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Morocco! (4) – The End February 12, 2007

Posted by Khawarizmiya in ACM, memoir, recovered from blogspot.
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Restaurant Ceiling in Faas

The End

Big..Big something..Big Integer? I had heard about it but never used it. Honestly by that time we didn’t think we were going to solve anything so all our attempts were just shots in the air, hoping anything would work. And so, we went through the API documentation, searched for BigInteger and read about it. It was pretty messy, I mean modifying the code and using Big Integer guy. Didn’t work again.. Ok no problem, at least we had fun in the trip. While we were playing around with Big Integer dude, Lama had solved another problem. Now we were in between two corners, coding the new problem from scratch, trying again with Big Integer or trying again with the first problem’s code (ok three corners). The third option was chosen, it was about one hour to deadline. We found out a problem with one of the methods, fixed it at once and sent the solution to the judges.. “YES” !!! It was around 50 minutes to deadline; that “Yes” looked so charming that I screamed it out loud. I think the surrounding teams despised us at the moment but no problem..I was very satisfied.

Khadige was very hyper, she asked me to go over the code with the Big Integer mess. I was hesitant at first but then I thought “Why Not?”. we did a small change in some method that calculates the summation of a number’s digits, sent the problem to the judges and waited. Lama tried to convince us of trying to help her with another problem, but before I had the chance to think about that…”Yes!” .. “Horaaaaaaay!!” Here goes the second problem. I was very pleased and thankful to Allah, for four hours I was thinking of how to travel to Australia far away from our failure when God blessed us with solving two problems. Anyway we tried a little with another one but when it was 5 minutes to the end I just sat there, smiling.

5 4 3 2 1 0…BOOM! All teams popped their balloons! I popped two imaginary ones in my mind as we were too late to get any real ones. The volunteers came to us and asked me to do some short interview with the Moroccan tv. I felt I was going to crack up so I convinced my sweet friend Lama of being the super star. Surprisingly, she didn’t mind. We stood at the back laughing at her messed up answers. Everything was ok, we were happy, the AUI girls were supportive, it was great. I went down to wash my face, it was terribly reddish. We bought couple of pictures then went back to the Hotel.

The ending ceremony that night was charming. As the buses started to leave Ifrane, I was a little late and didn’t make it to the bus that my friends took; I had to take another one. Luckily, Dr Khaleel was also there. I sat alone somewhere in the middle, looking from the window. It was raining heavily that night and the way to Faas was pretty inspiring. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the window. Seeing the castles in Faas, I tried to recall any historical information I know about this part of the Arabic world. Nothing! I decided to read more
about Faas’s History when I come back. Anyway, when we reached our destination I admired the place very much. The high ceiling, the decorated walls and the ancient looking chairs. The Moroccan music played live, the sound of Ou’d. Everything seemed pretty charming. Some complained about the quality of food and other stuff but I didn’t really care at the time. The AUI girls looked lovely, all dressed up in Moroccan traditional clothes. Sara, Kareema, Yusra, Afeefa, and other girls I forgot their names. Sidi Ali gave a nice speech after presenting a small demo for a moroccon wedding. The results were announced and the Academy school in Egypt & AUC got the first and second places, respectively. We got the 3rd place. (We wish). Hahaha.

The night was wrapped up, we went back to the hotel in buses, said goodbye to everyone & promised to keep in touch. Next morning we left to Casablanca, spent one day there before leaving back to Kuwait.

It was an amazing trip, Alhamdu lellah. I’m sure even if I get qualified next year to join the Regional it wouldn’t be as amazing. The company, the beauty of Ifrane, the friends we made there & above all of that feeling I had inside of me that this trip wouldn’t have taken place if we hadn’t believed that whatever difficulties we are to face in this life, are definitely meant to test our faith in destiny, in Gods will. Deep down I had a feeling –and may it be true- that we had passed one of those tests; we had submitted to God when one of our small dreams seemed impossible to happen and we were satisfied with whatever God chooses for us.

That was a lesson I learned from my trip to Ifrane. Too emotional? Yeah so what, Its my business not anyone else’s ;) To be honest, I also learned how to have extreme moments of fun and make the best out of the shortest times and the smallest events, wherever, whenever.

Morocco! (3) February 11, 2007

Posted by Khawarizmiya in ACM, memoir, recovered from blogspot.
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Al-akhwayn University of Ifrane

December 2nd, 2006

Around 8:00 AM my mobile alarm went on, I opened my eyes, looked at the ceiling.. why is it triangle-shaped? This looks nothing like our ceiling back home..oh ok ok this is Ifrane and today is the Competition..

Competition! Had this word been said in different circumstances, its effect on me would have been different. At that time, I was feeling incredibly at ease, it was ironic. As our expectations regarding our performance were very low, we had no reason to be worried about the competition. When we reachedAlakhwayn University, we had to wait about an hour outside the rooms..we took tens of pictures all around the place –again-, the view was beautiful. Oh before that they took us to some hall where we waited for a while. One of the female volunteers of AUI came to us, girls. She introduced herself and told us that she supports us, for the being a team of girls there, and that although she is not wearing a head scarf (Hijab), she admires and likes the fact that the three of us are veiled. I was so happy to hear that, “Alhamdulellah” I thought to myself; the idea of making the Islamic outfit look appealing to other people was very pleasing, I thought of it as a blessing.

So after waiting forever, they decided that its time. I didn’t like our table, it was just in the middle and at the rear right, where all the volunteers and supervisors are observing. “Yaah whatever, as if that’s our biggest problem right now..”.

5 4 3 2 1 0.. Start. We opened the Envelop.. Well, here we go.
“It’s a BOY..” Naah just kidding.. anyway, I scanned the problems looking for a problem that required String manipulation, the only thing I thought I mastered to a reasonable degree. Unfortunately, I started with the last one: “A-to-Z”. Anyone who has been in the competition knows now that the judges had meant for this problem to be the non-solvable one. Surprisingly we found out later that one team out of the 44 teams did solve it, I think it was one of the AUC teams, Im sure they were Egyptians anyway, and so they should be, Hehehe. So anyway, I wasted so much time trying to solve all the possible cases, that was pretty time consuming, I should’ve noticed its going nowhere. I guess that milky way bar I ate wasn’t sugary enough; my mind wasn’t functioning properly. I’m usually smarter, yeah that’s it.

While I was in the middle of Nowhere, Lama asked me to code something for her. She had come up with a solution to one of the problems. The code consisted of several methods. I put my nice unsolvable problem away –hoping it’ll solve itself- and sat in front of the monitor. She had written down a good part of the code then explained to me wats going on and I coded. I loved coding and typing, if this was a typing contest I would have mastered it (I did get the First rank out of 65 contestants in a typing contest back at university)…Anyway it wasn’t, it was a programming contest, and I loved programming.. What I didn’t love was the “WRONG ANSWER” that came as a judge response.

We went over the methods over and over until Khadige interrupted. She asked us to leave this problem for the time being and code hers. I was confused, didn’t know what to do exactly, I started to smell some tension. Lama was positive about her solution and I was sure the code was ok, we wanted to give it more time but Khadige was determinant. So.. I coded Khadige’s solution, It was “Casting out the Nine”. The big mistake I had done was NOT read either one of the problems I was typing, I totally depended on the explanation I got from lama or khadige, now I know that wasn’t sufficient. We finished coding the problem, tried some test cases. As far as I remember some test cases failed, we examined the code again, fixed some stuff, tried again. After a while all the test cases we tried gave good results. We decided to send it.. tick .. tick .. tick .. “Runtime Error!” Ouch!! I had a mental block, what does that mean? Khadige figured out it must be a problem with the ranges of numbers. Uh-huh..ok how stupid of us, using “Integers”. Anybody who had solved that problem now knows there was no need to read numbers as integers, we should have treated them as strings and manipulated the digits separately. However, that didn’t come to our minds back then. I guess the chairs weren’t comfortable enough, or maybe it’s the chocolates again. Anyway, I replaced any “int” with a “long” thinking that might help. “Runtime Error”.. Ok, It didn’t.

To be Continued..

Morocco! (2) February 4, 2007

Posted by Khawarizmiya in ACM, memoir, recovered from blogspot.
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Day: November, 30th. . Time: 6:00AM Approx.
By now, our little tour in Dubai Airport almost came to an end. It was nice, felt like being in “The Terminal” movie. We had to be back to meet with the rest of our group. The guys were there, gathered around a laptop and solving some programming problem. The funny thing about the guys’ team is that they hardly knew each other, two of them didn’t know Java (freshmen) and the third was a masters student and a pre ACM contestant who’s practically a Java expert. I thought to myself “What a team”.

It was time to take the 8 hours flight to Casablanca. I decided to take the competition a little bit more seriously and try to practice a bit. And so, I got my file with all the previous contests and started looking through them. I was very much interested in any problem that required String manipulation. I love the String class in Java; its very amusing to know what you can do by playing with the predefined methods available in it. So anyway, I started with a problem that involved having a Dictionary of words, and some word searching processes.. I think it was “Macrosoft”..not sure though. I was so happy and excited when I reached what I think is a valid solution for the problem. After that me and Khadige started thinking of a problem that involved number theory. Those were basically the only types of problems I liked dealing with. The problem with dynamic programming and graphs theory problems was that I hardly practiced or programmed anything that involved either of’em. I only remember conceptual basics of DP from Algorithms course, and that was it.
During flight, and while I was walking in the corridor, I noticed something that looked familiar..”A…C…M.. ACM!” Yes acm papers! Why are those guys holding ACM papers? Oh ok, they had to be students. I thought it was pretty exciting to see other ACM contestants on board. I knew later they were from AUS..

System.out.println(“Hello Morocco”);

Casablanca airport.. I was so [lake.jpg]excited about being in Morocco. I guess being with friends was what made everything seem really amusing at the moment. Despite the one hour late arrival of our luggage, I was still in my hyper active happy mood..
“Hassan”; one of the AUI (Alakhwayn Univ of Ifrane) was there to guide us through our way to Ifrane. Before going for the buses, (Micro buses we found out later), we had to find a place to pray Thuhr and Asser prayers. Hassan told us we had 10 min only to do that. So we started running in the airport, after finding out that the Musallah is far away from our spot. Running in Casablanca airport..I don’t know why that felt like Hollywood, again.

We stopped in the middle of the road for refreshment. For us, that meant lots of chips and Cola.. I saw some Egyptian teams for the first time at the café, was nice to see them, not to mention that there were girls participating from Egypt too. For ambitious teams, I suppose, Egyptian teams were the acm geeks that always got the top places. For me, they were a part of my homeland, they were a part of me… Really? Wow, I never thought I could say such a sweet thing..

Cout << “Ifrane”; Ifrane was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. The nature was amazing, Subhanallah. We took tons of pictures everywhere, we walked to and from AUI almost whenever possible. It was cold though, but still lovely. The first day program included an opening ceremony. I met there another team of girls, “Support!” I thought to myself. They were from the Univ of Sharjah. The female volunteers of AUI came and introduced themselves to us; they were very sweet and kind. It felt great to be around them, especially that the majority of contestants were guys. At the ceremony, I was happy to see Dr Ziad on stage. He was chief judge this year. Ok that was pretty detailed..I wonder who will find this entertaining.

Morocco! (1) February 4, 2007

Posted by Khawarizmiya in ACM, memoir, recovered from blogspot.
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On our way to Ifrane.

You’re going.. You’re not going.. No actually, you’re going!

There are situations in one’s life that can only be described with one word..”Miracle from God”..Umm..ok three words.

This was the thought that crossed my mind when I was told that our trip to Morocco was actually approved, and our chance of joining the competition together, me and my two best friends, is not gone forever. The reason we were so thankful for this trip is that 2 weeks prior to the competition we were told that Kuwait University did not approve the trip due to budget constraints or something like that. Of course, we felt great disappointment back then. It was a life time opportunity to travel with your best friends for the first time –and the last- before graduation, and join such an interesting competition.

So, as I said, 2 weeks before day zero we stopped any practicing –as if- , we had only practiced before that for 2 short sessions, and that was it, and we prepared ourselves for another trip to Turkey instead, to make it up to ourselves… Just kiddin’.

The miracle..
2 days before the competition, some miracle happened. One of my friends who has been insisting on going to the Univeristy Dean (The Big guy), and talking to him personally about our little problem, provided she was his student one day, got the chance to meet him. And after listening to her complain he promised her that the budget problem would be solved. So there we were.. 4 or 5 days away from the competition date, 2 days away from the traveling day, not knowing if we will make it or not. To be honest, I doubted it.

Day minus one:
It was pretty awkward.. when my parents asked me, “So, dear. Are you traveling tomorrow to Morocco or not?”.. I didn’t know back then what to answer, and frankly, I didn’t know what I wanted either. It was one of the situations where you start asking yourself, “Do I really know what’s going to end up for my best eventually?”. What if the trip was cancelled, this was definitely a situation where your submission to God’s will is being tested. I didn’t want to object on what God wanted for me. If we are not meant to join the competition then for sure something else better is waiting for us somewhere else, or a harmful thing is being pushed away from our way. Yes, it is Destiny.

Day zero
Finally, on Wednesday, 29th of November, at 11:00AM I was told “Pack your Bag, be in the airport at 7:00pm” (If Im not mistaken). And so I did.
When I reached the airport, I met the dr who was going to accompany us for the first time, and the other team, I knew only one of the guys. We were also introduced to a female supervisor “Mrs Amany”, who had to accompany us –the girls- due to some constraints in Kuwait University regarding such trips. She was pretty nice to us, a little panicking but no problem, she was really sweet, and carried a bag full of different kinds of chocolates and biscuits.. Did I mention she was “sweet”, I meant her bag…

A little more about my team..
Lama is palestanian, CS senior, Khadige is Lebanese, Electrical Engineering senior, and Im proudly Egyptian, Computer Engineering senior student. We represented Kuwait University team.. –Yeah, go figure!-. The three of us, Walhamdulellah, have quite of high gpas relatively ,each in her own major. This made drs, TAs and colleagues put high expectations on our performance in the competition. It was disappointing to think about that during that trip, knowing that we haven’t practiced at all for the competition, and weren’t prepared for it. Having a high GPA doesn’t mean you’re a good ACM programmer, but tell that to the people, tell that to the governments, tell that to the mass destructive weapon makers!..bluh.

“I’d be very thankful if we got one problem solved, but I’d be quite happy if we solved four” I thought to myself while we were on the plane. Oh I forgot to mention that our first flight was to Dubai. We had to stay in Dubai Airport for 8 hours, then take another flight to Casablanca. The 8 hours started well, we had dinner, then some coffee. Afterwards we had aimless walks around Dubai airport..it wasn’t the first time I went there, its not so bad. The best thing was the company of my great amigos.. until it was 4 am in the morning and we desperately needed somewhere to sleep. We went to pray Fajr in the musallah and get some rest, we didn’t know that sleeping in the musallah was forbidden.. but at the time nobody kicked us out. I couldn’t sleep anyway..

I could use some sleep right now though.. I’ll continue this later on..