Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bits and Pieces

We were awakened this morning around 5 a.m. by a vaguely familiar noise - thunder, accompanied by flashes of lightening. As I sat at the computer a bit later to check email, I suddenly heard pouring rain on our front patio and David and I raced outside to stare in awe at - rain! It must be sympathy rain for our friends in Seattle who write frequently about rain. And like our Seattle home's leaking (but soon-to-be-fixed) windows, we hear dripping in the kitchen and are, simply, hesitant to look. The housing 'help desk', the infamous 959, will probably be inundated with phone calls today about leaks in houses. Another huge crash of thunder and David mentioned the "Raindrops on Roses" scene in the "Sound of Music", which goes perfectly with our drapes, virtually identical to the ones that Maria made play-clothes out of. Kind of exciting to have rain, though I have no idea how we will get to work in an hour. It is currently coming down in sheets. As Hayden would say, "If this was snow, it would be a blizzard."

The other day walking home from the rec center, I said to Logan that I had heard from his teacher, Ms. Sue, that he had had a very good day. He said, "I have good days and I have bad days. That's the kind of boy I am." Long pause. "Probably most kids have good days and bad days." It sounds like Logan's days are heavily leaning towards the good days. He is happy and learning and still loving books, of course. We are so grateful for the many fantastic books available in the various school and community libraries here! Both boys and us adults are finding so many good book options. Currently I am reading Girls of Riyadh and I just finished a fabulous book, Finding Nouf.

Today is our last day of school before the Eid holiday. This is the Eid when many Muslim pilgrims travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the most holy site in Islam, for their pilgrimage. It is a very powerful and meaningful experience, as I have been told. We are heading out of town tomorrow morning and will be back, ready to start back up after a week.

Thanks for reading - off to clean up leaking rainwater!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Biking in the desert from Hayden

Today, my dad and I went biking in the desert. It was a blast! We saw camels, alive and dead, we saw some of the most poor people I've ever seen, and we saw lots of wild dogs that didn't look very friendly. It's a good thing there were about ten of us there. I got stuck in the sand and the rocks a couple of times. There were a lot of rocks. Huge mountains of them! Some of them were pretty tall. It would be so easy to get lost because all of the little mountains look the same. We all had to stick together. We had to also get up really early or else it would be way too hot. When we got back from the ride we had a big brunch with beef bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. I was starving! I ate a large pile of eggs, more than ten slices of bacon, and three big pieces of toast. I think I biked about ten miles. You burn energy so quickly though, it felt like I biked twenty. Our bike ride started at about eight in the morning, and we had to drive about two hours to get there. Plus, I had to get up even earlier because I had to have a little bite to eat before we left. I think I got up at about five in the morning. But all I remember is the awesome biking, the great food, and the camels. Over all, the whole trip was one of my best days ever at KAUST so far.
Thank you for reading this!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The New Rec Center from Hayden

Finally, the new recreation center opened. I'm very happy about that because there are lots of things to do like racket ball, badminton, basketball, soccer, and bowling. Today we went there and found that the basketball courts weren't done and they were having problems with one of the bowling lanes. Our family played a game. I came in second. Other than that, it's great! They even are eventually supposed to have a fifty meter pool and a gym. I think the gym is almost done. I hope the pool has a nice slide like the one in Denver. The only thing that I don't like is that the halls are way too wide and waste space that could be used for sports. The restaurant there is nice except that my mom doesn't like the coffee because the coffee water is yucky she said.

My mom wrote about this but I just want to say that the boat trip is way better than the recreation center.

Thanks for reading this!

The Glorious Red Sea

Greetings,Yesterday we were fortunate enough to get to join a KAUST family boat trip out into the Red Sea. The KAUST yacht left the harbor in the morning with about thirty people and five or six staff members. We cruised out about seven miles into the sea to the
point that we could look back at KAUST and vaguely see it on the horizon. Coffee and muffins were available. The hazy morning soon gave up and the bright sunshine crystalized the day. Once the boat stopped to allow people a chance at some fishing, and a few people caught some small fish. We continued further to a reef where we spent the rest of the afternoon, alternating between swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing on the boat. Sandwiches and cold drinks were available for lunch.

Throughout the day, I was so grateful that Hayden and Logan are such good swimmers now. Logan still swam with a life jacket when he went into the sea, but I know that he will not just wander off into the water and get into trouble. Both boys thought the day was such a highlight to relax on the boat and swim in the luxurious water. It's so salty that it is very easy to stay afloat.

A great day. Popcorn and the movie "Cars" ended the day. We certainly treasure our weekends and the family time they offer.

More soon. Thanks for reading. Jennifer

Sunday, November 8, 2009


As many of you know, before we left Seattle, we sold our beloved dark green Subaru Outback, which had been with our family since just before Hayden was born. With that car, we traveled safely with our children up to the mountains nearly every weekend in the winter, once to Colorado in the HOT summer, once to Los Angeles in the traffic, on backcountry, rutted roads, and up and down Seattle's steeply hilly streets. Still, who wants to return from overseas to an old car? We packed up our bikes, rollerskis (as David has already shown), inline skates, running shoes, and a skateboard thinking we would use those all here, which we have been.

When we lived in Jeddah, we took taxis everywhere. Now that we live here on KAUST campus, we have access, though sometimes sporadic, to buses and we have our bikes. We pretty much bike a lot because it's really the fastest and easiest way we can get anywhere as a family. Most of our friends and colleagues bit the bullet and bought new cars as soon as the males in the family had gotten their driver's licenses, but we held off. In the early weeks, people were generous about giving us a lift when needed, even to Jeddah, but after a time, we began to feel that we didn't want people to resent us asking all the time. We are trying to avoid buying a car since it seems the distances are so small, at least on campus, and so sporadic, when we go into Jeddah or - perhaps someday - further to explore. We discovered that we can rent a car on campus anytime for a modest price for 24 hours. We figured out that we could rent a car every single weekend for nearly four years and spend less than a new car, and we won't rent a car every single weekend. There are also free community buses to Jeddah on weekends and most weeknights, if I am up for a late night. Finally, we recently bought a small motorbike which allows David or me to take Logan to school in the morning, spend a few minutes with him in his class reading a story, and then make it to our own classroom in time for advisory. The distance is not so far, but since Logan goes home with a caretaker and two friends after school, he could not take his bike home and it kept getting stuck at school. Or we would walk him and then be late. This seems like a perfect solution for us. Hayden is Mr. Bike this year, as he bikes all over campus, often with friends, and explores. Logan, too, has become so competent and confident on his bike, which, because it's home, he can ride every day after school. The motorbike is not permitted to leave campus, not that we would anyway, so we feel pretty safe - and, yes, we always wear helmets. We bought it here on campus, so the mechanic is right here and will tune it any time. I ride it for short distances every day, nearly, and have yet to see the gas tank fall below 'F'. I bet I could go one year without filling it up.

Our lives are busy with school. Our days are long but satisfying. Our kids are learning and growing, being challenged by the need for tolerance, learning Arabic, meeting new kids, and, overall, doing so very well. Hayden and I took the bus to Jeddah this last weekend and bought some new carpets for our house, which make it feel much more like home. It was a worthy trip. I am proud of the insights I hear from our boys, and I can appreciate their struggles too because we all feel them.

We are fortunate enough to get to go to Thailand later this month during our Eid holiday, when many Muslims will travel to Mecca for their hajj. Rather than do an exploration of Thailand, we are simply going to go to our favorite island bungalows and relax on the beach, enjoying fabulous Thai food!

Thanks for reading and keeping in touch! Jennifer