Bomb Scare

This semester has been hectic. My colleague has been reassigned and most of the work the we had divided between the two of us has been placed in my lap. It’s the end of the 4th week, and I can’t wait ’til Christmas. But then, I always say that around the 4th week.

Anyway, this weekend was Alumni Weekend at our school. I started this Friday participating in a workshop on the issues of teaching Chinese characters. It was interesting enough as the faculty members from Chinese, Japanese and Korean all had different approaches and methods of teaching. The basic philosophies are so different. In Chinese, there are a kazillion characters to learn, but they are usually read in one way, whereas in Japanese, each character maintains its original Chinese pronunciation–although it has been altered significantly by the Japanese–as well as a Japanese pronunciation that they applied to it semantically. To make matters worse, depending on when the character and concept arrived in Japan, there can be two different Chinese pronunciations and two different Japanese ones.

女: female. Chinese: nyu. Japanese: (Chin) nyou, jo; (Japn) onna, me.

Anyway, the workshop was nice enough. From 3 PM, I signed up to stayin our department to welcome any alumni who decided to drop by for Alumni Weekend. But as we were setting up our conference room, we noticed a large suitcase tucked under the desk we keep in the hallway. A colleague and I asked the others if they knew anything about it. No one knew. The suitcase was rather dirty, pushed beck beneatht the desk in an obvious attempt to conceal it, and had a sticker on its side that read: “Screened: Dubai International Airport.” We decided that maybe security should take a look at it.

When the campus police came, they immediately determined that it was suspicious, they blocked access to the area–which actually blocked us into our corner of the building–and contacted their supervisors who then came to confirm the threat. The building was evacuated and we descended down the back emergency stairwell. Soon, the campus police presence was everywhere, sirens whirred as police vehicles cordoned off the streets around the building, and explosive’s sniffing German Sherpherds went in and out the building.

After two hours it was safe to return. As we waited, my colleagues and I talked with a member of the Homeland Security response team–yes, they took this very seriously–and he said they identified the owner of the suitcase, apparently a student who carelessly left it there for reasons we’ll read about soon in the school newspaper–I don’t expect it was even a blip on the media radar on a day when the Obama and McCain debate dominated their attention.

I was hoping to get some grading done while waiting for anyh possible alumni to show up, but the events of the afternoon squashed that plan. But there was no bomb and everyone was safe. I guess that was as good a way to start the weekend as any.

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