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pjf (2464)

pjf
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I run Perl Training Australia [perltraining.com.au].

I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.

I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.

Journal of pjf (2464)

Wednesday July 15, 2009
05:02 PM

Saudi Arabian Adventures, Days 6-7

[ #39299 ]

These are the last of my Arabian Adventure blogs, which means I'm now caught up with my blogging backlog in time for OSCON.

Saudi Arabian Adventures - Day 6
Today was my last day of teaching, and a challenging one. I had more variation in students backgrounds and skills for this class, which always makes teaching more interesting. Lots of practical examples seemed popular, so they were the main fare for the day. It's easy to show off Perl's strengths when working with text.

During my week in Saudi Arabia I've discovered a few interesting things. While Saudi Arabia as a country fares poorly with women's rights, it's clear that Aramco as a company (or this campus, at least) was very progressive.

Women aren't allowed to drive on public roads in Saudi Arabia. As one of my colleagues put it, "we're hoping that will change soon, but we've been hoping twenty years". However the Aramco campus isn't public, and so there's no problem with women driving inside. Likewise, Aramco recruits the brightest girls from high school. They go through an English language program, and are then sent overseas (usually America or Europe), to earn their degree. They're required to work for Aramco for an equal period to the time they spent studying overseas, although it appears most continue working well beyond that. It sounds like an almost identical scheme to what Australia has with some defence force scholarships.

On my class I had three women out of twenty-four students overall, which is on par for what we get for courses conducted inside Australia. I fear the gender imbalance in IT is a worldwide problem.

Saudi Ararbian Adventures - Day 7
My last day in Saudi Arabia didn't involve teaching, something for which I was extremely grateful. My body clock had fully adjusted to local time, so waking up at 5am was now feeling like waking up at 5am. I slept in, slept some more, had brunch, and walked down to the entertainment complex. It wasn't very busy, and nobody seemed interested in checking passes, so I walked straight in. Sure enough, there was a bowling alley, a cafe, and a library.

I had a late flight back to Dubai, and Fuad had very generously offered to show me about in the afternoon, Breaking the "never turn down an adventure" rule, I actually called Fuad, and turned down an adventure. I was utterly exhausted from the last week, and I seemed to have an endless amount of e-mail and patches to catch up on.

The lack of adventure during the day was more than compensated by the taxi ride that night. It appears that cars put on their hazard lights to tell other road users that they're sticking to the speed limit. In fact, the speed limit appears as if it's the minimum speed at which people are willing to drive.

When we got to the airport, I sighed a huge sigh of relief, thanked my driver, and grabbed my bags. There was an awesome looking mosque opposite, and I went to grab my camera for a photograph. Then I noticed that outside the airport were two guards, heavily armed, and sitting on a tank, smoking. This would have made an even better photograph, until I realised I'd be photographing two heavily armed guards, on a tank, that was parked next to a "no photographs" sign, in a country where I don't speak the language. Consequently, I decided to leave the camera in my bag.

The airport was like airports everywhere, although with less respect for the "no smoking" signs. Most notably, one of the guards who was screening baggage was smoking. Again, I thought this would make a great photograph, and again I thought better of it. Despite the fact that I was told that everyone in Arabia smokes, I actually found it to be quite rare, despite the exceptions I've mentioned here.

Getting through passport control took only one hour, as opposed to three hours getting into the country. I discovered that the airport has a duty free section, but it was rather small, and didn't appear very popular.

The flight back to Dubai was short and pleasant. One of the cabin crew had recognised me from my flight from Melbourne, and we had a nice chat. Another managed to find what I swear was the best coffee I'd had all week. I suspect they have a secret espresso machine hidden in business class, which was broken out purely for my benefit.

Arriving in Dubai I remembered to pick up both my bags, changed my Riyals to Dirhams, and looked at the time. It was about 2:30am in Dubai, which made it around 8:30am in Australia. Through the wonders of free wireless at Dubai airport, and VoIP, I called home for satisfying price of about 2.5 cents/minute.

A short taxi ride later, I was in my hotel, with NetStumbler running and me waving my laptop around on the balcony. I discovered a lack of promising hotspots, and went to sleep.

You read my adventures in Dubai starting here .

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