Progress on Several Fronts

Well, a number of things came together this past week, with one of the biggest of them being that I finally received my Iqama, or residency card. The Iqama opens up so many new possibilities that not having it was somewhat shackling. If you want to apply for just about anything, you need to generally have two things: (1) your Iqama, and (2) your local mobile number. Inasmuch as you can’t get a local phone number (a SIM for your phone) without the Iqama, basically everything hinges on having that in your possession.

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Part of my Iqama card – I blurred out my ID number, but if you know your non-Arabic Arabic/Indian numbers, you could figure out my birthday. And then send me presents.

So, once I had Iqama in hand, I got a SIM card for my phone. Let me know if you want my number; I just put my 303 number “to sleep” and won’t be reachable on that any more. I’ll probably post my number on FB, because that’s not open to the whole world like this blog is. Then, I got a bank account with the bank the University deals with, so I can get paid sometime (Inshallah). After that, I secured a multiple re-entry visa so I can visit other countries…and then be able to come back into the Kingdom.

Getting a driving license is proving to be a slow process. I’m going to need to have another blood test, an eye test (good idea), and I had to go to a shady place to get a translation of my Colorado license into Arabic. Some of the administrative things here seem capricious, but not much I can do about that. Pay some money here, pay some more money there, fill out forms, give blood (or other bodily fluids), and wait. Oh, and you need passport-sized photos (importantly with a white background) for many, many of the forms. Fortunately, there’s a place on campus where they’ll take passport photos for you. For a price, of course. Next time I go there, I’m going to have 20 of them printed.

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Seems like a rather specialized business.

I’m still waiting on getting internet in my flat. In the meantime, I’m using my iPhone as a personal hotspot through my unlimited data phone plan. Internet comes from the same company as my phone service. I had satellite TV installed on Friday (needed mobile number and Iqama for that, of course). But the BIG event this weekend was the delivery of the stuff I had shipped from Boulder. Although it seemed to have taken forever, it was less than a month (left Boulder January 17 and arrived here February 11). I shipped 31 boxes and a set of golf clubs. Arriving yesterday were 31 boxes (and they happened to be mine) and a set of golf clubs, also mine. Today, I’m wearing clothes other than the 3.75 changes of clothes I came over here with (yes, they’ve been laundered…more than once…give me some credit).

The delivery flatbed as it drove away, along with my boxes. Excite!

Saudi customs definitely worked over my stuff. Seems like there are a couple items missing, but nothing that can’t be replaced at IKEA. What I worried about the most being confiscated arrived unscathed – a pint of Vermont maple syrup that I got when I visited Rebeca at UVM in October.

While it’s great to have my clothes, I’m just super pumped to have all my cooking stuff (finally!!). I’ve really resisted buying too much stuff here that I know would be duplicative, and that led to some creative cooking. Not any more. Tonight I celebrated by making a very tasty (and spicy) chicken curry over basmati rice.

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Yes, it made me sweat. 🙂

Boxes with my office stuff are still in my flat. The office I was originally assigned kind of sucks (I call it the cave), but I’m moving to a “good” office later this week. Fortunately, I can get University housing guys to pick it up from here and deliver it to my office.

The second week of classes started today (Sunday). The first week went smoothly and I’m back in the teaching rhythm. My senior carbonate students are excellent – totally engaged. I think to a large extent because they just came back from field trip in the Bahamas. Why wasn’t I there?!?!?!? My sophomore-level Physical Geology class is mostly civil engineering majors, with a couple of petroleums in there, too. I don’t think they know what just hit them!

Thursday night I went out to dinner with my upstairs housing neighbor and the Department Chair of Petroleum Engineering. We went to a new Lebanese restaurant not too, too far from campus. My neighbor (also one of my current office neighbors in the cave area) is a brand new petroleum PhD from Stanford (although he’s originally from Austria). And by brand new, I mean he defended about a month an a half ago. He hadn’t visited campus, had never been to this part of the world, and had never taught a class before. He’s just a tad shellshocked. His Chair is a Saudi who got his PhD at TAMU – super nice guy and he really wants to learn about some of my experience as Head at Mines. Friday night, I had dinner with a recent Mines geology PhD, Mohammed Al Duhailan, who now works for Saudi Aramco. He was psyched that I was enthusiastic when he asked if I wanted to go for sushi, because his wife doesn’t like/eat sushi. We went to a nice place called Tokyo on the Corniche in Al Khobar. Mohammed says hello to all the Mines folks.

Finally, just a comment on the lead photo of this entry. That’s a panorama (obviously) taken from the “front” of campus, looking toward Dhahran, Al Khobar, and the Gulf. My building is on the far right (alt-right??) middle. The strange looking bent towers are the lights for the KFUPM soccer stadium, and the high rises on the horizon behind the stadium mark the center of Al Khobar. The University administration building is the tall building on the hill to the left (hence the nice landscaping that you see throughout most of the photo).

One thought on “Progress on Several Fronts

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