Thursday, June 28, 2012

Longer than a 36-Hour Day

We are now in Mallorca, Spain – an island in the Mediterranean which has an airport that is the 3rd largest in Spain, David read recently. We have an incredible apartment – well, a fine two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a small kitchen – and an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea and the pool in the complex. The apartment was recommended by friends from KAUST who have actually stayed here in previous years. We are pleased! David’s teaching program began yesterday, so we had a day to adjust, get groceries, enjoy the pool and beach, jump from the rocks into the aqua sea, and catch up on sleep!

We had a wonderful visit to the United States. We flew first to Minneapolis to catch a shuttle to Carleton College in order to attend David’s 30 college reunion. When we arrived in the dark and pouring rain, Hayden’s first comment was, “How come there isn’t a wall around this college?” A testament, I guess, to living in a perpetually walled compound in Saudi Arabia.

We flew to Traverse City to visit David’s parents in Interlochen, Michigan, and to celebrate his father’s significant birthday in September by going to Mackinac Island for one night at the Iriquois Hotel right by the water. David’s folks took David and me there eighteen years ago when we were first engaged and I first met them. We biked around the island on its 8.2 mile loop and explored the fort on the island.

At the last minute I decided it was possible to attend my 25th reunion at Principia College. Hayden encouraged me, after seeing the large 25th reunion group at David’s reunion, so I flew to St. Louis where my parents met me at the airport – also in town for my mom’s 50th reunion from the same college. At first none of my friends or classmates were there, and I felt for awhile like a kid at my parents’ event, but eventually friends of mine who now live in St. Louis arrived, and I was able to connect with several people I knew in college. At David’s reunion, we ran in a 5k Fun Run, and I ran in one at Principia too – though I got lost and ran less than the 5k loop. Others got lost and ran more than 5k, so I guess it all averaged out okay.

On Sunday, I got up early, caught a shuttle back to the airport in St. Louis, flew to Chicago, and then on to Traverse City, where David, Logan, David’s sister and her husband picked me up. We went home to the Interlochen house, ate lunch, packed, did a quick load of laundry, returned to the airport (this time with David and Logan) and flew back to Chicago a mere five hours after I had been there! Hayden avoided this flight because he’s staying in Interlochen to attend the Summer Arts Camp for three weeks where he will focus on creative writing, sports, classical guitar, and ceramics – amid ice cream, ultimate Frisbee games, and cabin fun.

After arriving in Chicago for the second time in one day, we ate a quick salad, and caught our flight to Munich and then on to Palma, Mallorca! It was an incredibly long day, with the added flight from St. Louis, but all went smoothly and our bags, much to our delight, actually showed up as well. Isn’t that truly amazing? You hand over your bags to a stranger in an airport and then many hours later, they tumble down a conveyor belt in the very airport in which you have just arrived, continents away from the departure city. No one told us in the Palma airport that if the bags originated from an airport outside of the European Union, they would arrive on a separate belt than everyone else’s, but David wandered around and found them, going around and around. We were eternally grateful as we really needed showers, clean clothes, and some teeth brushing!

Thanks for reading! Cheers - and hasta la vista! Jennifer

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A 36 Hour Day

We are now in the United States - for ten days! It was quite a journey to get here. After 36 hours from door-to-bed on Thursday, we are feeling much refreshed today. The campus here at Carleton is, of course, lush, fragrant, and beautiful. We are relishing the change of sights for the eyes, tastes for the tongue, and smells for the nose, and a return to - what is for us - a familiar culture. Wow. The boys were particularly excited with the morning breakfast buffet - bacon, fresh fruit, bacon, pastries. Did I mention bacon?

The phenomenon of travel never ceases to amaze. That we could depart Jeddah at 2 am on Thursday and arrive in Minneapolis some 30+ hours later on Thursday evening is pretty amazing - and confusing. We left our house at 10 pm on Wednesday night and arrived in the dorm room at Carleton a bit before 6 am (Jeddah time) on Friday morning. It's so confusing. You get in this weird mental 'travel mode' where you watch the movies on the plane and stand and walk around and try to sleep if
possible - and you avoid thinking about the time where you originated, the time at your destination, or how long the flight might take. When you arrive at the next airport, which - except in the case of the Jeddah airport - looks an awful lot like the last airport, you find your next gate, some good food and drink, and plunk down to wait for the next step in the journey. Again, trying to avoid too much thought. Last night I started to fall asleep and I was trying to recall our 36-hour day, but for the longest time I could literally not remember the time in Frankfurt. I finally did but it was vague and fuzzy. People here ask me what time is it in Jeddah, and I tell them I honestly don't know. I just try not to pay attention because if I immediately try to live like I am in this time zone, it helps a lot - plus no naps!

Jeddah to Frankfurt, wait three hours, eat, struggle to get confirmation on the next flight (finally did!), Frankfurt to Chicago. Tried to sleep. Watched three movies. Ate a bit. Stood and stretched in the back for a long time ... Arrived in Chicago just as flight was due to leave. Went through US Customs, collected bags, rechecked bags, got reconfirmed on a new flight three hours later (which was then an
hour late leaving), sat down to eat another, surprisingly good, meal - fresh salads, pizza, caprese, wine Airport food has really changed! Waited. Wandered. Waited. Wandered. Looked at books. Bought one for Logan. Finally, finally boarded airplane, finally left. I slept the entire 65 minutes until the flight was so rough I woke up. Arrived in Minneapolis. Collected bags. Found Carleton desk but shuttle bus was not due to leave for two hours. More waiting. More coffee and snacks at Starbucks. Waiting.
Waiting. Left. Arrived. Dark and rainy. Walked in the rain to the dorm. Made beds. Took showers. Collapsed. Barely able to function any longer. Boys did not - I mean, did NOT - complain one time! Incredible. As always, grateful to have arrived safely and with all bags.

We have attended reunion meals, chatted with former classmates of David's, run a 5k fun run, enjoyed the Reunion Convocation, which was stellar, and truly relaxed for the first time in a while. Vacation!

We head to Michigan on Sunday to visit David's parents, travel to Mackinac Island for a night, run in the incredible northern Michigan woods, and get Hayden set up at Interlochen Summer Camp. We will be there for a week.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

End of Year Three!

Greetings all,
We finished Year Three on Wednesday. Students received yearbooks and requested signatures, classes ended, grades were completed ... some seniors cried! It was momentously celebrated by many probably in a variety of ways. Hayden finished 6th grade and his first year of secondary school; Logan completed 1st grade. We had a relaxing weekend with no reports to write, no essays or tests to grade; we headed to the beach and enjoyed time with friends.

Logan's Piano Recital
Today, the first day of the final and student-free week for teachers, Hayden joined a golf clinic and Logan played with his good friend, Charlotte. David and I headed to an all-school meeting in our school's auditorium. After the brief meeting, we headed back to our classrooms - along with our colleagues - to review all of the grade reports submitted by all teachers for our advisees. About five minutes into this valuable and culminating review process, the fire alarm blurted out its piercing warning and an announcement in both Arabic and English. After so many false alarms this year, nearly every teacher and administrator stayed in his or her classroom/office, trying to work. Finally, another American colleague came to my room and ushered me out of the building. Reluctantly - more due to the incessant noise than the concern over an emergency - adults left the building, gathering in the 40 degree heat, in the shade of the basketball court. Many, many minutes later, the fire marshall declared that the alarm had been triggered by humidity in the building from an open window. Now, let me explain that our building in the morning is often 18 - 19 degrees Celsius, so individuals - myself included - open the window to let in enough warmth to actually not have frozen fingers. Apparently, someone had done this. The alarm was ultimately shut off, but it took another 30-40 minutes to actually shut off the automatic voice announcing an unexpected emergency and directing everyone outside without using escalators or elevators (which we don't have). Everyone returned to their classrooms, trying to edit grade reports with the unstoppable voice ringing through the halls and classrooms. Sigh. It felt a bit like Year One - though, blessedly, no students were on campus.

Hayden's Guitar Recital
Though each teacher is happy to be heading into vacation, I admit to missing my wonderful 7th grade students, just as I did last year. They are, again, a wonderful group of 11-13 year olds from Malaysia, Jordan, Canada, the Philippines, India, United States, Russia, South Africa, Egypt/Austria who read every book I asked of them, who struggled to engage in meaningful discussions on themes of books, who learned how to write five paragraph essays (remember those?), who took spelling quizzes, learned to punctuate and paragraph dialogues, tried to recognize run-on sentences, played Taboo, and made me laugh and smile and appreciate them every day. Teaching middle school kids is demanding, challenging, humorous, never tedious, and always satisfying as we see their development and growth, sometimes despite themselves! I am lucky to know these kids - and to have a summer to prepare for the next group!

We head to the US in four days, attend David's college reunion, visit David's family in Michigan, celebrate David's father's 80th birthday in September, get Hayden settled at Interlochen Summer Camp and then head to Mallorca, Spain, for David's summer teaching program.

Thanks for reading!