Land of Sand

Sophia Scholl
January 30, 2021
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Land of Sand

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

It’s been over a month since I forwarded my law enforcement memoir “FEDS: From Silence of the Lambs to the Castro Brothers” to the FBI’s Pre-Publications Unit for review. Mind you, I don’t expect to have it back any time soon. The reviewer told me the manuscript would be forwarded to the Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, another former employer, after she was done.

“So give it some time,” stated a former FBI agent colleague, “These things can take up to six months.”

In the meantime, the literary agent from New York City has had the manuscript to mull over for about the same amount of time. My Social Media Adviser and friend, Con Sweeney, cautions me not to hurry the renowned agent, “It’s a very strange time in the world of publishing. Let’s be patient.”

Which leaves me few options except to commence writing a third book, a book which is another memoir–this one about a young man’s “coming of age” and could easily begin as such, “A long time ago in a country far, far away…”

If I thought the law enforcement memoir was challenging to write, this book will prove even more difficult. It’s been forty-two years since the twenty-four year old “me” boarded a flight to London with a final destination of Saudi Arabia. It would culminate in a six year journey profoundly altering the trajectory of my life.

As I paced the floor of the Houston hotel room that day in September 1979, there was a great deal on my mind. If I passed the morning interview and was offered the job as English teacher at Riyadh Schools, I would be living and working overseas. I would be independent, on my own–a welcome change from living at home with my parents. Not that I didn’t love my parents, but it was time to make my own way. However, if the interview with *Dr. Shami did not go as planned, then it was back to New York, back to my pedestrian job as shoe store salesman, back home to all the bologna sandwiches I could eat. I recall pleading with the Lord, and possibly Allah, for divine intervention.

Finally, several hours after interviewing for the role of Instructor at the private school for Saudi Arabian princes, the phone rang. My heart pounding, I picked up the phone. In his Middle East accent, Dr. Shami asked me to return to the Saudi Arabian Consulate to “pick up your ticket.”

What did that mean? His tone of voice seemed indifferent, almost cold and matter of fact….as in “pick up your ticket to return to New York…you didn’t get the job.”

Somehow, I summoned the courage to ask for clarification, “you mean…the ticket…to return to New York?”

Dr. Shami chuckled, “No Mr. Kenneth…your ticket to Saudi Arabia. You passed the interview…you’ve got the job!”

*Dr. Jamil Shami was born in Ramalla, Palestine. Dubbed a citizen of the world with a Palestinian heart, he was an international educator and academic leader in his own right with multiple degrees including a PhD in higher education administration. Dr. Shami taught at Bir-Zeit University, University of Mount Olive, King Saud University and held a post Doctorate Masters degree from the University of Texas, Houston Medical Center. He passed away in 2017.

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