Riyadh to Al Qassim

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Flag of Saudi Arabia  ,
Monday, November 9, 2009

Woke up somewhat late this morning after a much needed night of rest and meet two other newly arrived professors that I am going to be working with.  Tim Wallace is a nice guy from Nashville, Tennessee who had previously worked in China and Paul Taylor previously worked in South Korea too prior to this sojourn in KSA.  My suspicions are confirmed.  The deal with Al Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University in Riyadh has fallen through and we are being transported to Buraidah, Al Qassim to work at Qassim University.  This place is supposedly in the middle of the desert without many things nearby to keep us entertained.  It would have been nice if they had been direct with me about this change rather than informing once I've arrived.  Sneaky practices exist everywhere in the ESL world, CLEARLY.  I am going to try and be as flexible as possible and give this change a chance.  I am going to expect the worst and hope for the best.    

After a late lunch and much needed exercise at the mini "gym" (if you could call it that) of the hotel, a driver meets us to ship us off to Al Qassim in the early evening.  The sun is setting and there's no chance to see the gorgeous desert views en route... what a shame.  Our driver, Kaiyum, is a Bengali guy who lives in Riyadh.  His first question to me is: Are you Muslim?  I bet this is going to be a common theme of my experience in KSA.  He talks to me a lot about Islam in Hindi and his face brightens when I tell him that I am considering converting (just wanted to test the waters).  This immediately sends him off into a tangent about all things Islam with Bollywood hits blaring to accompany the journey, and he kindly adds that I will have to change my name!  He recommends Muhammad or Ahmed, but I think I look more like a Tariq!  I am considering exploring Islam and want to learn as much about it as possible.  If it works for me, I am sure it will improve my experience of the Kingdom ten fold.  

      We stop at a roadside gas station and I get my first shock of just how cheap oil/gas is in KSA!  We filled up this entire minibus with 50 liters of petrol for about 17 Riyal or about $5 USD.  Amazing:  Gas is cheaper than water!  Makes sense because they are practically sleeping on a bed of oil here.  Later on in the journey, we stop at a roadside rest stop which includes a small convenience store, a mosque, and latrines on the backside.  The workers in the shop are all Sri Lankan Tamil and I get a bit of Tamil speaking practice after a long time.  There are free materials on Islam available that we can take for our reading pleasure.  Outside a pickup truck pulls in with a horde of camels on back; large ones and small ones.  The brown-coat babies were especially keen and playful.  The amount of stars in the sky are just astounding.  It reminds me a lot of our caravan trip from Aswan down to Abu Simbel.  With no glaring city lights around for miles, you can really be overcome with a sense of wonder with your neck craned skywards

We arrive at a dusty road with yet another Boudl Hotel and are met by a man named Usama, a Palestinian descent man who is our caretaker with Education Experts for our time in Buraidah.  We are briefed on the job and are told that we are to be in the lobby around 6:30 a.m. for breakfast and a 7 a.m. departure to the University.  I am put into a suite with two other guys and hit the sack as soon as possible but have trouble resigning to my slumber and toss and turn for quite a while.  The anxiety of this sudden change is somewhat gripping me and I cannot rest my mind.  After some time.... I....

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