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Tuesday
Oct282008

History of writing


the postliterate are those who can read, but chose to meet their primary information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming.

Ah, writing - but a 7,000 year hiccup in human history. The image on the left is Nabatean from Wadi Rum, Jordan.

Tuesday
Oct282008

Even online

View from the 6th floor of the Le Meridian Hotel, Amman, Jordan, 10-26-08

 After a rather circutious re-routing to Amman (Minneapolis-Cinncinatti-Paris-Amman), I arrived Sunday night only a few hours later than my original Minneapolis-JFK-Amman flight plan. Two-day trip to Petra, Wadi Rum and Mt. Nebo with an overnight sleeping in a tent. All great fun with 100 photos with which to bore others at great length. Today it is off for a city tour of Amman on a Big Red Bus.

The intrepid explorer and his thousands of fellow explorers at Petra, 10-08

 Having been primarily on the tourist route and in a big hotel, I've not yet gotten much feel for the country. You do find more camel rides here than in Minnesota. I always blank out how much litter and smokers there are in "developing nations." And it is lovely to hear the early morning call to prayer as the sun rises - even an infidel has to be moved by timelessness of the cry of we small creatures to a higher power.

Even online one sees differences:

 

I have to look for a English default setting since Google uses the language of the ISP when returning results.

 Ever notice how no matter how well one plans, one critical item is always left at home on nearly every trip? This time I remembered my camera, but forgot the camera battery charger. Duh. Know anybody in Amman who uses a Canon SD1000?

Friday
Oct242008

Off to Amman

 

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. - Thoreau

Despite the above caution, I bought a new hooded sweatshirt for my trip to Jordan. Flight leaves today at 4PM.

I'm excited. I love the challenge of working with international educators, and next Friday and Saturday I'll be doing workshops with teacher-librarians at the NESA Fall Training Institute. This is the fourth time, I think, I've worked with David Chojnacki and his team. They are a class act!

But I am also excited to have a few extra days added to my visit just to be a tourist. I'll spend a day or so touring Amman and there is a NESA-arranged two-day visit, hike and campout to Petra and Wadi Rum on the agenda. (The campout is the reason for the new sweatshirt.) I hope to see some crusader castles and lots of other archeological-type stuff.

I worked in Saudi Arabia for five years in the mid-80s, so there is always a little feeling of homecoming whenever I get to travel to the Middle East.

Here is how my connection to the area started.

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On Valentines Day 1984 the temperature was well below zero in West Branch, Iowa and my 12-year-old car hadn't started. I was worried how I would get to Iowa City that night so I could work the 11PM-7AM my motel desk clerk moonlighting job. That morning I hiked the mile and a half from my old trailer house north of town to the junior high where I was in my fifth year as a half time librarian and half time English teacher. There had been an increasing number of rumors of budget cuts and it was nealry certain that either the high school librarian or I would be gone the following year.

About nine o'clock that morning an announcement came over the intercomm. "Mr. Johnson, please come to the office for a telephone call." Wow. Nobody ever called me at work. I went to the office and picked up the phone. As best I can remember, the conversation went like this:

Hi the-ya. Mista Johnson? This is Jill calling from the Aramco Oil Company in Houston. Texas? Are you still single, honey? (All said in a lovely Southern drawl.)

I confirmed that I was. I had put in an application to the company two years prior on the recommendation of my aunt who worked for the company already.

Well, Mistah Johnson, we'd just love to have you to come to Houston to interview for a nice library job with our schools in Saudi Arabia. Would you be free next month to come visit with us?

I told her I'd love to interview. (Rumor was that I could double my current magnificent $18K salary working there.) But I just didn't see how I could afford to get to Houston for an interview.

Oh, Mistah Johnson, this is the private sector you'd be working for, not the public sector. (A hint of distaste saying the words public sector.) We'll have a first class round trip ticket for you from Des Moines to Houston. We'll of course pay your hotel and meals. Is there any place you would like to be routed back through on the way home?

A few weeks later this little farm boy was in a big downtown Houston hotel watching hot air balloon rides being given in the atrium. That Friday consisted of a short orientation session in the morning about the company, country and schools; a fancy lunch for all candidates at which I had the presence of mind not to order alcohol or wipe my face on the table cloth; and the interview with the superintendent that afternoon that lasted about 20 minutes and consisted primarily of talking about the most recent mystery novels we'd read and confirming I had attended an ALA accredited library school.

Well, I passed background check, sold the trailer, and moved to Udhailiyah, Saudi Arabia that July. Oh, my salary didn't double, however. It nearly tripled.

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Despite politics, terrorism, and rhetoric, I've continued to have a fondness for the region. I was never treated anything but fairly, even generously, when I was there. Islam, like most religions, has peace, tolerance and forgiveness as its tenents.

I'll keep you updated on the trip...

School picture, Udhailiyah School, Aramco, Saudi Arabia, 1984-85 (Yes, the igal is too small.)