Friday, May 20, 2011

'Arab Spring' has been unseasonably mild here

I really have meant to post more often. With more interesting fodder than simply excuses for not writing. But all of a sudden I have been busier than ever with work. Which is great - I like being busy. But right now I'm acting section chief, filling in for the other two FSO positions in my office for a few weeks. Add that to one of our busiest periods since my arrival at post, and you've created the perfect recipe for a too-busy-to-blog situation. All of a sudden I've gone from counting down wistfully to R&R to now frantically thinking it's coming up too fast and lamenting my lack of packing time. Most of every day between now and my departure is fully accounted for already!

So here's a few random tidbits to tide you over until this frantic period comes to an end.

The weather the past couple of weeks has been unseasonably wonderful. We've had a longer-than-average and milder spring this year, I'm told, and, even though the days are hot and humid, the nights have been blissful. Low humidity, warm without being stifling, and always a gentle breeze to cool the air a bit. Plus, the omnipresent mosquitoes seem to have gone into hiding. This has made for several very pleasant evening events lately.

Jeddah's main roads are once again lined with Saudi flags on every light post, and there's a frantic effort to tidy things up. What does this mean? It means the King is coming soon. Every summer the King and many other senior royals and government ministers move to Jeddah, effectively shifting the locus of operations. This has increased work implications for our Consulate of course, so we've been trying to figure out when the shift will occur. Judging from the flags and now building-sized banners being erected all over town in honor of the King, any day now.

I was sitting on the couch and checking email one sunny morning last weekend, and my cats were soaking up sun rays. But as I watched them pick their favorite spots, Griffin did something very interesting. They love to lie in front of the sliding glass door to my itsy-bitsy balcony, as they have direct sunlight in the morning. I have a chair for one to snuggle on and a cat pad on the floor for the other. But instead of curling up on the pad as usual, Griffin burrowed underneath it, with only his tail and backside sticking out towards the door and sun. It must have been a bit too hot to be in full sunlight, but he still wanted his rays, so this was the next-best solution. Smart cat.

Today the cats were chasing themselves around the living room and generally wreaking havoc. I heard one of them jump up on the table behind me, and, before I knew it, I was yelling "Hattie get down from there!" I immediately realized what I'd said, but it had just slipped out. Such a natural reaction.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the graduation ceremony of a local women's college. Among the graduates was the inaugural class of Saudi Arabia's first engineering degree program for women. Quite a momentous occasion to be among these history-makers. What a great occasion to celebrate, and celebrate they did!

Right now there's an interesting story emerging in Saudi Arabia. A group of women have decided to defy the Kingdom's ban on female drivers and take to the roads on June 17th. Their Facebook page is attracting thousands of fans from the world over, and the story is beginning to go viral. See CNN's video here. It almost makes me wish I'd be in KSA on June 17th instead of in Miami. Almost. But if this happens, it'll be fascinating to watch. The last time a group of women did this, in the early 1990s in response to seeing female American soldiers driving vehicles as they prepared for the first Gulf War, there were serious consequences. The participating women lost their jobs and were banned from travel for several years, among other punishments. So far there's been no SAG reaction or warnings against this. I'll just keep watching.

And now it's time to enjoy what's left of the weekend and make a nice pasta and relax for a while. I have a busy but fun week ahead of me.