, you would be hosing me down.

But, I am home, ate dinner with another faculty member and am more calmed down My CD player works, Eva Cassidy is singing.

The ants are mostly dead thanks to this stuff called Pif Paf. Probably as toxic as the water in New Orleans (sick joke) I heard the click-click-click sound of mating lizards this morning, so I have horny lizards in here somewhere. But they are small. They dont bite. The gecko for geiko.

The school is going through major growing pains, particularly in the GD department. Enrollment is through the roof, there is a teacher shortage, lab and classroom shortage. Sound familiar?

Tomorrow will be another day. I miss you all, but am still glad I am here. I knew it would be a challenge. And culture shock is not what I thought culture shock is. Big surprise, eh?

I am getting quite good at putting on my scarf and whenever there are men around on the upper floors of the college they announce it on the loud speaker so we have to put on our abayas and the scarves. The Saudi women consider the male presence as an intrusion and we call laugh about it. I was surprised at the reaction of some of the older women thinking they would be afraid of the men. Boy, was I wrong.

There is simply etiquette and men & women are quite separate here. And if you think Saudi women are cowed, you are very wrong. When they want the bus to go, they order it to go, which is probably why they didnt hold the early bus for me today..

Today was tough, but considering Ive spent the last week in a foreign country as a definite foreigner, with lots to learn, I think it has been good.

More later.

Posted by at 9:18 AM

More travelogue

From Sandy:

Saudi part2

Tis Sunday, Sept 4. I am in my office. Day two at Dar Al Hekma College. Yesterday was overwhelming all the new people and a new place. Actually, Dar Al Hekma college is small compared to UMD, so I cant imagine how overwhelmed new faculty must be to start there. And here, people are so friendly and helpful.

I was exhausted, but still had to do major shopping. I am the proud owner of dishes, silverware, glasses and pots and pans. More food. I might actually be able to fix spaghetti or a chicken stir fry tonight. Use the stove for the second time. Wow. Its coming together.

Some of you have asked about address & phone number:

For mailing purposes:
Sandy Pederson
Graphic Design
Dar Al-Hekma College
P.O. Box 34801
Jeddah 21478, Saudi Arabia

Mobile phone: 966-5-61548728 (This already includes the country code and mobily code)
School: 966-2-6303333 ext 172

Compound: Ask for ext 105
Compound address:

Jen and Jake called last night. That was a thrill.

Fred, the gecko, bit the dust. I had to turn in a maintenance request form. A fellow showed up and rather than catch and release, Fred went to the gecko great beyond. An hour later I sent two unnamed cousins to the same place when they went shooting across the room. Stomp.

Had my first major alone adventure last night. Went shopping on the compound bus, driven by Mr. Bin. He dropped a bunch of us off at Danube. Prayer time was fast approaching so we were to finish shopping and meet at 6:45 pm. Well, I assumed we would met where he dropped us off, so with my mounds of stuff, I went out the front door, waiting beside a very busy street (5 lanes in one direction, with no lane markers). No bus. Waited for a very long time. The sun set. So, Im there with my shopping cart and there are bars at regulated intervals trapping me and the cart from exploring more of the outside of the building. Prayers had already started, so I couldnt get back into the store until prayers were over. One lady on the bus had just returned and had been up 24 hours, so I knew I was delaying her slumber. Taxis kept stopping.

And, it is considered disrespectful here for non-muslim women to cover their heads (except for going into and out of school), so us non-muslims stick out like sore thumbs. Neon thumbs. The abaya (the black robe) is the required outer wear for all women.

Soooo. Now its very dark. Im on the busy street corner with memories of religious police who arrest women for prostitution if alone during the day (another incorrect bit of information). So, I pushed the cart back up to the entrance and asked my angels to help me out. I had no idea what to do I just got my mobile phone and the only number in it is for my department head, Angela.

Then, appearing around the corner laughing was Mr. Bin. I have never been so happy to see a guy in my whole life. Together we forced the cart between the poles, got to the bus where I apologized to everyone. They apologized for not telling me where to meet the bus. Got home and unloaded everything.

No more geckos. Kids called. Am still watching New Orleans. So sad.

I have enjoyed your e-mails immensely. Have not found meetings or members here. Oh well.

Have Colleen Birt e-mail me at so I can recapture her e-mail address. I must have written it down wrong.

Yesterday afternoon I was ready to pack it all in, but like I said in my MFA thesis, Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone.

School: I have been given office supplies, but my office computer is half there. My office mate, who is supposed to be in tonight or tomorrow, has speakers. Thats it. I have been assigned six classes. Two of them meet at exactly the same time. A problem which needs to be resolved. But Im told it will be fixed and I will know my school e-mail address eventually and have an ID.

More later,

Ps-I was going to take pictures yesterday of the magnificent sculptures and other architectural features around town. And the signage however, I was told not to take pictures because I could be arrested.

And did I mention the cats? There are feral cats in the compound, in fact all over Jeddah. They keep down on the rodent and gecko populations. And, Rudy, dogs are not generally allowed in Saudi Arabia. There is something against dogs in the Koran.

On an oh well note, there is a beautiful new city library here which has been finished for years but the authorities are still arguing about which books can be housed there.

Kinda sounds like the freeway extention in Duluth when I first moved there in 1973.

Salaam (peace)


Posted by at 9:14 AM

Off to Jeddah

From Sandy:

August 30, 2005

I have made it to the Saudi airlines gate. I am exhausted already. The flight from Mpls to DC was great even though I have never traveled on a smaller plane. Quite smooth.

DC airport is a zoo, though. Feel like I should have worn tennis shoes, but wore moccasins instead because of security checks. Had problems with the tickets all the way through and ended up paying for my flight to Jeddah oh well.

And my first task, while sitting here with the shakes because I have exercised beyond belief on an empty stomach. It finally settled as we landed in DC. I only had two and a half hours they are just going to start boarding more later. Had to check computer since the baggage which contained my computer fell over in Minneapolis. I was afraid the first casuality of the trip was my computer.


Its now Thursday Im in Jeddah with internet hooked up. I feel more connected with the world and am absolutely shocked at the damaged caused by Hurricane Katrina. The day before I left (and Katrina arrived) I spent the whole day finishing up business and saying see you later to all kinds of people, so it was only last night when the dust settled a bit and I could watch CNN worldwide.

The flight on Saudi Airlines was wonderful. The crew was so kind and wow do they feed you. From Mpls to DC, I had a bag of pretzels and 1/2 a glass of diet coke. The mini flight from DC to NY (a surprise to me) we were served a snack that would be half a sandwich, grapes, water, juice and coffee. From NY to Jeddah we had snacks, two full meals, Saudi style, which means dinner was 4 courses. It started with Arabian coffee (boiled coffee with cardoman added), and fresh dates. Ooooo. Then there was fruit juice, then the main meal I chose the lamb with flavored rice, salad, a shrimp something appetizer and cheesecake. During the night, the stewards kept asking if we wanted anything. I did say I would like some water. I got that and two pieces of fruit.

A full breakfast was served an hour before we landed. There were only two Americans on the flight in our section. To dispel rumors, you can get up and walk around the plane. I met all kinds of people a gentleman from Ivory Coast who lives in New Jersey and was going to a certain type of Hajj going on right now. After I learned about the pilgrimage going on now, I was surprised to see how many people at the Jeddah airport were dressed in white towels going to that pilgrimage.

We were on the ground for quite a while in New York. I talked to two of the Saudi stewards for quite some time. One wanted a bit of help with his English. Then met another fellow who has a construction company in Jeddah. I asked quite a few questions about Islam and learned a lot. All of the muslim people I met told me that they are very upset with the terrorism in the world caused by other people claiming to be muslim.

Just before we took off, there was a prayer recited after all the safety instructions. There is a prayer room and the rear of the plane.

People shift all over the place on the plane visiting and being very friendly. I was initially very nervous in DC oh my God, what have I done And the people on the plane totally dispelled my fears. The Saudis I have met are so kind, gentle and generous. I ended up with all kinds of e-mail addresses from those folks. Along with the other American who works and the American school in Jeddah.

Allycatherine and a gentleman from the school met me on the otherside of customs. They brought me here.

Stepping off the plane was like walking into a blast furnace. HOT and HUMID. The airport was not very air conditioned. I dont see how some of the Saudi women survive who wear the abayas the cover so much of them that only their eyes peek out. Some are completely covered.

So, we drove to the compound. For all of you who worried about security we stopped at a little guard house where a guy with a detector checked the undercarriage of the car. Then he opened a gate. We drove zig-zag through three salom spaced barricades, then past a machine gun nest, then past another half-track with a machine gun nest and THEN turned onto a narrow street with the benign gate some of you saw. There is another check point just after that. They drove me to my villa, unloaded by suitcases (all of which made it) and then left. So here I was. Exhausted. Five suitcases. My provisions consisted of milk and cereal (but no bowl), bread, Kleenex, plastic plates and some plastic silverware. Decaf coffee and peanut butter.

My doorbell makes a bird chirping noise, though I didnt know it at the time. So, I laid on the couch. I didnt even explore my villa right away I was too tired. It is a townhouse with two bedrooms and three baths. The kitchen also has a washer-dryer. The very large livingroom diningroom is furnished as are the bedrooms. Photos will eventually follow.

So, I was lying the couch, to exhausted to move when I heard a bird chirping just as the airconditioning kicked in. Oh great, says I, a bird stuck in the air conditioner. But for some reason I checked the door and son of a gun, there was a lady out there offering her services as a maid. Try to wrap your brain around going from being a grad student with two kids to raise and suddenly having a maid one day a week. Somehow I have a maid. I told her I had never had a maid before and felt rather uncomfortable with the whole idea. And everyone around here who works for the compound calls me Madam. Or Mam. Another adjustment

Again, I was too pooped to move. Finally dragged myself upstairs to make my bed and put toilet paper in all three bathrooms. Jen and Jake and I could have used that.

After that I went to the mini-mart. Met Farouk, who is our general helping hand around here. Bought diet Pepsi which is bottled locally. It costs 1 Riyal or about .26 US. Then I bought my one and only ever box of cheese nips 18.75 riyal or nearly $4.

Toddled on home. Drank some pepsi and turned on the news. Was blown away by New Orleans so I really felt like I was on another planet. Tried my phone card, ,which wouldnt work. Foiled again.

I reviewed my day. I did successfully make my flight I DC, flew to Jeddah, got to the compound and had two bottles of diet pepsi in the fridge. Started to tune into the world again. The sky turned black and the wind came up. I looked outside it sure looked like a severe thunderstorm to me. I knew there were no tornadoes here, so I looked outside to see the wind howling, debree was flying all over the place. Eventually it rained and thundered a lot. I didnt think much of it.

Evening prayers started so I heard my first call to prayer. Decided it would be a good time to crash. Left my watch downstairs. So, I turned in. Was woken up by something had no idea what time it was. To my horror it was only 11:30 pm. So, I took the sleeping pill I was going to take on the plane.

End day one. (That would be Cloquet to Jeddah)

Day two.

Woke up to morning prayers (4:30 a.m.) finally gave up and got up at 6:00 with the idea that at 8:30 when Farouk opened up, I would buy a new phone card that would hopefully work. Called Jake. I knew it would be the middle of the night, but he said later that he did remember me calling.

Filled out the paperwork for the internet, arranged to have it installed today. Unpacked all the suitcases. Made at least three trips to Farouks. While the internet guys were trying to figure out what to do, the bird chirped again and it was four other faculty members who came in and started talking about Dar Al Hekma, the general cost of things in Jeddah. Two of them have been here for at least a year and after recognizing some cultural differences, said they love it.

Tonight I went out of the compound with two of the ladies. There is a bus driven by Mr. Bin that takes us out twice a day if we so chose. So, like any kid anywhere, we went to a mall (Sultan Mall) where my first purchase was a boombox! Then off to a grocery store where I hauled in some provisions. I bought a knife. Yes, I am the proud owner of a knife. This morning I was trying to spread cheese on a slice of bread with the end of a plastic fork. Have my own broom and one pan and a flipper. Bought a can opener to go with the cans of tuna.

This part is like anyone feathering a nest for the first time. Except some of the packaging is only in Arabic. The fresh fruits are wonderful. The bins of olives remind me of Palermos markets and the bakery at this grocery store was more like a pastry shop in Sicily.

I unloaded my groceries, happy to have so many garbage bags which will fit nicely into the wastepaper baskets (when I get those.)

Called Jake again. He told me about the price of gas in Cloquet. Egad. Then I turned on CNN for more on New Orleans. Wow.

For those who wondered the flight from New York took us south of England. We crossed Europe through southern France, followed the Italien coast south, crossed Egypt, the Red Sea and then landed at Jeddah. How we left NY late and arrived on time is beyond me, but we did it.

We cannot drink the tap water. It is not poisonous, but is salty. Cellphones work differently here. You buy a chip, it goes into the phone, you get a number and an account. From then on you added money to your chip somehow. You do not pay a monthly fee.

The only bummer news is that in order to get a work visa I have to go back to the US in October to DC to get the actual work visa. They think the college does this intentionally so that if they dont like you, they can just tell you to got home when the visitor visa has expired. Any time spent in DC takes away from time I can take next summer to come home if I sign another contract. On the scale of things, that isnt bad, but when you have just gotten off a 12 hour flight, getting on another one right away just isnt my cup of tea unless I can fly Saudi airlines. It truly is the only way to go.

And there were very few people on that flight in western garb. And moving around here tonight, the women in the mall went into stores to purchase sleeveless things which they can only wear around their houses I think.

The signage is wonderful and there are some magnificent sculptures around our little area. Again, Ill take photos next time out.

Saw a starbucks and an applebees. Toys r us.

It is now 9:30 at night here or 1:30 in Duluth. Probably still 90+ outsides.

OH did I tell you that the thunderstorm wasnt a thunderstorm? It was the worst sandstorm theyd had in six months. So, today the grounds crew was busy sweeping and washing all the windows.

Re: bugs. No scorpions or cockroaches. The biggest problem is ants. Hey, I can handle that.

Unloaded all my goodies from the trip out. Tomorrow is Friday, the holy day here so nothing much happens which is great, since I know have all kinds of things to do here.

So, since my umd account is making multiple mailings difficult, I will send this out on my aol account. Feel free to pass it on to anyone else.

Side note: I notice that Saudi men fiddle around with their scarves as much if not more than the Saudi women. The Extra store (where I got my boombox) is patterned after Best Buy

Am ready to put together some more stuff. More later.

End (more or less) day two.

Posted by at 8:48 AM

October 19, 2005

About "Sandy of Arabia"

News from former VDIL RA Sandy Pederson, who is teaching at Dar Al Hakma Women's College in Jeddah.

Posted by at 10:59 AM