The call to prayer came all too early this morning.
This week has been particularly uneventful yet still surprisingly tumultuous. The Kingdom has a funny way of creating a sense of monotony out of everyday chaos. Things are so unstable that without something new and ridiculous happening each day, it starts to feel like things aren’t happening at all. In the last four days we’ve received a new British teacher, restructured our entire class schedule, established a beginners English program, and found out that over the weekend 40 more Smartboards will be installed, inshallah, in the building (no computers or projectors to accompany them though), but it doesn’t really feel like we actually accomplished anything. When it came time to get on the bus this morning, I wasn’t feeling all that motivated.
After arriving at school and beginning our morning routine of holding a quick 3 minute staff meeting (all five of us now) in the foyer before students rush the doors, we noticed a woman in her abaya (or a Street Ninja as the South African calls them) walking up the stairs. It was a secretary from the Girls School (one of four secretaries in that building) informing us that a large factory just down the road from the compound, which specializes in producing toxic gases used in industrial applications, had sprung a leak overnight and students would be given a holiday. That explained the strange tinge of formaldehyde in the air.
After a celebratory sigh of relief and a quick prep for the week ahead (25 lessons in 15 minutes, including making copies), we left for home.
In hindsight, it would have been nice to have known that venturing into the area around the school was considered hazardous, or that because huge sections of highway that run through the heart of Dammam needed to be shut down traffic would substantially increase en route to our compound, turning our normal twenty minute commute into two and a half hours. Nonetheless, I spent the afternoon running some errands, then sunning by the pool enjoying some wine and eating some cheese. Such is life in Saudi.
Reflecting over my time here has meant learning to take things in stride, even if they’re painstakingly annoying or, just as frequently, life threatening. They may be teensy little baby strides accompanied by an internal monologue filled with curse words and self-deprecation, but they’re still usually moving in the right direction.