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1600 Miles from Home
by Ghaida Al Farsi  3 Nov 2012
1600 Miles from Home

I spent the first two years of my life in Washington D.C. in the States. At two years, I said goodbye, or I’d imagine I had as a toddler, to the place I was born and went to Oman, my parents’ home and soon to be mine. 17 years later I was getting ready to head back to the place I might have once called home.



A week ago, I flew with a group of fellow petroleum engineering major students to San Antonio, TX to attend a technical conference for a week. To be honest, I was looking forward to setting foot in the place, or more accurately, the continent I was born rather than the sessions I would be attending at the conference. After a direct 16 hour flight spent between a state of unconsciousness and barely-awake haziness, we finally arrived to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport at Houston. Of course passing through the U.S. customs is not a full experience without at least one of the students being called for inspection for a few hours. Two hours of inspection and an hour spent passing through customs and locating luggage later; we got into a bus taking us to San Antonio and were finally able to catch a glimpse of the night landscape of the city. Finally arriving to our hotel, we were exhausted and leaving the bus to meet the chilled unexpectedly low-temperature air outside - our hotel did not help in waking us up either. Keep in mind we have been travelling for 24 hours straight, so a warm room and soft bed to sleep in was the best thing we could have ever asked for at that moment. And that’s exactly what I did: slept fitfully until the next morning when I finally got to know the people I was travelling with and the trip officially started.



Enjoying a plate of freshly made waffles and maple syrup, I started getting to know the people on the trip with me. Getting to know the people was a must, especially that we were headed to Texas Fiesta Six Flags, an amusement park, where it would be less awkward seeing me go crazy on rides if they knew about me than just my name.  I shall breeze through the details of the park because it is difficult to explain the feeling of hanging hundreds of feet above the ground with just a piece of metal holding you into place. The rides were exhilarating even more so with the chilled air, there was quite some loud, bordering on deafening, screaming, and thankfully no body’s lunch or breakfast came back up. The day ended with a group of us going to an All-American Rejects/Boys Like Girls concert.



The following day was the first day of the conference for students. Now, I should back up and explain the one of the main reasons for this trip: PetroBowl. PetroBowl is a fast-paced quiz competition where SPE student chapter teams compete against each other. The questions are both technical and non-technical based on the oil and gas industry. I was not part of the team, but all the students were there to support our team as well as confirm registration for the conference. Unfortunately, our team did not qualify to the second round, but we were determined to cheer them up; some of them went out after the conference while others opted to binge eat. We spent this day and the following going to the conference exhibition as well as attending sessions when possible. The exhibition was interesting with the latest technologies in the field, and we met different industry officials from all around the world. The sessions on the other hand were very technical and didn’t make much sense to me either because the topic was the newest findings and discoveries in fields of study I haven’t taken yet, or because it was just graduate students showing off on who’s got the better research.



The two nights we spent going out to try Mexican food or walking along the river that runs through the city. For the remaining couple of days we managed to do most of the tourist activities, which included taking the boat trip and visiting the Tower of the Americas, as well as going to Ripley’s Believe it Or Not and enjoying performances by mariachi.  An interesting experience was taking a cab with a guy named ‘Tony’ just for that night who was of Armenian descent. He took us around San Antonio, showed us the good restaurants that we should try and shortcuts we can take as well as threw around some random Arabic phrases that were surprisingly articulate. All of this with the meter switched off; he charged us 10 USD for a ride of 50 USD.



We ended the trip by spending out last day at Texas A&M University, College Station. We toured the campus and met up with friends who were studying abroad for Fall 2012 or students who were part of the Student Exchange Programs. The reunion with these students was quite hilarious because we were squealing and hugging w­­­­hile all around us people are giving us funny looks while rushing to class. And just like that, saying goodbye to friends an hour after greeting them, we left to Houston to catch our flight back to Doha. The trip was a roller coaster ride - at any point of time on the trip, I was completely engaged with something. I also finally got to know the seniors from the Petroleum Engineering Department. I don’t see much of them usually, if even at all, since they’re always hiding away somewhere in a lab doing who knows what.



Overall, not a bad welcome ‘home’, even though Washington D.C. WAS 1600 miles away.



The amazing time we spent wouldn’t have been possible without the planning of our SPE chapter and Dr. Aggour who accompanied us on the trip, so special thanks to them for all the effort and hard work. 

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