Homework!

20a

As some of you may know, I’m working on my Masters online from Royal Roads University in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Why? When you’re an ex-pat living in Saudi Arabia, you need a hobby! Actually, I had registered for my Masters before I knew anything about the Saudi project.

This week at Niagara College Taif, is the start of our third trimester. How time flies. We are all very busy with the work that a new trimester involves and, just for more fun, our first Institutional Review is in less than one month. I don’t need a hobby…I need more hours in the day!

“But Andre, what to the pictures of the baboons have to do with any of this?” I hear you asking. As the title of my post suggests, it really, really is for an assignment. It would take way too long to try an explain it so you will just have to trust me. If I get a good mark, I’ll let you know!

01a

A troop of baboons makes its way through the mountainous trails

Just 15 minutes out of Taif, there are some beautiful mountains where many baboons live. There are numerous tribes (or troops, or congress, depending what site you choose when you Google ‘baboon’) and while they are certainly not domesticated, they do like free handouts of food. They therefore ‘put up’ with humans a bit but one still needs to be careful.

The males are big! They have very large and pointy teeth. Oh yeah, and a big, old, red butt too!! They move incredibly fast and I certainly wouldn’t want one, or more, coming after me.

They are fun to watch. I was told not to stare directly into their eyes, which is not easy when your’re trying to take pictures, but you could see them keeping a close watch on you. The little baby baboons look a bit ragged to me. They don’t have a lot of hair yet and their faces are all wrinkled. Not the ‘AHHHH what a cute kitty’ look, that’s for sure.

12

This little guy is very well cared for by his mother

So there. Not exactly a National Geographic explination of baboons but I think I took a few good pictures all the same. I shot a bit of video but I didn’t have a tripod so please forgive the camera movements. The video is only 33 seconds long but the last 10 seconds are the best!  🙂

If you want to see more, go to my Flickr site by clicking the link below.

Baboons of Al Hadda

Back In Taif

Well that certainly was an adventrue!

I just arrived back in Taif today?!?! I was supposed to arrive 3 days ago but our plane had some issues. So after two fun-filled days at Pearson Airport and two nights in a Toronto hotel, I’m finally here.

My stay in Canada wasn’t what I was hoping for. When I left Saudi Arabia it was 26C. Thirteen hours later I was in Canada with -25C!?!?  What’s up with that? After 6 months of short-sleeves and no-coat weather, I arrived to the coldest stretch Canada has experienced in 100 years. Of course I immediately caught a cold and was in bed for 8 days. No doubt fatigue and the joy of being back home played a role in this but I wasn’t 100% until 5 days before I had to leave.

I didn’t see half the people I was hoping to see and I apologize for that. Between being sick, getting some college work done and going through the busiest course in my masters, I didn’t have much free time. The good news (for me, anyway) is that I will back in mid to late June. No more of these 6 months stay. That’s just too long to be away from home.

I haven’t a clue where my next trip will be but I will post the pictures when I get back! Sometime in early April.

I’m going to bed now!

More of London, England

Big Ben

Big Ben

If Harry Potter isn’t quite your thing, (shame on you!) here are more pictures of beautiful London, England.

I visisited Big Ben and the house of Lords. Big Ben really is very BIG and the House of Lords is no shack either. I wish I would have had the time to go inside. It is quite the building.

Across the street for the House of Lords is Westminster Abbey. WOW! I was completely blown away by the beauty of this amazing church. Photos were not allowed withing certain parts but welcomed in others. Its history goes back to the 7th century when a church was built on this site. The current Abbey was built in 1245 and has been the place for all of the royal coronations since 1308. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The size, the age, the artifacts. It’s almost overwhelming. The place is also full of dead people, not just priests and religious figures. It was an honour to be buried there. The names I saw reads like a Who’s Who of UK historical figures.

The pictures I took in and around the Abbey include some nice gardens, dark and mysterious passageways, courtyards and living quarters each offering a unique look and the age and beauty of this church.

What do you do when you have a few hours to kill before you need to get to the airport? If your hotel room is in SOHO you walk around the neighbourhood and try to capture the atmosphere of this dynamic and varied corner of the city. Theatres, pubs, parks, shops…it’s all there. Here are some random pictures to prove my point.

If you would like to see more pictures, follow this link to my Flickr site and the London pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrecroy/sets/72157650283740397/

That was the London I experienced. I definitely need to go back as I barely scratched the surface.

My next post will be sometime in March as I FINALLY get to come home for a few weeks. I’ll see you there!

“What do you mean you went to see the Harry Potter studios!?!?!”

Hogwart's

Hogwart’s

So, while in England I went out to Watford, about 40 minutes outside London, and visited the Harry Potter Studios. This is where all eight movies were shot over a 10 year period.

I could say I went because of my film production background and it was a great opportunity to see a working film studio in person, which is true.

I could say I went because of how much respect I have for J.K. Rowling making a whole generation of kids rediscover the joy of reading, which is also absolutely true.

But I really went because I love the books and movies and I’ve wanted to go for a long time. So there!!!

Doors to the Great Hall

Doors to the Great Hall

I’m only posting a few pictures without any descriptions. I took way too many pictures to post them all here. As for the descriptions, well…if you don’t like Harry Potter it wouldn’t make a difference and if you do like Harry Potter, descriptions are not necessary.

Here is the link to the Warner Brother Studio Tour of The Making of Harry Potter.

http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/

Should you ever find yourself in London, alone or with your kids, I can highly recommend the tour. It was both fun and informative. One word of warning however. The staff is very fond of saying, “Secrets will be revealed.” If you don’t want to spoil the illusion of the films, this might not be for you. But if you like finding out how ‘green screen’ works, how special effects work, how props work, and a ton more stuff like this, you will spend the best 4 hours walking around the huge lot. You can even have a butterbeer. I did!

Speaking of green screens, (for those of you who do not know what this is, it’s the process used in film making where a character(s) stand in front of a green wall and the background is electronically added onto the picture) this process was used extensively in the production of the Harry Potter films. It is how they did the flying broom sequences among others. Yeah, you know what’s coming! During the tour, you are given the opportunity to ‘fly’ a broom on green screen. Of course I did it! You know you’re jealous because you didn’t!! You can purchase a video and/or pictures of your ‘flying experience’. Guess which package I bought?

HP Car HP FL Hog

(Of course I bought the green screen video of me on the flying broom. Special screening only!!!)

OK! OK! Here is a little teaser clip!

If you would like to see more of my pictures…then you really need to get out more!! LOL. Or you can go over to my Flickr site and see many more. There are over 200 of them. Hmmm…maybe I need to get out more.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrecroy/sets/72157648284164693/

More pictures of ‘traditional’ London will be posted soon.

Enjoy.

London, England

Parliament buildings

Parliament buildings

I seem to have a few free minutes, a rarity now days, so I thought I’d start putting up some of my London pictures.

I spent 5 days in Jolly Ole’ England but I was very busy with conferences and meetings. Squeezing a couple of hours here, and three hours there, I was able to see a fair bit of the incredible city. I visited Buckingham Palace and since the Queen’s Standard was flying, she was definitely home. However, she did not come to say hello. A bit miffed at that but I’m almost positive she’s over it!

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

That's real gold

That’s real gold

This is as close as you go!

This is as close as you go!

The main gates

The main gates

The weather was cold, about 5 – 7C, so I had my coat on the whole time. No snow though…and no, I still don’t miss it. My hotel was in right in the middle of SOHO, or the West End for you theatre folk. This location was central to everywhere I needed to be and wanted to see. Unfortunately, my room was literally 7 feet by 10 feet. Honest!!! And that included the toilet and shower. The towel they provided was twice as big as the shower stall. It was very small but quaint. It had 5 stories and the open hallways look out into the backs of other old buildings. It was all very Dickens-like.

I  jumped into a cab and drove off to Tower Bridge. Very special. That bridge won’t be falling down anytime soon. It’s solid as rock. Oh yeah, it’s built with rocks. Well that explains it. I didn’t get to see the bridge go up but I found out it’s operated with steam engines! If you take the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see the engines that lift it. The bridge also has two walkways found at the top and in between the two towers. They have a bit of a museum up there with some great historical photographs and you can’t beat the view of the Thames!

Just in case you weren't sure what this was!!

Just in case you weren’t sure what this was!!

Tower BridgeTower BridgeTower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

The Tower of London is right beside the Tower Bridge. This is where the Crown Jewels are stored. Centuries of history but, alas, I had no time to take the tour. I was told you can spend between 3 – 4 hours walking around in there. So, I had to make due with exterior photos.

It's been around for over 1,000 years!!

It’s been around for over 1,000 years!!

Home of the Crown Jewels

Home of the Crown Jewels

Tower of London

Have fun storming this castle!

Have fun storming this castle!

I also only had enough time to walk around St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is quite the architectural wonder from the outside that I can only imagine what it looks like inside.

St. Paul's dome

St. Paul’s dome

St. Paul's is big!

St. Paul’s is big!

St. Paul? (Julie's going to kill me!!)

St. Paul? (Julie’s going to kill me!!)

The back of St. Paul's

The back of St. Paul’s

The top of St. Paul's dome

The top of St. Paul’s dome

Just for fun, I’ve included some random pictures of London.

There has to be a story to this!

There has to be a story to this!

Just a statue

Just a statue

The Thames from Tower Bridge

The Thames from Tower Bridge

Westminster Tube Stop

Westminster Tube Stop

It was sunny!!!

It was sunny!!!

Front of an old church

Front of an old church

The Giant Eye

The Giant Eye

I have more coming. All I need is a bit of free time to upload the pictures.

Two Princes Officially Open Niagara College Taif

Their Royal Highnesses and Dave chatting

Their Royal Highnesses and Dave chatting

His Royal Highness Prince Mesh’al bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Mecca and His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities declared Niagara College Taif open on January 15, 2015.

Our management, faculty, staff and students had front row seats for this most auspicious occasion. Campus Principal, Dave Taylor greeted the two Princes and introduced them to the management team. I can attest that they are both very friendly and supremely interested in seeing Saudi’s tourism industry grow. They both took time to speak to some of our faculty and students, which was certainly a big thrill for them. They are still talking about it.

Meeting the faculty and students

Meeting the faculty and students

Later in the evening, Dave Taylor signed an agreement between the local Tourism Commission and Niagara College Taif which will allow both to take advantage of the resources each have to offer. On the job training and careers for our students and the use of our college’s facilities and expertise in tourism to help plan the future.

A new partnership!

A new partnership!

Dave Taylor later gave each of the two Princes carvings of a polar bear created by a Canadian sculpture.

A bit of Canadiana for the Princes

A bit of Canadiana for the Princes

All in all, a pretty royal affair!

Watching our video

Watching our video

Smile for my camera!!

Smile for my camera!!

Our students

Our students

The plaque donated by their Royal Highnesses

The plaque donated by their Royal Highnesses

Snow Storm…In the Desert!! Who knew?!

Where are the hockey sticks?

Where are the hockey sticks? 

MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images

Coat? Check. Extra sweater? Check. Warm socks? Check. Camera? Check. So I’m all set. A hike through the SIQ into Petra at night. Lit only by candlelight. How amazing is this going to be?

Ring, ring. (that’s my cell phone for those of you too young to remember a phone ringing. Nice! My trip’s been cancelled due to…wait for it…SNOW!?! 100’s of tourists are stuck in Petra due to snow, ice and extreme cold. WHAT!? I was there in October and it was 47C!

I’m a tough Canadian from northern Ontario. It’s probably -1C and a few snowflakes are falling. Panic sets in. What do these Middle Eastern people know about snow storms anyways. I turn on the TV and look at footage of Amman, the capital of Jordan with about 6″ of snow on the ground and lots still falling!!! Yikes, this is for real. Even by Canadian standards, this is a good storm. So…Petra’s out.

The next day I’m going to go on a 4×4 safari run in Wadi Rum and spend the night in the desert at a Bedouin camp. See the sunset and sunrise, have a campfire, eat an old fashion bedouin meal. Can’t wait.

Ring, ring. CRAP! There’s even snow in the desert!!! Actually, there’s high winds, sand, snow and rain in the desert. Even the camels are packing their humps and heading to warmer climes.

Still not a flake of snow in Aqaba. Lucky for me I have a nice hotel because that’s where I spent my trip, LOL. Went for a few walks. Dropped in a few bars. Had a few GREAT meals. All within a kilometer or two of my hotel.

I’m back in Taif again with no time to dwell on this. We  have two Princes and a Governor coming to the campus on Thursday. There’s only about a million things to do!

So, no pictures of this trip but look for some pictures of the Princes’ visit. I’m also heading to London, England next Monday for two conferences and a presentation. I should be able to squeeze out a bit of sight-seeing and will post the results on my return.

Snow! In the desert!?

This is the Middle East!

This is the Middle East!

by Muath Freij | Jan 08, 2015 | Jordan Times

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

We really do have a nice campus!

I never get tired of that blue sky

I never get tired of that blue sky

Every now and again, as I walk around our campus, I am amazed at how great it is. We are so busy every day that we tend to lose sight of the fact that things get better and better every week.

To look back at what we had in mid August and compare it to what we have today is literally amazing. How did we get so much done in so little time? I’m so proud to be a part of this great team!

Here are a few pictures of this jewel on the mountain in Taif, Saudi Arabia, I hope you get a chance to see it for yourself.

 

Merry Christmas from Saudi Arabia

Merry Christmas to everyone back home

Merry Christmas to everyone back home