Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘actuarial

Lebanon in 2000: Introspection,  (continue #52)

 

I arrived on Christmas of 2000 at night to the airport; the whole family was there to meet me with the exception of Joanna and dad.  Adrea was about 6 of age and she sprinted and jumped hugged me; she was missing a front tooth.  We loaded the large Dodge van and Elie was driving. 

I realized that the Capital Beirut and the district of Metn were almost a metropolis since buildings were uninterrupted for 17 kilometers on both side of the main road.  There were relatives waiting at home. 

Dad looked old.  He asked me how much I managed to save.  The number darkened his face even more and he had taken a decision on the spot. The next morning dad put our apartment in Beirut for sale.  I think that he was postponing that decision for a while hoping for a miracle.  We received an offer within a week from a family renting in the building opposite to ours. Our apartment was vast but the condition of the entire building was in disintegration and no one was in charge of the upkeep; there was all kinds of electrical wires and cable connected in the main entrance hall, and there was no parking lot for the building, and the street was lined with parked cars…

We could have sold it for a better price but dad was totally broke.  We received cash for the sale and I played body-guard to dad all the way home.  We re-counted the cash and I found out that we received over a million LL ($750) in surplus. The buyer called up and wondered if he paid more than he should.  We were affirmative and he drove to our home and got his money back.

I didn’t see Joanna for a whole day; she had fallen and injured her knees sprinting at school and wanted to show up in a better shape. William had started his first year at the Lebanese University in architecture.  Chelsea was barely 6 months old and didn’t cry when I held her up. 

The next night, mother had prepared a big supper and invited all the relatives, around twenty, and we all laughed and had a great time. I think that was the last mass invitation of a long tradition that is fading away.

I spent a year confused, frustrated, jobless, and with no car to drive around; I think that I was scared to drive in Lebanon and I needed that long to get familiar with my new environment.  I could not agree with the state of Lebanon under construction; it was mainly dust, dust, and more dust and traffic jam and honking and dangerous driving. 

My friend Ramez (a friend from my first visit to the University of Oklahoma at Norman) managed to send my CV to the Lebanese American University in Jubeil (Byblos) and I was hired to teach a course in Human Factors.  The industrial engineering curriculum listed a single course in Human Factors as required, and it was taught by a mechanical engineering professor who was glad to be relieved of this burden. 

That was my first official teaching experience and I prepared for a whole semester using old versions because there were no books or publications on Human Factors at the university library or in any other university libraries.

The first course was “Risk Assessment and Occupational Safety” offered in the fall, and the other course on Human Factors was reserved for the spring semester. Thus, I was driving twice a week to teach an hour, for a trip that lasted an hour drive, for  a total pay of $3,000 a semester.  I had asked the department of Industrial Engineering to subscribe to the Human Factors Journal so that I might update my course and initiate students to read published articles, but nothing materialized for the next three years.

I personally applied for the Journal at the library and they claimed that my application went through but I could find nothing on the shelves for the duration of my teaching there

In the third year, the engineering department decided to cancel the “Risk Assessment” course without asking my opinion, they never did ask for my opinion or even answered any of my letters, emails, or suggestions. The department substituted this course with “Reliability in Engineering” on the ground that it is more in line of engineering. 

Reliability is basically a few probability functions more applicable to actuarial or for insurance business. In industry, reliability is applied to test the life span of a light bulb for example.  I could teach this course because I have taken all the advanced probability courses and “reliability” too, but I was not asked to teach it on the implicit basis that I am “no real engineer”, I guess.  I thus ended up teaching a single course in spring for $3,000 per year.  No other university in Lebanon taught Human Factors related courses.

The worst part was that all the eligible students wanted to enroll in my course and I had to deal with over 60 students.  The department refused to open two sections in order to save a lousy additional $3,000.  Then, the various engineering departments, excepting Industrial engineering because Human Factors is required, decided not to allow their students to taking this course on the ground that they opened other more appropriate courses.

The Industrial department decided to appoint a woman as chairperson, though her PhD is not officially in industrial engineering.  She hired a full-time teacher of her acquaintances.  She did not like me because once, at the end of year dinner, I expressed my surprise that her husband is young; she retorted “Did you think that I was that old?”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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