Laundry days are Sunday and Wednesday. Last Wednesday I picked up the clothes I dropped off the previous Sunday. Today, Sunday, I dropped off my next round of laundry and realized I didn’t get my jeans back from the first load.
csanden: Might be worth it to mention now. Students now have to bring their laundry in the provided bag to building #32, the pickup/drop off location for the student laundry service. This new method replaces the old one, where laundry bags were collected from the rooms. Did I mention that the room and bathroom get cleaned every day? It’s not a bad deal here.
Using sign language, smiling and head nodding, I asked the fellows behind the counter if there were pants for 303B from a week ago. Careful inspection of the hanging clothes produced my 13MWZ (cowboy cut) Wranglers, neatly pressed, hung and covered in plastic. “Dry cleaned!” was the cheery response of the man behind the counter, amidst lots of smiling and more head nodding. For several years now, I have been purchasing the same make, cut, style and size of jeans. And now for several months, my dry-cleaned jeans will stay on the hangar and in the plastic; it’s far too warm to wear them.
It’s too early to make any comment about the difficulty of classes here. This has been add/drop week, some classes were canceled, lots of syllabi handed out, and starting to get into some content by the end of the week. Classes are small. My largest class has possibly 23 students, and my geostats class has only nine. CSM, I am a proud Oredigger, but the 150+ students in the upper-level PE classes is somewhat frustrating. Most of the students are UAE Nationals who wear traditional garb. Other students come from primarily Middle East/North Africa (MENA) countries, with a handful from others: Oman, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, China and now, USA!
Professors come from all over as well, with a good number from the UAE. They are identifiable by their clothing: a dishdasha with a ghutrah and ogal. Most students call the profs “doctor,” so a question-filled class sounds a bit like a press conference for a medical association. Many people have ties to Mines, by research, faculty acquaintance or previously working there.
The academic buildings are clean, close and well lit. Almost every classroom and hallway has enormous windows that let in natural light. Floors and banisters bear the same shininess that I mentioned in my previous post, although the chrome banisters have a crew of men that remove fingerprints and smudges almost immediately. Great effort has been taken to landscape around buildings and along the roads/sidewalks.
Many of you who read Robert’s last post may have come short of breath at the mention of me playing basketball for the Mines team in the 3v3 tournament. I caught the ball several times, got hit by it just once, and suffered only a single bloody nose! Read Robert’s latest post for the details. On that subject though, I have been using the rec center regularly, and Abudullah taught me how to play squash tonight. The other school activity that has been noteworthy thus far was…
The Adventure Club organizes camping trips, safaris and other similar events for students on a regular basis. This was my first desert safari, and I really enjoyed it. What did the desert safari entail? A fleet of six Toyota Land Cruisers (fitted with roll bars inside) picked up the 30 or so students at the Student Center and took us to the camel yard, on the way to Al Ain. I should mention that drivers here are certifiably insane on the pavement. Braking doesn’t happen until the last minute, tailgating is the norm, and the Land Cruiser I was in was cruising quite comfortably at 160+ km/h (~105 mph).
Driving on the pavement did not stir up the blood enough. While everyone gawked at and fed the camels, the drivers let some air out of the tires, and we drove around in the desert. Four wheels were on the ground most of the time, and we were level enough to see the horizon about half of the time. In layman’s terms, it was awesome.
We made a stop for a group picture and some hiking in the sand, and then pressed on some more. A couple of hours before sundown, we arrived at “camp.” Here, we went up more dunes, had dinner, played some games, did some Arabic folk dancing and headed back.
I’m seeing Abu Dhabi (city and Emirate) on different levels. One is as a privileged PI student, going on adventures as before. Another is as a struggling tourist (spent several hours today taking the bus to, and then waiting at the Kazakh embassy for a visa). The final is as a car-less, dirham-pinching foreigner, grateful that the buses are cheap and annoyed that the wait is so long as I sit on the curb wondering if I missed my bus.
On another note, I would like to take a moment now to thank the faculty and staff at the PI who have been nothing but welcoming, helpful and great hosts. Last-minute class and housing changes, computer troubleshooting and making sure the Americans hear about everything that’s going on… I am grateful for the warmth and hospitality that I’ve witnessed. Thanks for reading; check back soon.