Today marks the first anniversary of the start of classes at KAUST. So much has been accomplished in such a short period of time. It has been interesting to watch the new students arrive this year and how they integrate with the returning students. They seem to swagger a little more than last year’s group. I suppose because they have a more senior cohort to impress whereas last year’s group were lonely pioneers. In any case, it’s lovely to see them and watch them learn and adapt.
We have learned a lot ourselves this past year. We have watched our autistic son learn to adapt to a new country and a new culture and we have marveled at his growth and development. He has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Despicable Me to the KAUST cinema and, his prayers have been answered, – it starts tomorrow. When I told him the good news, he asked me “What about Avatar, the last Airbender?” I explained to him that Avatar had been on earlier in the summer and that he had declined the opportunity to go. “Oh, I really regret that now.”, was his response. A year ago, he would have demanded that I turn back time.
We are almost at the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. It’s an interesting time to be in the Kingdom. Religion is very much part of the fabric of life here in a way that it is not in other places. The dictates of fasting have an impact on when stores and restaurants open and close and how long the work day is. My Muslim friends have explained to me that while fasting is integral part of Ramadan, it is not the only thing. Self-reflection is also a key component of the whole experience. After Ramadan, we will have Eid al Fitr which is a time of celebration and feasting. It’s a very family oriented time with lots of visiting and calling on friends and extended family.
The weather here has taken a turn for the better, meaning it’s a little cooler than it has been for the last two months. Not a day passed in July and August that I didn’t silently, and sometimes not so silently, give thanks for the miracle of air-conditioning. It was hot here! Basically, I tell people that it’s like the Chicago winter in reverse and with the added bonus of not having to shovel snow.
So, is there more that remains to be done? You betcha. Is it overwhelming to contemplate at times? Yup, that too. Mostly though, it’s exciting and energizing and just plain amazing. Ramadan Kareem!