ABBA and Abayas

It’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry. Where has the time flown? On the same note, our 24th wedding anniversary was yesterday! How did that happen? It seems like the years go by more quickly as we get older and yet, it seems like a long time ago since I arrived at KAUST although it hasn’t been quite 6 months. Time is elastic, that’s the only explanation.

The last few weeks have been busy. We have been trying to buy a car which has necessitated a couple of trips to Jeddah. We made the mistake of trying to shop in the middle of the afternoon only to discover that all the car showrooms were closed. Buying a car is different here in KSA – no test drive for one thing. However, we have chosen a car and settled on a price. It will be good to have a car now that the weather is getting warmer and it’s less comfortable to be outside.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak with students at Dar El Hekma  – a highly regarded women’s college here – who are pursuing degrees in autism. They were taking a class on how autism impacts general family dynamics and I was there to share my “mom” insights. It was a wonderful experience for me – the students were bright, eager, and well prepared, and genuinely interested in learning whatever it was I had to teach. This was all the more impressive when you consider that their first language is not English.

On my return trip to KAUST from Dar El Hekma, I decided that I would take advantage of the fact that I had a car and a driver and do some shopping. I decided that I would buy another abaya since the one I have is getting a little grubby and tired, so off I went to an abaya shop, all by my myself. Not the smartest thing I have ever done. The measuring process was a bit more personal than I had bargained for and it seemed to be necessary to measure several times. I was very uncomfortable with the whole deal but while I was waiting to pay for the garment something very nice happened. A veiled lady came into the shop with her little girl. She sized up the situation in the blink of any eye, said something in a sharp tone to the abaya guy and then turned to me, and said to me, in English, that she loved my hairstyle and where had I gotten it done. Women are good to one another.

The KAUST ladies are also trying to be supportive of one another, and to contribute to building a friendly and integrated community. We had our second ‘ladies only’ dance party – this one had an ABBA theme. Most of the ladies there were young enough to have first encountered ABBA through the Mama Mia ABBA revival. For me, it was a walk down memory lane. I knew all of the words to some of the songs and at least some of the words to all of the songs. I had flashbacks of my father dancing round the kitchen, waving a tea towel and singing “you are older now Fernando, for many years I haven’t seen a rifle in your hand.” It really wasn’t cool to like ABBA when I was a teenager – and if you were sort of geeky and nerdy, you desperately wanted to be cool, (although secretly I wanted to be Agnetha, ‘the blonde one’), – but memories of all that cool, head banging rock have been wiped away while ABBA – sweet to the point of being saccharine, but with great dance rhythms – remains burned into my brain.

Our community here continues to grow and improve. Our beach is open every day now and the yacht club and marina are supposed to open in a few weeks. Already, one can walk in front of the yacht club and admire the view over the harbor and the large art pieces that have been erected there. It’s really quite spectacular. Life at KAUST continues to be good.

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