Thursday, October 13, 2011

No use cryin' over spilled chemicals...

As soon as I walked in to school today, I was asked if it's heard about the gas leak. First it was from my co-workers.

"Amber, did you smell gas on your way to school?" one of the English teachers said with a chuckle. I wasn't in on the joke yet, and it was only 7:13 am, so I just kind of courtesy laughed and continued with taking off my abaya and gearing up for 1st period.

"No, really, there was a gas leak and all the schools in [nearby town] are closed today," she said.

Oh! She wasn't kidding. And that explained why there was so little traffic on the roads this morning! It was all starting to come together now.

"Are you being serious? There's a gas leak? Like gas? Natural gas?" I asked in quick succession, eyebrows raised.

"I don't know. It was a gas of some sort. Chlorine, I think. A chemical factory exploded."

"Oh my gosh? Was anyone hurt?"

"I don't know, but I hope we get out of school!"

Obviously, in times of crisis, teachers focus on the important things. I laughed awkwardly again and continued to get ready for first period. The halls were at their normal level of chaos, so I wasn't sure if news of the mysterious gas leak had reached the students yet.

Then I walked into the 7th grade hallway.

As soon as I turned the corner I was verbally attacked with: "TEACHER THERE'S TRANSBOUNDARY POLLUTION IN [A DIFFERENT NEARBY TOWN THAN BEFORE]!!!"

Can you tell what our first unit in social studies has been about? I'm just so dang proud.

Another angel came running up, "TEACHER! There was a fire in Aramco! We aren't having school today!"

You've got to give her points for creativity, considering that she was sharing this news with me in the middle of the school hallway. Meanwhile, my confusion was mounting. I'd heard three different reports of three different incidents happening in three different places. What exactly was going on!? And why was everyone yelling!?

I laughed as another student tried to play the "I'm too scared of the mystery danger to learn today" card and told her that she better get her scared little butt to first period on time or I'd give her something to be afraid of...ok, those weren't my exact words but you get the idea.

I returned to the English cluster because it was now 7:18 and I was a little more awake and could process the news. Here was the initial report: there was a gas leak of some sort at a chemical plant in a nearby town and all of the schools in the surrounding area were closed, but not us. The gas was not natural gas, but it could have been chlorine or possibly nitrogen. Neither of those gasses sounded particularly deadly, but apparently someone was spreading the rumor that if the nitrogen mixed with the hydrogen in the air, it could be horrifically dangerous.

The jury's still out on the scientific validity of this claim.

Teacher friends will sympathize with how annoying my first period class was.

My Saudi friends will not be surprised to learn that we didn't make it past 3rd period today.

I had just finished the first part of my block period with my 9th graders when the PA system beeped and an announcement was made in Arabic telling everyone to stay inside.'s fall in Saudi's still a good 90 degrees during the day. It wasn't exactly a let's-have-class-outside kind of day.

Immediately afterwards, a student came to my door and asked if she could make an announcement: "GO HOME!" she happily declared! I explained to my ecstatic students that we weren't going anywhere until an adult came with some information.

Welp, approximately 2 seconds later, an adult came to the room and said that if you have your mobile phone, you should call your parents and tell them to come pick you up.

I've never seen so many Blackberries appear from thin air so quickly!! It's a miracle how technology that's not allowed in the classroom can materialize in your pocket right when you need it.

I'm still a little confused how "Stay inside" turned to "Go stand outside and wait for your driver to arrive to pick you up and go home." But you know, that's why they don't put me in charge.

Eventually we did get some actual information: A chemical plant in a nearby city had had a chemical spill sometime last night. Civil Defense originally thought they could get things contained before having to disrupt the school day, but that didn't prove to be the case. They had sent out a message to close schools and "cut out from work early" is the kind of news that travels fast in Saudi Arabia.

The Mister and I got home and enjoyed a mid-morning nap.

Never a dull moment.

Vicariously yours,

No comments:

Post a Comment