Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

Greetings Friends and Family,

We just finished up our 11th week of school with a touching and thoughtful awards ceremony focusing on one of the IB learner profile characteristics: inquirer. The teachers chose a boy and a girl from each grade who most represented the qualities of being an inquirer - interest in learning, asking questions, eager to pursue knowledge. With no Christmas pageants, celebrations, gifts, or baking, this was a mellower week than pre-Christmas weeks I remember from home. All the teachers do have a secret person for which to choose a simple gift over the holidays, to be shared upon our return.

We leave for Austria tomorrow, where we have rented an apartment outside of Innsbruck in a town called Seefeld. We hope to do some skiing, snowball fighting, cooking, sipping of wine, celebrating of the holiday, and purchasing of vacuum bags. The boys are very excited.

We recently were able to do another trip on the KAUST boat which takes us out into the Red Sea for swimming and snorkeling. Hayden was lucky enough to get to drive the boat.

After work one day, I was making dinner, David was grading papers, Hayden was doing homework, and Logan decided to play dress-up from the many clothes in piles around the house. He was quite thrilled with his creations.

We are getting mail now - regular mail through the post! Write letters and / or send photos of you and your families. Always fun to see!

We wish you all a very happy and peaceful holiday season, wherever you may be, and hope you have time to reflect on the value of family and friends.

Thanks for reading - Jennifer

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Vacuum Story

Hello Friends and Family,
We are very busy finishing our final week before we have two weeks off for the December holidays. Very exciting time. Tests. Grading. Final written papers. Projects. Listening to Christmas music in the cafe. Shopping for vacuum bags.

When we finally moved into our house, we ultimately decided that a small vacuum would be helpful for cleaning our floors, particularly for vacuuming up the ants and dust that seem to come into the house. One weekend shopping spree in Jeddah, David and I split up to divide and conquer. He ended up with the list that included the vacuum. He was awesome. He got a great small, quiet vacuum made by Siemens, a good product. It came with one vacuum bag. One. The department store that sells the vacuums does not/is not allowed to sell more bags. We were told we had to go to the Siemens store. There is one - in all of Jeddah. We went several weeks later on a Friday, the holy day. It was closed, even after five in the evening when many stores opened. Another time, Hayden and I went to Jeddah for errands on a Thursday. The store was closed - and didn't look likely to open in the hours we were standing outside. I tried one other time. Not open. I checked online. One Siemens store. In all of Jeddah. I took the evening bus with some friends last week, partly to go to the Siemens store for these bags and partly to shop for some Christmas presents, a rather odd combination I might add. (I have already once pulled all of the gunk out of the bag in order to keep reusing it. It was an unpleasant but not impossible experience.) That evening, we were stuck in traffic and finally got to our destination ... just as the call to prayer sounded and all stores closed. As the prayer time ended, I checked Siemens. Closed. I returned one hour later. Open. I could not believe it. I entered the store nervously, fearing it would close again as I opened the door. I told the very nice man what I needed. "Oh, you are unlucky," he said. "We are out of those bags." I nearly screamed. I explained that I lived in Thuwal and he said, "Let me have your number, and I will maybe bring you some when I have to head that way." No such luck yet.

Happy Day. We will try to write again soon. A holiday message!

Thanks for reading, Jennifer

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grocery Store Opens

Greetings all,
This last week saw us all busy back at work and in school, missing the pristine and calming aquamarine waters of Koh Samui, the aromas of grilled seafood and steaming bowls of jasmine rice, fragrant coconut oil massages, the peaceful and soothing sounds of the waves on the beach, the laughter and calls of the boys in the pool, and, for Hayden, heaping piles of bacon for breakfast.

This week we taught classes, played at the recreation center, and discovered that the large new supermarket had finally opened. It's called Tamimi Market, but, somehow it's also a Safeway. It's excellent, and you cannot imagine how thrilling it is to stroll through the aisles of a large supermarket, knowing that those items are now available five minutes from our home instead of 75 kilometres. We can now buy, here in our community, Tillamook cheeses, parmes
an cheese, coffee, fresh lettuce and greens, frozen organic pizzas, Argentinian beef and lean freshly ground hamburger, all manner of toiletries, raw and roasted nuts of many types, baguettes and rolls, boxed brownie mixes, granola bars and Cheetos (Hayden hopes), and most other items we might find in a grocery store in the U.S. The manager promises that canned pumpkin is soon to come, so we might actually have pumpkin pies and muffins. The mini-mart was doing its best with essentials, but this is truly helpful and will mean we do not need to go to Jeddah to buy food.

Just returned home from a shower for a 20-something colleague who is getting married in Connecticut in December. David is heading to a men's tool shower for this woman's husband-to-be, also a colleague. Among us women, there was a lot of laughter about the tool shower, wondering how much fun the men would have compared to us. I doubt if their cake, should they have one, will look like the cake I just enjoyed! One of the gift ideas was for each person to bring a Christmas ornament for this couple, and they received - like David and I did at our wedding - an amazing assortment of ornaments from Oman, Istanbul, Jordan, London, Italy, Thailand, Starbucks, and even the Jeddah Marriott!

Love to all and thanks for reading,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thailand from Hayden

We just got back from Thailand, and we had a great time! One of my favorite things about the trip was the great food. Kowneeo mamuang was my favorite. It is a dessert, of course! It is mango with sticky rice and coconut sauce. It is very very good. My Mom has been telling me stories about it since I was 4 years old. I'm glad I finally got to try it. I think the best place to get it is the resort we were staying at. The food there was spectacular! We went out to a couple of other restaurants in town, but my favorite by far was our own resort. My whole family agreed that the best restaurant in town was probably our resort. Another thing I like about Thailand is that the people there are so nice. When we come to have dinner they push you in, and put your napkin in your lap for you, they even talk to you and ask you how you like the food, and they talk with Logan and me too. One guy asked me where I was from, another asked me what my name was, another asked me if I liked soccer, one even asked me if I was Thai. I told him that I was not. The last thing that I want to tell you about is the transportation. On Samui island there are no hummers, no big huge 4 by 4s. I didn't even see one big truck. The average vehicle is actually a 10 year rusty old motor bike. There must be almost 50,ooo of them just on one island. Thank you for reading this!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Logan's blog entry

Hello all. Below is Logan's blog, written directly and exactly from Logan's letter to a friend in Seattle:
"I went to Thailand. It was really nice. I love the food. I just wish I could stay there because I lived right on the beach! My favorite food there
was fried rice and mangos. I think you would also like it if you came there. The mangos are really sweet. I also loved to play on the beach. There was also a pool there that I had a lot of fun in. But then I had to leave. I wasn't happy when I had to leave because Thailand is so nice. I also learned a little bit of Thai. I think I wanted to stay there longer, even though KAUST is a little bit nice. I had to go on a lot of airplanes. In Thailand I even saw somebody stick his head in a crocodile's mouth and he even put his hand in also and he put his hand in the crocodile's huge throat."

Logan also said that Thailand was his new favorite place, which I, of course, don't mind hearing.

We were so grateful for this opportunity for travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and the Muslim Eid.

Thanks for reading. Logan (and Mom)