Houston, As Seen From The Middle East

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Seven professors from seven Middle Eastern countries arrived in Houston on Friday to finish their tour of the United States. Previously the group had traveled to Washington, D.C. and San Francisco and is in town this week to study, among other things, Houston's large Hispanic population.

The group took some time to chat with Hair Balls about its observations during the trip.

About education: "In Algeria, there is a national test, and those people who pass the test are allowed to come to the university without having to pay anything. In America, things are different," said Nadhir Kaouli, the head of the English department at the University of Batna. "In Algeria, I think that we are lucky. If you are good, that is enough for you to get in."

Another surprising aspect of American education, Kaouli said, is the differences between campuses. "There are schools mainly made for rich people, and public schools for the rest of the nation," he said.

About diversity: Yusar Almadani, who teaches English literature at Kuwait University, received her doctorate in that subject from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the late 1970s. The biggest change, she said, is the size and power ethnic groups now have. "It's not surprising," Almadani said. "But it was not the case when I was a student."

About religion: The feature in this week's Houston Press, Test of Faith, is about Mormonism. A picture with the story shows a truck door painted with the words, "Polygamy is Abuse." One of the professors took offense to the picture, saying it is a contradiction for Americans who have extramarital affairs to condemn polygamy.

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