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Wow. All I can say is wow.

Wow. All I can say is wow. And thank you. Thank you to all who dreamt this place up because it has materialized as my very own Mecca. This place is unbelievably beautiful, the buildings all have glass and there is an air of openness and transparency. No longer can I find the biology building merely by spotting the drabbest structure around. Gone are my days of windowless academic reveries.

It is not only the academic buildings that have ample room, I too share in the spatial abundance. When I arrived in the middle of the night, a driver took me from the airport to school and left me at the housing department where I was then walked to my apartment. They turned on the lights and handed me the key. My jaw dropped. This place is enormous. It is larger than our family house in Las Vegas. The apartment is loft style with high ceilings. My roommate and I each have our own bathroom. And if we had domestic help, she would also have her own. I have never had this much space. Certainly never for the low cost of, free. We have a patio. All furnished.

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You have to understand where I live although it is impossible unless you see it for yourself. Even I, who knew about this place before coming cannot believe it exists, even as I live in it now. I am at KAUST, which is in Saudi Arabia. KAUST is a school but it is also a community. Everyone lives here. You walk down the street and walk into the home of some professor who invented a mechanical brain or something. My advisor came from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute of MIT. And this is our home and whole world. Because you do not have to go out for anything, and the moral police are not allowed in. It is an open yet closed space. Open in culture and acceptance, closed to the intolerant outside. This is the way it has to be, for what we are doing would not go over so well with the rest of the country. Women and men are integrated, we can wear what we want, and we have live music. These are also the reasons we cannot freely photograph every experience. We are not allowed to take pictures of our live music shows or our beach days. On the third day of orientation, we had an Arabian singer from Jeddah serenading us during dinner. One of the Saudi students grabbed a few of us girls to show us a traditional step, and then was told to stop. We all sat down. Dancing is not allowed.

When I say I am scientific royalty, I mean it. Everything you could possibly need to conduct science is available to you minus the stress of finding and attaining such resources. The other day I found out you can have a baby here for free! You know how traditional grad school works. When you are a grad student, especially a mere Master's level, you are the lowest of the low, you get to do all the boring and tedious work that your advisor gives you and get paid below minimum wage for it. Not the case here. I feel as if I have landed at the Arabian MIT. With only three classes graduated before me, I have the opportunity to make an impact here.

So I live in Saudi Arabia but not really because I have left campus, and the difference is like a desert and an oasis. I'm pretty sure I'm in a Kingdom in the clouds somewhere.

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Posted in Art Post Date 06/10/2016


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