Friday, June 18, 2010

End of the Year Celebrations


The first year for Kaust School is officially over. Graduation happened for our two amazing senior boys, who have set the standards high as our first graduating class. Though friends, they are different from each other in their impressive talents and skills, and I think all of the teachers are proud that these two boys set standards high for future classes. We were blessed that they were the first. All tests, projects, and exams are over. Grades are mostly done. Teachers are working on final reports to be sent to parents at the end of the week. Awards and celebrations have occurred. The last day of school saw an array of emotions on the part of the students - many smiles, memories, and tears. We laughed about the fire alarms that went off the first day - and every day of the first week. We talked about how far we have come. We said good-bye to some students moving on. We acknowledged with awards the special abilities and strengths of some. It was a more touching and emotional last day than I expected. It's funny because students are so excited for school to end - and then it does and they don't want to leave. I suppose it's the work they are happy to have a break from rather than the relationships with friends and even teachers. I suspect that some will have little to do over the hot summer months; others will head home to other countries or travel.

We went to a large faculty/staff party last night to honor two couples from the founding administration team who are leaving. The first superintendent was only hired as an interim for this year, so he and his wife are heading home to the US. I like and respect him a great deal, as do many. I think he has a been a true advocate for the schools and for the teachers specifically. He will be missed a lot. He confronts issues when needed, but quietly, and he willingly and openly commends the strengths and gifts he sees in others. The other couple who is leaving is heading to Germany. The husband was in San Francisco doing the hiring when we went to the recruitment fair. He is a wonderful man, and we also really like and enjoy his wife, who has deftly managed the school where Logan goes - the early learning center. I will miss them a lot. Several of the kids acknowledged these adults on the last day of school and one said, "I don't really know what Mr. M does at our school, but he was always really friendly and nice to the students." Everyone laughed.

We have a full week of work this next week and then teachers are heading off for the summer. We will be here a little longer than this next week, doing some working projects, before we head to Switzerland to meet family there. We are excited for our vacation and travels.

More soon! Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last Day of School

Greetings all,
We have been super busy, as you can imagine, finishing up classes, tests, grading, projects, grading, activities, grading. You get the idea. I am finished now with all projects, tests, and grading! One boy came up to me after class today - a boy who could not say anything in English on the first day of school - and he said, "Ms. Evans, a student in class always teased me that I failed on every test. Today I get a 6 and today she get 4. Today she quiet!" He smiled a mischievous smile and went to lunch. All year this boy has tried, then not tried, tried, then not tried. Nonetheless, he has learned so much this year. Another boy who was in a similar situation worked all through our final humanities class while we were playing a geography game; he completed his entire final test and did very well!

We will try to write more soon.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Birthday Celebration

A year ago we celebrated Hayden's birthday with his good friends in Seattle - eating and playing at Discovery Park. This year, Hayden has a new group of friends and many of them were able to join him for his birthday (though he misses and talks about his Seattle friends as well). We all met up at the secondary school to play basketball on the outdoor courts and tag on the playground, which was new for most of the kids who do not come to the secondary school often. Along with a lot of water, juice, and 7up, we ordered pizza to be delivered to the playground from the campus pizza shop, Pizza Inn. Later we headed to our house for chocolate cupcakes, more water, and a ping pong tournament. That evening Hayden said that the party had been awesome. If you have a group of boys, a ball or two, and a park or playground, you pretty much have a good, sweaty time. The boys were energetic, funny, and active. One of the coolest parts of our lives at the moment is the various nationalities and backgrounds of our kids' friends - Canadian, Filipino, American-Lebanese, Indian, South African, Ghanian-American, English ... Kids love to play - wherever they might be from - and they generally like pizza and chocolate too!

We are wrapping up our year. We have two weeks of school left, including final projects and tests and a lot of grading and report writing! School is done for the students on June 16, but we have one additional week of reports, meetings, and packing up for the summer. We are officially done on June 23. We will stay until June 29 when we head off for the summer.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Many of us remember paying nearly $4/gallon for gas a few summers ago. Not so here. At our sole gas station on campus, which we frequent about every three weeks, if that, gas is a whopping 70 cents per gallon. Our usual habit is to pull into the station on our motorbike, pop the seat to reveal the hidden gas tank, and then wait the 9.2 seconds it might take for the attendant to fill up the two-liter tank which, let's face it, is never actually empty. I'm usually embarrassed enough about spending so little that I often find myself silently praying for the tank to be suitably empty so that I can give the pump operator two riyals in order to tell him to keep the change. Never has a 70- 90% tip felt so good! Of course, this tip is a mere 25 cents or so, which may seem none too consequential to many of us but could really add up for the Indian or Pakistani citizen who most often fills our tank...
Indeed, campus is an odd juxtaposition of vehicles, from cyclists and their mechanical cousins like our small motorbike, to huge, hulking SUVs. Many families have purchased a vehicle, often large, for use while in Saudi Arabia. What many are finding, however, is that getting off campus and exploring the country is proving to be more the exception than the rule, and so most vehicles just sit, or else are driven a perfunctory quarter mile to the store or school once or twice a day, only to collect a veneer of dust in the driveway once home.
KAUST also provides a fleet of buses, and these understandably get most use before and after the school or work day, but seemingly very little use otherwise. Oddly enough, whether large or small, about the only thing most of these campus vehicles have in common is one occupant, or maybe two, much of their time in use.
So, while the U.S. continues to reel from the effects of its largest oil spill in history, with no end in sight, this part of the world, where oil is much more plentiful and vastly easier to drill, seems of another time, and certainly of a forgotten cost when it comes to anything related to purchasing energy. How will it all look in 50 years? Who can know? In the meantime, we ride our bikes, both mechanized and not, and enjoy getting around our growing campus when we need to.

Thanks for reading,