I want to preface this post by mentioning that I went to the first “KAUST Wellness” meeting this past week, in which seven somber students sat and shared (no alliteration intended) their struggles to transition to life at KAUST; not necessarily life in Saudi Arabia (since they’re apples and oranges). In one of the more meaningful meetings I’ve sat in on, moderated by the official KAUST psychologist, we were able to comfortably lay out the challenges that we face on a daily basis and discuss how we can deal with them more optimistically. This is not to imply that I was “depressed” before attending this meeting, but rather looking for an “attitude adjustment” (we all need one of these every so often). Needless to say, the timing couldn’t have been better because the past 24 hours at KAUST have been nothing short of a good laugh…
I remember about a month ago when friends and family were posting on their Facebook statuses that it was “raining cats and dogs” throughout California, and how the day of those first storms coincided with our first such storm, a sand storm. As sand and dust are nothing to talk about in this part of the world, we hardly notice how people’s lives here have naturally evolved to deal with these nuisances without a second thought. What we learned at KAUST today was that a rainstorm in Saudi is a whole new ballgame, or maybe nightmare.
This morning, after a rather romantic thunderstorm, all hell broke loose; along with a handful of houses.
(Since this story has to do with water, it’s important that you remember the problems many of the homes had during the initial move in period with leaky ceilings, collapsed ceilings, and black mold as a result of poor plumbing, insulation, and general design. Not that this doubt should’ve crossed your mind either, but SURELY the roofs would be properly insulated to keep the water out, right? Wrong.)
After blocking out the sirens and the impressive filing of emergency crew workers lining the streets I was able to soak in the damage of this otherwise harmless rain storm. The roads were flooded two feet deep in water, the entire female population had been evacuated from their housing (sent to Jeddah for at least the next week), and ten male students were relocated because the conditions in their homes were “uninhabitable” (in other words, they didn’t just have leaks, they had entire ceilings collapse in the middle of the night as a result of water build up). In short, KAUST had become a refugee camp in a matter of hours, and I was loving every second of it (these kind of events really bring the students together).
KAUST administration, quick on their feet sent out the following email before anyone could even think about attending classes:
“Good Morning Everyone,
Please note that due to the severe weather and flooding that we are currently experiencing here at KAUST, there will be no classes and all our schools (KAUST and ECC/K-12) will be closed, in conjunction with the offices. We would request that you stay at home today.”
I’ve never been unlucky enough to live in a part of the world where “snow days” exist, and have surely never even dreamt of a “rain day” until today.
The timing of it all was very fortunate for the KAUST community as this next week marks the Eid holiday where most of the students are traveling outside of KAUST; but extremely unfortunate for the millions of pilgrims (and 62 KAUST students) embarking on the Hajj, just a stone’s throw distance from us. The following article puts it all into perspective (and I encourage everyone to read it).
Like every other challenge KAUST has faced, they’ll get over this one with one swift signature of a check.
Until then, I’d like to begrudgingly (ONLY because I’m a nice guy) open up the doors of my house for any wandering KAUST females to take refuge in. Compulsory baking, laundry services, and occasional knitting would all be part of the live-in agreement; but those are merely details, ladies.
p.s. Happy Thanksgiving from: