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Table of ContentsAn artistic image of a red dragon.

This year started very much like the previous two years: I was unemployed and wondering whether I would be able to survive my current financial hardship. Unlike the previous two years that I had spent in Berkeley, California and Daejeon, South Korea, this time I found myself in Udon Thani, Thailand. More different was that I was living in a hotel room on borrowed money from friends rather than in my own apartment with previously accumulated savings.

Ironically, the pain was not as great, as I was busily preparing a Keynote presentation for the upcoming Thai TESOL International Conference in Chiang Mai. It would be my second chance to present formally a portion of the HKLNA Project and reenergize the ever-fledgling GENA Project.

Social structure changes far more slowly than the data used to describe it, and I was little embarrassed by the age of my data and my statistical estimates. A small loan from my friend, Mohamed Yusuf Ali, in Jubail, Saudi Arabia permitted me just enough to attend. My presentation was scheduled for January 22nd, the last day of the conference; attendance would be low. Still, two of my former rivals from Udon Thani Rajabhat University appeared, as well as a representative from the Thai British Council. My rivals walked out at a crucial point during my talk, but neither the British Council, nor anyone else followed. My message was well-received.

The BC representative from Bangkok presented me with his business card at the close of my talk, but an email and telephone call a month or so later resulted in nothing.The 31st Annual Thai TESOL International Conference This was not entirely unexpected, for it was the second time that I had been snubbed by the British Council. Clearly, the Council and I are natural enemies, as we pursue opposite goals by default. Whereas the Council is interested in the quantity of English language learners, I am interested in the quality of the English language as a tool of international communication. Whereas the British Council wishes to encourage global tourism, raise revenue for Oxford Publishing, and promote British trade and culture, my goal is to eliminate social and economic waste in mass education.

I spent my free time at the Chiang Mai National Museum where I received an important glimpse into the formation of Thailand's political economy and that of the region. Also, at the conference I made a new Facebook friend, Gregory Bornmann, and met the Vice Dean of the Graduate School of English of The Assumption University in Bangkok.

After returning home I mailed out some 50 personalized employment applications using the mailing list provided in the conference brochure. Of the under ten people who responded, only two were Thai. As I had given up on all hope of returning to Saudi Arabia, things were looking pretty bleak.

Somewhat later, I learned from my attorney in Korea that I had won my case against my previous Korean landlord, Terry Lee (Lee Young Jae이영재).Stegemann vs Lee Young Jae of Terry Trading -- Winning in a Korean Court for a Petty Claim Hooray! Well, sort of. Certainly my attorney's and my notion of what constitutes a victory turned out to be very different. Firstly, I was awarded only KRW 2,000,000 of the KRW 2,648,000 that I was expecting. Somehow my deceiving, self-righteous, bigoted landlord who promotes himself as an open-minded international Korean businessman under the trade name Terry Lee Trading had chiseled away KRW 648,000 from my intitial claim. Secondly, of the KRW 2,000,000 that I was awarded by the court, I only received KRW 340,000 from my attorney. The rest went to him in legal fees. It only pays to go to court in Korea, if your claim is very large, or you have a lot of money and believe in fair play. In effect, the losing party is largely exempt from paying the legal fees of the winner.

Moreover, having someone represent you at even a fraction of what he normally charges, and not being present to debunk your adversary's invention as it appears, is unlikely to yield the best of outcomes. Of course, I was not the only one who was surely hurt by the matter, as one could feel sympathy for Lee Yeong Jae's son, Lee Jae Hak이재학, the true owner of the apartment, who was surely dragged into court because of his father's obstinate and bigoted behavior.

The really good news, I suppose, was that my previous-previous landlord withdrew his appeal, and I was spared still further court costs. Needless to say, I am not impressed by Korea's legal system, this despite my two consecutive victories. Then too, I now have something additional to show to the Korean Immigration Service (KIS) should I ever decide to return to Korea.

Somewhat later I received an invitation from the Vice Dean of the Graduate School of English at The Assumption Univeristy in Bangkok to attend an employment interview with him and the School's Dean. I readily accepted the invitation and was happy that my participation at the Thai TESOL conference earlier in the year was paying off.

To my dismay the bus schedule made it such that I would have to spend the entire morning in Bangkok while I awaited my early afternoon appointment at AU. A Scheduled Interview at The Assumption University and an Unscheduled Surprise at the Saudi Embassy As I was burning inside to know what had destroyed my second bid to Saudi Arabia, and as I had little money to play the role of a carefree tourist, I decided to pay an unexpected visit to the Saudi Embassy.

It was an 8-hour midnight ride. Upon arriving the following morning I changed clothes in a men's toilet and boarded a tuk-tuk to the Embassy. Was I impoverished, or what? The Saudi Consul agreed to initiate an investigation, and one week later I received an invitation to return to Bangkok and pick up my visa.

To this day I do not know what transpired in Saudi Arabia between October 2010 and March 2011, and I will likely never find out. I only know that I was greatly relieved, as I would soon be reemployed with the opportunity to complete my discovery of the Saudi kingdom.

Photographic image of a group of Bangkok tuk-tuk

During my first trip to Bangkok many weeks before I was introduced to the motorbike-taxi. These are organized motorbike syndicates or independent drivers who carry their passengers piggy-back throughout the city on motorcycles. I had just completed my interview with the Personnel Office at The Assumption University and was looking for a way to the bus terminal for my return trip to Udon Thani. As I had spent some 90 minutes traveling cross-town from the Saudi Embassy to the university only two hours before, was looking forward to another eight hours on the bus back to Udon Thani that evening, and am not fond of bus travel to begin with, more bus travel was not an interesting option. Although I could take a taxi, the best that I had wrung from AU was an offer of uncertain part-time employment that would require me to relocate to Bangkok. I was not in a big spending mood. A little inquiry among the student waiters where I was having an early dinner led me to a taxi biker. It was decided.The Next Best Mode of Urban Transport in Bangkok - the Motorbike Taxi The biker would take me to the nearest metro station, and I would take a train to the bus terminal. So, I hopped onto the back of his motobike wth my travel bag in hand and braced myself for an uncertain ride.

As we sped down the naturally occurring bike lanes created by motor vehicles whose drivers respect the clearly indicated traffic lanes, I kept reassuring myself that my chauffeur-biker did what he did for a living, and I would arrive safely. After about ten exhilirating minutes we arrived at a distant metro station that would take me to the central bus terminal. It was a small, but unforgetable journey that I would repeat numerous times along different routes upon my third visit to Bangkok a week later.

In downtown Bangkok there is only one form of transportation that would be both safer and faster -- a helicopter.

Photographic image of a motorbike-taxi syndicate in Bangkok tuk-tuk

When I returned to Bangkok to pick up my visa, I was unable to receive it on the same day. Fortunately, I had had the foresight to bring along an emergency overnight bag. Compelled to spend the night with no real plan, but a desire to celebrate my newly found employment, I set to work finding a reasonably priced hotel room and discovered through inquiry and accident an Ibis Hotel.Patpong and the Birth of an Ephemeral Porn-Star It would cost twice what I was expecting, but finding inexpensive lodging in the neighborhood of the Saudi Embassy turned out to be a daunting task. Once settled I left the hotel in search of a restaurant and ate and drank Italian for a good hour or so. While waiting for my meal I asked a young waiter where he had spent his last best time out, and he gave me the name of a shopping mall and a city district called Patpong.

It was my first time to a red-light district since my lonely visit to Pigalle in Paris, France several decades prior. Without spending a cent I was flattered, wooed, cajoled, tempted, and escorted by just about every sexual variety of person you can imagine. I even held hands. To the probable and eventual dismay of each of my solicitors, I had never spent a penny on sex that was not a prophylactic, and I was not about to change my ways that night. Still, I was driven by my insatiable curiosity about the human condition and walked through the entire district with only occasional pauses to understand what was truly going on around me.

I left Patpong not a Baht-penny poorer, but felt pretty much like a celebrated porn star in a film production directed by Fédérico Fellini. When I returned to the Ibis that night, I could not sleep, for resisting that to which the waiter had surely succumb had taken everything I had. Obviously, it was not I whom anyone was after, rather what I carried in my pocket. Still, I was ecstatic.

On the following day, I picked up my visa and headed back to Udon Thani. There was heavy rain and lightning, as my bus departed from Bangkok, and we were forced to stop along the road side.

When I returned to Udon Thani, I showed my visa to, and solicited a bundle of money from my stalwart friend, Bernd Becker. For now, not only would I have to pay for my unintended overstay fee that had held me prisoner in Thailand for nearly six months, but I would also have to pay for my plane flight to Jeddah. Bernd was most generous -- all the way up to the point of my departure.

Photographic image of the KISS Agogo Bar sign board in Patpong, Bangkok, Thailand
Photographic image of the decals, placards, and pins for sale in Patpong, Bangkok, Thailand
Photographic image of two monks in Patpong, Bangkok, Thailand

Excess luggage fees along my route rendered me penniless by the time I arrived at the Jeddah International Airport in the first week of April. As a result a significant amount of negotiation in broken English was required to finally find a tax driver who would carry me and my luggage from the airport to my hotel for the little cash that remained.A Trident Welcome and a Paradise Without Women No one from the hotel or university was present to pick me up. To my great relief the hotel was expecting me when I arrived, though. I spent the next ten days in semi-paradise -- there were no women. The food was terrific, and I made good use of the gym and pool. Notwithstanding, by day five I realized that I was over indulging and applied the breaks. My waste-line has still not recovered fully -- this, despite several months of continued, rigorous, post-indulgence exercise. No kitchen.

While in the dining area of the hotel I was able to listen to the commentary of the hotel guests when the US government claimed that it had captured and killed Osama bin Laden. Few people believed what they were watching, and we watched it on both CNN and Al Jazeera. Everyone was convinced that Osama bin Laden had died already several years before. His dead body was never shown.

What was suppose to be my final day at the hotel turned out to be only one of many more to follow. Indeed, my brief sojourn was not intended as a courtesy gesture to help me pass the time while I waited for the university to reopen; rather, it was a standard operating procedure that unluckily for me coincided with the university staff's vacation period. Why had someone not informed me when I notified my employer of my expected arrival date? Why had someone not informed me on the day my plane landed?

When the university reopened, I reported to my employer and discovered a rather poorly maintained two-story building. The building was advertised by a large sign that read The English Language Center. An ELI Welcome with Many Surprises! Under the assumption that someone had changed the name, I asked my taxi driver to stop, and we entered the building together. As I entered, I noticed another sign that read Welcome to English Language Institute and felt that I was getting closer to my intended destination. Not being British, however, I was not entirely convinced, as every rule of English grammar that I know insists that the article "the" be placed before the word English. Undaunted I sought my way to the room number that had been given to me while I was still at the hotel and discovered the Center's/Institute's Recruitment Office where I was warmly received. After a brief introduction I submitted hard copies of my paper credentials and was told to return on the following day, when I would be introduced to a real estate broker who would help me find more permanent lodging. So, I was happy to return to the hotel with my packed bags and resettled.

On the following day I learned that my letters of reference would not be sufficient proof of previous employment and that only my service letters would be counted toward my expected salary. Several days later I was issued an Iqama (a Saudi ID card), asked to surrender my passport in exchange, and became a voluntary prisoner of my new employer. Within ten days I was presented a formal contract and an advance on my expected housing allowance. During this time I spent many hours with my new real estate agent in search of new lodging.

My real estate agent, Mohammed Jedaan, would eventually become my friend, but our road to friendship would not be easy. My Introduction to the Jeddah Real Estate IndustryDespite our very good start Mohammed quickly tired of my selective nature, seemingly insatiable thirst for quality, and limited budget. Using the previous nine days as a rough estimate of about how long one should search, I settled on a small handsome basement apartment in an even more handsome building located close to my place of employment. Living in the basement seemed like a great idea, because the Saudi climate is generally hot and harsh and basements are typically cool places. Concerned about the apartment's vulnerability to flooding, its nearness to a sewer, and the parked cars just outside my window, I signed a six-month contract and furnished only a bedroom and a study in the event that things would not work out. This is when someone at work showed me a video of how my street appeared after the previous year's flooding. I observed in horror, as I watched an automobile drifting down the middle of the street on which my apartment was located. This event certainly went a long way toward explaining what I suspected to be a watermark in the plaster in my study. When I confronted the landlord about the flooding, he said that my apartment had never been flooded. He then showed me the water marks outside indicating the height of the previous year's flooding. As the rainy season was not yet upon us, I finished the summer in my new apartment and weighed the risk of potential flood damage against the benefits and other disadvantages of my new dwelling. This is when I discovered Jeddah's sewage system -- a large fleet of trucks that circulates the city pumping collected waste water from a select number of locations. As the sewer next to which I lived was one of these select locations, my decision became easy. I had overselected and found a new residence even before my six-month contract had expired.

Photographic image of a fleet of sewage trucks in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

After spending about two weeks in the institute's cafeteria getting to know the institute's faculty, staff, and students, I was given my first assignment and assumed responsibility of a class whose teacher had been assigned to other duties. "What a terrible way to start", I thought. And then, again, "What a great opportunity to become acquainted with a system before the summer term begins, and I can start afresh".

I was assigned to Level IV -- the final module of a four-module course squeezed into two trimesters of a full academic year. This brief experience enabled me to view clearly the results of the intensive foundation-year English language program that I was about to enter. Somewhat amazed by the varying levels of knowledge among my students and equally curious about what they would do with this knowledge after they had completed their program, I began posing questions to other teachers and former graduates who hung around the cafeteria and elsewhere. What I learned confirmed many of my rapidly developing suspicions.

When I learned that my request to teach during the summer had been rejected and that I would not be entitled to vacation pay for the summer, I began looking for an alternative task. For, without a teaching post I would surely become a viable candidate for somebody else's unwanted clerical work. Making Good on Rejection -- An Undertaking of Enormous Potential Worth to KAU's Undergraduate Student Body and the University So, I eagerly volunteered when asked to join a newly forming research committee.

The Vice Dean responsible for establishing the research committee wanted us to organize a mini-conference before the end of the spring term that would prepare the way for future nation-wide conferences and a refereed English language journal. So, I volunteered to speak and prepared a talk in which I proposed a research project whose preparation would consume the entire summer, and whose completion would establish me as a valuable asset in the institute. Certainly my economics training and several years of dedication to English language reform in Hong Kong and not yet realized GENA Project had prepared me well for the undertaking.

What was originally planned as a full-day affair with eight presentations was cut in half -- apparently at the Dean's request -- to a half-day conference with only four. Although my presentation was included among the four, turn-out was low for all four presentations. What is worse, the Dean who had promised with a hand-shake to attend, even failed to make mention of the event during his own appearance before the entire faculty only days before. As a result, many people who should have listened to my talk did not appear. To his good credit, present was the Vice Dean who encouraged us to organize the event. Afterwards, I received many compliments and within several days an invitation from the Vice Dean to begin preparation on my proposed research.

Within a week I submitted a preliminary research proposal and request for data that could later be used to prepare a cost estimate for a final proposal. As the data was somewhat sensitive, the request had to pass through several administrative layers. When the data finally arrived, it was incomplete -- this, despite a special effort on my part to provide the means by which the sensitive nature of the data could be avoided. The request was resubmitted and then killed in an ELI administrative council meeting pending policy review.

Then, came ramadan -- the Islamic holy month.

Before touching on ramadan in some detail two additional events occurred that are worth highlighting.

Somewhat after my arrival and well before I discovered that my future at the English Language Institute would be subjected to repeated setbacks, I was invited by a Palestinian colleague to make a presentation on career planning. What Is a Career? A Star That You Cannot Reach, but You Never Grow Tired of Chasing The talk would take place before a group of graduating seniors and administrators at a small private college in Jeddah's Al Hamra District. For my effort I would be granted a small remuneration and the opportunity to meet with the staff and students of the college. The result was fantastic; not only was my presentation well-received, but I very much enjoyed preparing it. Having reached an age where I can look back and actually impart wisdom to the torch bearers of our next generation was a real pleasure. This brief, but inspiring experience prepared me well for my presentation before my own colleagues several weeks later.

Map of the Al Hamra District, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Shortly after the above talk I was approached by still another colleague looking for an American citizen who could represent a European company before the King. According to the lawyer to whom I was later introduced, the presence of an American citizen would greatly facilitate the recovery of damages for a large theft amounting to US dollars 1/4 billion. After pouring through some two-hundred pages of translated court documents I would appear with the company and the lawyer before the King and present the company's case. For this action my colleague and I would be recompensed some two to three percent of the total value of a large number stolen aircraft engines. This amounted to between USD 5 and 7 million. An Incredible Opportunity, or an Extraordinary Case of Money Laundering It was too good to be true!

Having just won two clear legal victories and a single bout at the South Korean Ministry of Labor, having already spent two years in winnable litigation in Hong Kong that took me all the way up to the HK Supreme Court, and having good fluency in three European languages and excellent command of the English language I was indeed a worthy choice for the task. This said, there was one outstanding drawback; apparently the Saudi prince who had volunteered to request the royal visitation was demanding 25 percent of the damages as payment for the encounter. According to the lawyer the company found this amount exorbitant and was hesitant to begin preparation for the interview until the Saudi prince could be talked down.

After several meetings and several subsequent months of negotiation the lawyer declared that he no longer felt that the case would amount to anything -- this, despite the fact that the accused had already suffered two important losses in both the Saudi criminal and civil courts. Apparently, the lawyer had found another way to approach the King that would not require the high commission of the Prince. This said, it would require a significant sum of money paid upfront that could not be recovered, if the King refused to intercede. As the company claimed that it could not afford payment, the lawyer investigated further and determined that the firm, although the legally proven title holder of the stolen equipment, could not produce evidence of payment of the stolen property. In effect, there was no record of a sale and purchase ever having taken place! As a result, the lawyer concluded that the entire affair was a case of systematic money laundering for which he, the courts, my friend, me, and likely many others had been duped.

The thought of not having to worry about retirement and from where my next pay check would be coming was a great momentary high that kept me going throughout a very long summer.

Photographic Image of King Abdullah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Ramadan is a month of fasting and feasting that I, as a non-Muslim, understand only poorly. During this month practicing Muslim men and women of all ages fast from sunrise until sunset. At sunset they ease their stomachs back to digestive activity and then feast until the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps needless to say, ramadan is not a good time to be in Saudi Arabia, if you are non-Muslim and without a kitchen, for all restaurant activity is shut down throughout the day.

Although I had attempted to leave the country as had many of my non-Muslim colleagues with kitchens, I was not entitled to even my annual plane flight back to my place of origin. A Month of Religious Joy and Fasting for Some, and a Month of Secular Misery for OthersThis was due to the bungled handling of my visa application by the ELI Recruitment Office many months before. In brief, a KAU employee must be on the university payroll at least six months before he becomes eligible for vacation benefits.

As I had arrived in early April, my first six months of employment would not be completed until the beginning of October, well after the holy month of ramadan had been completed. Further, having just paid back my debts that had accrued while I was in Thailand I was in no position to purchase my own ticket, and as a result, was compelled to fast just like everyone else. This was unpleasant to say the least. Worse was that all recreational activities at the university were shut down during this period. In short, I was suddenly deprived of two of the three things most important factors in maintaining my body's bio-rhythms -- regular nutrition and exercise. Surely I was left with plenty of time for sleep.

It was not a happy month, but still I managed to get a lot done.

The Arab Spring had started already many months before and the Occupy Movement was just beginning. Rising global food prices brought about by global financial recklessness emanating from the United States, Iceland, and elsewhere had forced the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt into the streets. Money Creation and the Revolution. Or, The Coming of the 2nd RepublicOf special interest were the events in Tahrir Square, where many tens of thousands of Egyptians occupied a key urban location and refused to move until Hosni Mubarak, their autocratic President, stepped down -- this, despite extremely aggressive attempts on the part of the Egyptian government to force the protestors from the Square. Somewhat later, in the United States, the Occupy Wall Street movement was born and faced similar governmental resistance. Indeed, the Occupy and other protest movements have since traversed the globe. These events, my persistent lack of understanding about the true nature of the Tea Party, the otherwise idle month of ramadan, and a visit from an intractable Libertarian enthusiast on Facebook named Matt Malesky caused me to research an area of economic theory that I heretofore had ignored -- the Austrian Business Cycle (ABC). In several weeks I found the answer to two questions that my many years of graduate training in economics had never adequately answered. Firstly, it had always bothered me when my economics teachers explained that a little inflation was good, because it was a sign of growth. Secondly, I could never provide a theoretically sound answer to my own students when asked what brought about macroeconomic business cycles.

Even more important, perhaps, was that my hitherto fundamental belief in Keynesian economics was shattered.

My interest peaked when I downloaded a PowerPoint presentation created by Roger W. Garrison. I quickly ordered Professor Garrison's book Time and Money: The Macroeconomics of Capital Structure and read as Keynesian economics was dismantled and resurrected as an inanely, simplistic, theoretical contrivance largely lacking in good common, economic sense. Greatly impressed by what I read, I went one step further and downloaded an English copy of Jesús Huerta de Soto's book Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles. Here I found the historical and legal contexts necessary to explain what Garrison had already elucidated with great theoretical clarity using the tools of classical economics. A pivotal figure in both of these works was the Nobel-winning economist whose name I could barely recall from my six years of study as a graduate student of economics -- namely, Friedrich Hayek.

In order to understand just how it was that Friederich Hayek had been so easily by-passed in my studies I explored the personal histories of Friederich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes and discovered respectively a devoted economist and an ambitious opportunist. In effect, John Maynard Keynes had built a theory of macroeconomics that catered to the banking industry, organized labor, and central government and sold it to the politicians of governments of the bleeding economies of the 1930s.

What the works of Roger Garrison, De Soto, and Friedrich Hayek, when taken together, made so painfully clear was that the heart of the economic malaise of the 1930s was not capitalism per se, but the way in which the capitalist system has been implemented -- namely, through a cozy, symbiotic, and corrupt relationship between private banks and central governments around the globe. All of the, until then, poorly argued criticism of the Federal Reserve System that I had been reading on the internet suddenly made sense. Not only did I feel partially deceived by my graduate training in economics, but I could now explain with far better clarity than those whose unpracticed knowledge of economics I had challenged on the net. My level of excitement was building.

The straw that broke the camel's back was a presentation that I heard while participating in a teleconference between King Abdul-Aziz University's Islamic Economic Research Center (currently Islamic Economics Institute) and l'Université de Paris (Sorbonne). During this presentation I listened as a very knowledgeable Muslim financier lumped Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes into the same theoretical boat and tried to sink it. I was aghast and wrote an article singing praise to my new discoveries entitled "Money Creation and the Revolution".

Originally written for the Occupy Movement, all of its supporters, and the geneally unenlightened, the article was sent to various Austrian economists around the world for verification. After all, I wanted to be sure that I had properly understood what I had read before passing on what I had written for popular consumption. The result of my effort was an invitation to be published in Procesos de Mercado, a refereed bilingual European journal edited by Jesús Huerta de Soto. Even better, perhaps, I scored an invitation for Professor de Soto to speak in a future teleconference with the Islamic Economic Institute. Indeed, I had helped to bridge an important gap between the Muslim East and the non-Muslim West via the Austrian School of economics!

Photographic Image of Tahrir Sqaure at the Height of Occupation, Cairo, Egypt
Photographic Image of Hosni Mubarka Behind Bars in an Egyptian Court of Law
Photographic Image of Police Confronting Protestors in Portland, Oregon
Photographic Image of Roger W. Garrision, Auburn University, Alabama
Photographic Image of Jesús Huerta de Soto Seated at the National Bank of Romania
Photographic Image of Friederch Hayek
Photographic Image of the Eccles Building, the Headquarters of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C.
Photographic Image of John Maynard Keynes Wearing a Hat
Cartoon image of an Obama HOPE placard with Obama's Image Replaced by a Symbolizing Anarchy and Deception
Scanned Image of the Journal Procesos de Mercado

A great employment perk as a lecturer at King Abul-Aziz University is the oppotunity to obtain free Arabic lessons with a native Saudi speaker. Free Arabic Lessons with a Special Reward: Campus-Wide Notoriety For just a little extra effort there was for me and several others the opportunity to gain campus- and city-wide notoriety, as well.

The Arabic Language Institute is a new university program set up to train Arabic language teachers. We provided the teachers with the students they needed to complete their training. Already in its second year, the university was ready to advertise its new program to the world. Presumably the program would have to pay for itself at some point. So, in rolled the TV journalists with their television cameras, cameras, and microphones.

My being somewhat of an outlier in the group made me a perfect candidate for an interview or two. From this experience I was invited to make a brief presentation about life as a beginning Arabic student in the new program. The presentation was part of a much larger program in which participated the entire Faculty of Humanities and Arts and two university presidents including my own.

Although my name did not make it onto the university's website, my picture did -- in fact, twice for only one photo capture. It was during the awards ceremony, and I was shaking hands with our University President, Prof. Dr. Osama Taïb (Tayyeb)أسامة طيب. Feeling like I had been used as a piece of decorative furniture on the webpage I complained and was promised by the Acting Dean, Prof. Dr. Muhammed Saïd Al Ghamdiمحمد سعيد الغامدي, that both my picture and my speech would appear in Arabic along with those of my colleague, Mustafa Mayer, in the university's next newsletter.

My special thanks to Dr. Mansour Awaadمنصور عواد, Program Coordinator, and Dr. Al Malakiالمالكي, my instructor, who made my participation in the program such a success. Indeed, this event likely went along way toward helping me to secure a new position at the university after the disaster that was taking place simultaneously at the English Language Institute.

Alas, a somewhat more leisurely search for a new apartment led to a more Western-type living quarters with a direct connection between the kitchen and dining rooms. The apartment was located in a new subdivision of the same residential district within a ten-minute drive of my place of employment. Although 75% more expensive, the apartment was priced fairly and would likely attract pro-Western Saudi residents. More importantly, it was on much higher ground and would spare me the worry of flooding. Finally, I would have my own parking spot that I could forbid others to use and would not be regularly visited by a sewage truck.

Once the decision was made I set about looking for someone to help me desgin and install a kitchen. According to Mohammed, apartments in Saudi Arabia rarely come with the kitchen already in place. A New Kitchen and the Insanity of DeprivationThe easiest place to achieve this end was IKEA, the internationally renown Swiss household furnishings manufactuer. Having been without a kitchen for nearly three years and confident that I liked my new home and colleagues I decided upon a high-quality kitchen that would entice guests and help me to build a social network of friends and fellow professionals. After nearly a month of negotiation I was ready to sign, but was told that four things would not be available. As IKEA went down the list, I felt an unusual combination of disappointment, frustration, and anger. After further discussion about possible substitutes and work-arounds I had had enough and turned to IKEA's Saudi supplier, Al Hidari.

We then took IKEA's and my design and reworked some of the features that IKEA was having trouble overcoming. Several weeks later we agreed on a new design and a timetable for delivery before Christmas. Hooray! I was looking forward to a great holiday celebration!

No such luck. On the day before my birthday I was confronted by the Vice Dean of Academic Affairs in the Chief Coordinator's office and accused of "contributing poorly to the university". In the middle of the meeting the Vice DeanDr. Abdullah Al Bargi received a telephone call on his mobile telephone. I took the opportunity to exit and on my way out assured the Chief Coordinator that he would have a letter from the Dean excusing me from my alleged breach of duty. I spent the evening and part of the following day writing a memorandum of clarification for presentation to the Dean. This memo addressed five complaints that had apparently been leveled at me from various sources, and that were told me by the Chief Coordinator in front of the Vice Dean and a Senior Coordinator present at the meeting.

So, now it was my birthday, and I was not in much of a mood to celebrate. A Witch Hunt Conducted by Prejudicial Autocrats.

What a Troublemaking Student and Administrative Incompetence Can Achieve.
This, of course, did not matter to anyone but me, for on the same day I was asked to report to the Vice Dean's office and told to submit my resignation or be terminated by the day's end. Incredible! Already finding absurd the way in which much of the matter had been handled, I asked, if it would not be possible to delay my decision until the following week. My request was granted with the words, "That would be fair". I thought, "Oh really?", replied, "In your opinion." and left. Being polite simply did not make sense any more.

That night I gathered two of my colleagues and showed them my memo of clarification. We spoke in separate sessions about what had transpired and what I could do to manage the crisis. Based on this discussion I edited my memo, planned a strategy, and on the following day delivered my memo to the Dean in person. In the interview I provided him with details that were not included in the memo, inquired about my alleged breach of duty, requested that I be excused from the allegation, and asked that he speak to the Vice Dean of Academic Affairs.

Over the weekend that followed I wrote my letter of resignation in anticipation of what I believed to be a foregone outcome. I did somehow manage to pass a happy weekend, this despite my birthday having been dissed by administrative incompetence.

When Saturday In Saudia Arabia the workweek begins on Saturday and ends on Wednesday. came, I proceeded to the Office of the Dean, where the same sign that read "Welcome to English Language Institute" was still displayed. After waiting about 40 minutes the Dean arrived, uttered something in Arabic to those present, and entered his office. As he seemed busy, I did not follow him, but waited for his secretary to return with an invitation to see him. This never happened. Instead, another Vice Dean, the Director of Finance, and the Chief Coordinator entered in that order. After waiting another 10 minutes, I realized that the Dean had probably taken no action in my regard, and I decided to visit directly the Vice Dean who had demanded my severance.

After all, it was unlikely that the Dean would override the Vice Dean's decision, and in order for me to continue in my current position, the Vice Dean and I would have to come to terms, anyway.

I went to his office, and after being put on hold for 20 minutes was invited in by a fellow colleague. I greeted the Vice Dean and informed him that I was ready to apologize for walking out of the meeting in his presence the week before, and asked him, if he were willing to reconsider his decision to sever me. He said, that it was not my anger that drove his decision, but everything else. Inside, I thought arrogance and despise. So, I pulled out a copy of my letter of resignation addressed to the Dean and the President of the University, handed it to him, and left. I had met the Vice Dean's deadline.

What an ignoramus; the only performance review that I had while in the university's employ was satisfactory, and we were only half-way through the module. To this day I do not know what drove his decision. Certainly one or several of my students had filled his hear with a load of rubbish, but this surely was not enough to explain my forced departure.

I was not leaving without a proper hearing. I sent copies of my letter of resignation and my memo of clarification to all of my 200 plus colleagues and compassion flowed in. I felt vindicated and could now walk with pride and good cheer through the hallways, as I attended to my exit.

Maybe mother nature wanted to remind me that my pride would not fill my belly, and that the nine lives of my spiritual cat are no entitlement. I was suddenly struck with food poisoning and dysentery. I hope you can now understand, why this Year of the Dragon got off to such a bad start. What a way to have to finish out the 2012 Solar New Year!

An artistic image of a red dragon with a white background

Many people view Saudi Arabia as a religious society with strict codes of conduct and dress enforced by whippings, beheadings, and the heavy hand of the Saudi military. Although it is certainly true in part, this national stereotype, like most stereotypes, falls vastly short of its target.

For example, in the eight countries that I have now lived for periods of a year or more, Saudi roads are the most liberal in the world. Jeddah's Non-Rules of the Road.

Or, Always Being First No Matter What Direction You Are Coming From!
So liberal are they that it took me several months to overcome my initial fear, and in the space of six months I was in six minor traffic accidents including four with another automobile, one with a bicycle, and one with the road. Only two of these six accidents did very serious damage to my car, though. In the first instance it was determined that the other driver was at fault, and the outcome of the second has still not been determined. I have asked the city of Jeddah to reimburse me for the cost of a new wheel that was damaged when my car fell into a bad piece of road while in heavy traffic.

In only one of the other four accidents do I claim responsibility: someone had double-parked behind me, and while backing out so as to avoid him, I ran into a pole. My built-in abhorence for double- and triple-parking that is Jeddah traffic custom had gotten the better of me. As my car was covered with so many little nicks, scratches, dimples, and bumbs when it was leased, the owner did not notice my new addition when I finally turned the vehicle in for a different one with a much better finish.

In two of the other four accidents I believe that I was hit intentionally, as a means to extract insurance money for the other driver. Fortunately the damage was so minor that it was easily fixed or at least made to appear, as if nothing had happened.

If you ever come to Jeddah, rent for six months until you understand Jeddah's non-rules of the road. It will spare you a lot of frustration.

After nearly three years without a diving board and several months in search of a swimming pool at my new university not only did I find a pool, but I found a diving board. From Springboard to Platform - A Forward Pike and More in 2012! I was ecstatic when I saw what looked like a springboard elevated several meters above the side of the pool. Then, I looked for the 1-meter side-kick that typically accompanies a 3-meter board and found none. Although my initial cheer was dampened, I quickly resigned myself to the fact, that if I wanted to renew my Hong Kong acquired diving activity, I would just have to get use to jumping off a 3-meter board. It took a bit of courage, but I was up for the task, and quickly thought up a strategy that would ease the pain. My effort paid off, and soon I was performing a swan dive with good entry. And then, the month of ramadan came and the pool suddenly closed. I never got a chance to perform my first jack-knife.

It is often said that all is well that ends well. Let it be said that 2011 year ended far worse than any before it.

Already several weeks into the New Year, I can state with good confidence, however, that my recovery from the end of the previous year has been remarkably quick in comparison with any of the previous three.

And, your gonna just have to wait until next year to find out what has happened!

Happy New Year!عاماً سـعيداً