Friday, February 25, 2011

The 2011 KAUST Bike Race from Hayden

Greetings, friends and family,

Yesterday, the 2011 KAUST Bike race took place. Once again my speedy dad won the race. However, the adult bike race wasn't the only thing that happened yesterday. There was also a six and under race, that my brother competed in, and a ten to twelve year old race, that I competed in. Logan started out in about the 5th row of kids at the start line and ended up to be the winner. When the race was over, Logan hadn't even broken a sweat. I was not so lucky. I had to do two giant laps, instead of one small one. I had to race kids two years older than I. I had to race in the hottest part of the day. I also had to win. So, that's what I did. I still was not as lucky as Logan though. When I got done I was dripping with sweat and could barely walk. I then collected my medal, shook hands with the president of KAUST, and drank about five big bottles of water.

I guess it wasn't that bad though, because as soon as I got done I played ultimate frisbee for two hours. Ultimate frisbee was really fun. I scored a few points. Finally, we went to the yacht club and had an okay dinner. The view was great. Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Weekend Outing

Yesterday we rented a car and drove to Jeddah. It's not too expensive to rent a sedan-type car for a day, and, since we don't own a car, we thought we might do it once a month. In 19 months, we have rented a car maybe three times. Driving to Jeddah is far and increasingly we find that, except for Starbucks coffee, we can get a lot of the foods and other items we need right here on campus. I always feel a low level of constant stress when we go to Jeddah as we try to accomplish many things in a short period of time. With traffic, fast flying cars on the highway, and the occasional driver heading the wrong direction on streets, getting around can be challenging. Busy long highways sometimes go a mile or more without an intersection or break in the median forcing drivers to frequently drive far past their destination simply to make a u-turn and head back to where they need to be. With beautiful walled homes and glamorous malls, I have never been able to figure out the justification for the vast heaps of construction rubble, neatly piled like small pyramids, across large swaths of the city's otherwise empty land.

After a long day of soccer games and errands, we headed back home to KAUST but, since we had a car for a few more hours, we decided to drive beyond home to the King Abdullah Economic City where there were, apparently, some newly opened restaurants. We exited the highway, drove through a gate that resembled a makeover of the Arc de Triomphe, thanked the friendly guard, and proceeded another 15 kilometers through barren land lined by palm trees and a simple hedge. We eventually came to a beautiful apartment building where we saw some cars parked. We too parked our car and were amazed to walk down a gorgeous sandy beach - the sand recently brought in from elsewhere - in front of a lovely waterfront walkway lined with several restaurants and lots of outdoor seating. We walked all the way past the buildings, through remnants of construction, and to the section of the beachfront where villas had been built in a V-shape configuration opening toward the Red Sea. The reddish-brown color of the villas reminded me of an Arizona resort. On the water, a long pier has been built that leads directly to the coral reef drop off. On either side of the pier is a small swimming area where the coral seems to have been cleared out,with steps down to beckoning sea. It was stunning and we had visions of returning some time for an afternoon/evening swim or snorkel. Hayden saw a large sting ray slowly swimming over the rocks, only to disappear lazily into the dark blue depths of the swimming area. Hmmmmm.

We picked up shells, enjoyed a long beach walk and a lovely Lebanese dinner on the waterfront before winding our way back to the road which ultimately brought us home. We have heard that construction at the economic city is on pause as many of the builders have been brought into KAUST for work, and it is clear that much of the economic city is ready for occupants and building completion, but the apartment buildings that are finished are beautiful, the waterfront is nicely designed, and the restaurants are happy to serve!

Thanks for reading. Jennifer

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jeddah rivals Seattle in rain

Strange but true: from late December through late January Jeddah probably had more rainfall than Seattle. Even though December is often the cruelest, wettest month in Seattle, with January often not that much better, Jeddah has been more than holding its own this year. During our winter break away in Austria, Jeddah had three rainstorms, one of them big enough to flood much of the city (and, temporarily at least, portions of KAUST). Then, a few weeks after returning to KAUST, we had another huge rainfall, this one wreaking even more havoc in Jeddah and again testing KAUST's limits on drainage.

Fortunately, the engineers at KAUST did their homework after last year's also big flooding. Although we had our own temporary version of the Great Lakes on campus, the storm drains worked overtime, the water diversions held, and soon campus was pretty much back to normal. Jeddah was not so lucky; KAUST coordinated a humanitarian effort to help those most adversely affected, with even our school playing a helpful role.

While Seattle is synonymous with rain, far fewer folks would associate Saudi Arabia with the wet stuff. Given this, a few images from the past weeks might attach a bit of humor to what was otherwise a very tough week for many in these parts.
  • Biking across a bridge that had the biggest puddle, a lake really, even though the bridge straddled water. Huh?
  • During the worst torrents, looking over at manicured shrubs and noticing that they were receiving their pre-programmed watering. Nothing like a double dose of water! "Excuse me, sir, it's time to wake up for your sleeping pill."
  • Biking to dinner in a downpour, which we hoped would end, and basically needing a kayak to get home after the rain's intensity only grew. Logan's bike at one point was below water level. And he was still riding. This prompted pulse increases in both parents. It was then that we abandoned the roads and just went for high ground.
  • January is often synonymous with snow days for US school kids. Not so here, where students miss school because of heavy rain. Which makes sense when you think about it if you're receiving more than 100% of your annual rainfall in the space of a few hours.
So, amazing to say this from Saudi Arabia, but we don't need anymore rain, at least not for awhile. Fortunately, there's none forecasted. And I mean FOREcasted. Now, true to form, it could well not rain for another ten months. At all!

Thanks for reading,