Falling, rising


To be successful is not to never be discouraged from setbacks, but to be discouraged by setbacks and try again not long after. If you can’t get up by yourself, seeking external help is perfectly fine. Just find the way most suitable for you to get back up on your feet. When something made me feel down, I used to try to make sense of things by turning to religion. But I also noticed that whenever I start doing this, I always end up feeling a massive amount of contempt, mainly because it’s just impossible to make sense of things from down here. I decided that this time instead, I won’t do that. I will just accept that sh*t happens. That things happen for a reason, and sometimes the reason is that I’m an idiot. I’ll take responsibility for my action without blaming anyone or anything.




One of the thing that I’m doing here at KAUST is photographing Danbo, since there are restrictions on what can be photographed and uploaded to social media. By shifting my focus to smaller objects as Danbo’s prop, I managed to frame a miniature world around Danbo, which would otherwise be unnoticed by us.

Then it kinda made me think. For Danbo a small lawn would be similar to a savannah. For me, a PhD candidate, KAUST is a university with top notch research facility, great for pursuing top quality research. But if we shift the perspective, what would the non-research employee think of KAUST? How would the student’s spouses see KAUST? How would KAUST appear to Saudi visitors? What about the migrant workers who come in the morning, working to keep the facilities running? Some prospective students see KAUST only as a shortcut to Makkah. How would the person next to me see it, even?

Exploring Saudi – shipwrecked


With the absence of tourist visa in Saudi Arabia (for now at least), the tourism industry here is pretty much stagnant. Apart from Makkah and Madinah, there is not much to see around here. Public transport is nonexistent, so if you don’t have a car you’re pretty much stuck. It’s possible to join a tour to some of the more exciting places, but they usually cost a lot (again, this is because there is no tourism hence not much competition going on). Last weekend, I decided to visit the Al-Fahad shipwreck, located about one hour drive from Jeddah (meaning 2 hours from KAUST). The shipwreck is quite interesting – although it’s still quite far from the shore. Apart from that, not much going on on the beach. If it was in Indonesia, it would have been full of peddlers.

Which SIM card should I use in KAUST?

There was this weird debate on my Whatsapp group about which telco cellular operator is the best for KAUST residents (and probably anyone living in Saudi in general). I ended up doing a free promotion for Jawwy in that group. Since the information might be useful for fellow KAUSTians and maybe expats in Saudi, I decided to list the details about Jawwy here.

For me personally, I once received a Mobily business SIM card from KAUST, but I don’t really like it because the cheapest data package available is 2 GB for 60 SAR – and if you spend most of your time inside KAUST you won’t need that many data because of the ubiquitous iCampus wifi access point. Since I occassionally leave campus for Umra or shopping in Jeddah, I need something cheaper.

I found out about Jawwy, a part of STC – the major telco company in Saudi – from a Facebook ad. Yes, Facebook ad is actually helpful for once.

Anyway, just to keep this post short, the main advantages of Jawwy which I have experienced so far:

  1. Cheap. The basic package is only 20 SAR per month, which gives you 500 MB of data and 50 minutes of call time. Most of the time it’s enough for a KAUST student like me.
  2. Flexible plan. If I run out of data in the middle of my plan, I can just upgrade my plan on the go using the Jawwy app. The reverse is also possible, where if you start with more data plan but ended up having unused quota, you can just downgrade and refund the difference.
  3. It’s linked to credit cards, making payment really easy. One of my major annoyance with mobily is the need to buy recharge vouchers, which is not always available in Tamimi.
  4. Promos and addons. If you use 50 SAR plans and above, you get unlimited social media data usage. If you don’t feel like upgrading your plan when you run out of data, you can get a 10 SAR addon that gives you 1 GB for a week. Roaming works well -tried in in San Francisco – and 100 SAR gives you 2 GB for a week. Currently they’re still trying to attract more users so there are lots of promos going on.

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Ordering the SIM card is easy. You can go to http://www.jawwy.sa and buy the sim card online. If you have existing phone number, you can transfer your old number to Jawwy to skip the hassle with changing phone number. Note that this doesn’t work with business accounts. It will be delivered to your house within 2 business days, and in case of KAUST residents you need to go to the visitor parking lot in gate 3 for fingerprint and signature.

Sapiens part 1

I just picked up Harari’s Sapiens for reading (hurray to KAUST’s library for adding this amazing book to their collection upon my request), and it’s a really fascinating read. I just touched upon the first part of the book, about the difference between Homo Sapiens and the other human species – yes, there are other human species, those with “Homo” in their name such as Neanderthals, Homo Soloensis, etc.

The argument is that after “cognitive revolution” several hundred thousands of years ago, the Sapien’s mind becomes capable of thinking beyond physical stuffs, including fictions, myths, and social constructs. This sets them apart from other animals because now sapiens can understand abstract concepts such as religion, money, and nationality. For example, I can’t teach my dog that if she’s a good girl, then she will go to doggie heaven. No, I have to go through the carrot and stick approach, reinforcing good behavior through tangible rewards such as snacks – and maybe some belly rubs – and repress unwanted behaviors through punishment.

On the other hand, sapiens, because they can understand abstract concept, have the ability to establish more flexible, complex, and larger social interactions. For example, because of the abstract concept called ‘money’ (at the end of the day the value of money is just something that everyone agrees on), individuals can quickly establish business relation with each other without personally knowing the other party. As long as the fictional concept of money is believed and agreed upon by everyone, then trust can be easily established. The same can be said for patriotism, where the fictional concept of ‘nation’ glues group of people together, even to the point where they would go to war for the sake of this so-called ‘nation’.

Will continue reading and update with what I’ve learned.