Monthly Archives: October 2014
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff
So, I survived the inspection hell while surviving the I-just-moved-to-the-middle-east mania. I’m back to believing the people who said it’d get easier after my first three months. I’m still in month two, but (now that I have time to breathe and live normally again) I just noticed a few things that tell me I am adjusting, and yep I’m back to being excited about this little adventure of mine.
Here’s how I know I just might be getting used to all of this:
- I no longer pray when entering a roundabout, but I think God misses my incessant “Oh thank you for letting me live!” There are a LOT of roundabouts in Al Ain!
- I almost picked up the phone to call a new sushi place that only delivers, and then I remembered wait if there’s no where to dine it’s probably made in someone’s home. We have a lot of apartment businesses here (thanks to expat spouses usually not being able to find work), and they’re great (I love my neighbor’s cajun takeout service!). But, is it wise to order sushi from someone’s home in the middle of the desert? Western me won over on this one, so the call wasn’t made.
- I hear the word shoe, and instead of thinking about feet I immediately re-explain what I just said using more hand and facial gestures. I believe shoo in Arabic means I have no clue what you’re saying, but your eyes are pretty, and can I just keep staring at them?
- Speaking of eyes, I no longer think it’s creepy when a girl demands “give me your eyes!” I also no longer flinch when some girl runs to touch my hair. I do, however, wish they knew what kooties were so I could freak them out by telling them they just nabbed mine.
- I have no problem walking past a bunch of laborers in their dusty kanduras to get into my special Spinneys to get my special grape juice. Hell I don’t even realize I’m the only woman in there until standing in line —- especially when there’s a buy 6 sale!
- I no longer worry about whether or not I should go into a store or restaurant that has only Arabic writing —- there’s usually good shit inside there, and I’ll enjoy eating it (well except for the grape leaf thingy —- that one not so much).
- While drinking my coffee in the wee hours of the morning I find myself mentally chanting Allah Akbar right along with the call to prayer.
- I feel naked when I go outside in a t-shirt and bermuda shorts. Along the same lines I raise my eyebrows when I see the new Indian girl at work wearing short sleeves. Hahahah it totally shocks me every time!
- It doesn’t even phase me until later that I’ve just seen a man pop out of a trunk with a shovel in his hand. Ten minutes later I think “wait that’s effed up even for here.”
And last, but certainly NOT least, it’s Wednesday night and I am stoked because tomorrow is Thursday, my new Friday. I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but I know it’ll be fun, and I won’t be wasting any time worrying over what I cannot control. whoop! whoop!
This one’s all about teaching (don’t worry I’ll get back to the fun stuff this weekend!)
The thing about inspections, evaluations, all that formal stuff that drives teachers insane is that, for the most part, I don’t think they do much in the way of improving what we do —- and they certainly don’t gauge learning in its proper perspective (although the threat of it does motivate us to do the stuff we hate, which sometimes works —- so there’s your plus). I literally blew two weekends and countless nights researching, writing resources, over preparing and basically killing myself over being ready for the big outsider evaluation this week. My school has been freaking out over this for the past three weeks —- to the point where my lesson plans were actually read by an administrator. I’m new, which is why this happened, and I’m actually (now) glad she did because she gave me valuable feedback, which helped me get a better grip on what I’m supposed to do.
However, to put it mildly, I have been stressed the fuck out —- to the point of imploding. And, then, I got evaluated in my worst class, later in the day —- anyone who teaches here knows late in the day is pretty much a curse. Heck anyone who teaches anywhere in the world knows the later classes are the hardest (student and teacher brains are mush by then)—- everyone except evaluators who think perfection is where it’s at 24/7. It was also during my second lesson with these girls —- the first one didn’t go so well, so I decided we were going to go at it again because they needed to get this.
The class before mine ended late, so I was behind schedule when the inspector walked in. But, you see something magical happened. The kids shut up and worked —- because an evaluator was in there —- and somewhere along their faking it they discovered that holy shit they’re learning something. I got so into our little learning groove that I forgot all about the white British lady hovering over my kids and writing everything down. Um, I may have even blown her off in the end when she turned to say something to me, and I cut her off with a “thank you for coming in today” and then went back to my closing thoughts with the kids. Now, I’m pretty sure I didn’t earn high marks —- or whatever it is they call the whole evaluation thing —- but I left happy.
I had that class first and last periods today, and I just knew they’d be bouncing off the walls. They were a little, but they settled down quicker than they ever did before —- and this time it was just us. I got the morning lesson going, and it flowed smoothly. Then I broke a major rule. I let the rest of the class work on their own —- knowing most of them would goof off —- while I sat with my worst table. The lowest girl, who never, ever does anything actually spoke to me in English during the starter, so I figured it was now or never to hook that child. I sat and listened to every one of these girls read a paragraph out loud, which is really difficult for them since they don’t understand most of what I say or give them. I coached at first, but then I stopped and the other girls pitched in to help whomever was struggling —- that’s a big ole Eureka! in teacher land. Here’s the kicker they were crazy loud when I walked in 9th period, BUT it only took me three times to repeat “my hand is up” and their little butts were in their chairs ready to go, and we had an even better lesson. I shit you not I almost cried.
Now, by evaluation standards I probably sucked. And, my classes in between didn’t go all that great (the kids are just done with the stress of outsiders inspecting their campus and all the rules that go with it), BUT I flipping reached the unreachables and for THAT I am grateful.
I’m sure it’ll all go crazy again next week, but the whole point of my posting today is that I may still suck, but I’m happy because I actually did some real teacherly things this week. I am such a nut job that THIS is what gives me joy. I have two more days of inspection hell to survive, and I don’t give a flying assessment what the inspectors have to say because we may not be any where near our targets, but my girls are learning. So pooh on them and their clipboards. Okay maybe I’m being a little harsh — maybe the whole inspection thing did help me, but shhhh I need to be mad at them for all the stress that drove me over the edge to a place not so dire after all.
the heat is on…
Well, the stress is. This upcoming week, my school is being evaluated by an outside agency. At this stage of the game I am so out of my league. Nothing has properly prepared me for what I am doing now. For the first time in my life I don’t only feel but know I suck at teaching — not all of the time, just now.
I could list all the reasons why, but that’s not important. What is is the fact that no matter how much you read and try to prepare for this you don’t really know what you’re in for until you’re in it. This isn’t going to be a long bitch, complain, woes me post. It is, however, a reality check for anyone reading this who wants to come here. It is really tough at first for all sorts of reasons. Of course it is also really wonderful. Basically, it’s a totally bi-polar ride until you’ve figured out your way. Some of us don’t, and some decide the way is back home (don’t worry I’m not leaving yet, but I do understand why some decide to go).
I’m trying really hard to do what I need to do, but it’s a struggle. The good news is I’m good at putting balance into my life. Last weekend and this weekend was/is all about work and trying to be as prepared for this big inspection as I can be — the whole time knowing that I’m not going to be any where near the list of top performers (but I will try). BUT, once this eval week is over I will most definitely go out and do something fun. And, I did fit a little fun into this weekend with a dinner party at a friend’s house and breakfast the next day — so it’s not all poor me. I cannot wait until I can play more with my friends next week! It will be what gets me through these next few days.
So there’s the stress of trying to learn a new way of doing what you thought you knew how to do, and then there is the homesickness. I absolutely love my apartment and the friends I’m making, but I sooooo miss my home, my family and friends, my dogs, my life I knew. There are days when I can’t look at the calendar because it just feels too long before I will see all of that again.
But, then I remind myself of all the reasons why I came here, and they’re still valid. I do still want to do this thing, and I do know this painful part of it will pass. I think I’m typing this blog as a mini therapy session for myself, but it’s also a warning to those who are thinking about doing this (if you’re like I was you cannot get enough of reading other people’s experiences). You tell yourself you’re tough and optimistic and all those good things, so you won’t suffer as much as others. But, you do. It’s part of the process, and that’s okay.
I don’t like sucking at my job (and I hope I’m not as bad as I feel I am), but I do know I’m getting a whole different perspective. I’m so out of my comfort zone right now — and not liking it at all — but I know I will learn and grow from this. Hopefully, my students will too, and I think they will. If nothing else by the end of the year they’ll know I didn’t give up on them or myself — and that has got to mean something, right?
Let’s talk scary shit…
On the ride to work, during a traffic jam, I saw this little girl hanging out the back window. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this. Kids jump around the back seat, front seat, hell they’ll even sit on the lap of whomever is driving. Twenty minutes later we finally got to the reason for the traffic — a school bus and van collided in a roundabout. Luckily, the children who were on the bus were safe on the sidewalk. But, there was an ambulance there, and the two vehicles looked pretty banged up. It’s no surprise since people drive crazy here. They do the stupidest shit, and you’re like dude are you suicidal?
Those of you back home might be wondering why children aren’t locked into their seats, or why there is no seatbelt law. Well, there is a seatbelt law. There are speed cameras, speed bumps, same traffic laws we have, but there are drivers from all over the world. Some of which are used to driving in far crazier traffic scenarios. And then there are the drivers from here who still ram their SUVs into Roundabouts without even slowing down. Of course there are also the terrified newbies who stop at Roundabouts when they need to hit it, slowing down (possibly pissing off) people like me who’ve moved one phase past that — although I’m still no way near as aggressive as I should be.
Not every local drives this way, nor does every foreigner. There are lots of cautious folk who try to not cause an accident, and whew for that! The rental guy came to pick up my car so that it can get serviced, and he was totally shocked I had no dings yet. So THANK YOU to the non-crazy drivers out there! Seriously, from the bottom of my heart.
I believe what I call craziness connects to the Inshallah mindset. You see people here truly believe in God’s will. If it’s meant to happen it’s going to happen. If not, well there’s nothing you can do about it. As a westerner I’m like but why tempt fate? Perhaps God is a maybe on this, so if you’re more careful he’ll side with you continuing to live (and not taking anyone else out with you). But, you see I also do not fully believe in God’s will. I was raised on the notion of choice, so I will never quite see these things the same way. But, I am trying. If I look at things through the god-willing point of view I understand (a little) what scares or frustrates me. I deal with it better than if I look at it through my point of view —- of course I am choosing to do this, so I guess my way is also still working.
I didn’t mean to write so much about the driving (again) because the point of my ramble actually connects to something far more scarier: ISIS. Yep, it’s been all over the news, and people back home ask me about it. I always say, but it’s totally safe where I am. And, well other than the driving, it totally feels that way. I genuinely like the people I meet over here — from all walks of life. We pretty much love and want the same things (well on a deeper level/ surface wise we’re different), and we’re totally good with that. I don’t fear the people who live here, nor do they fear me.
But, this ISIS thing, isn’t about them. It’s about a group they’ve also taken a stand against. They’ve remained neutral on so much of what my part of the world is in conflict with countries in their part of the world, but this time they’ve sent some of their own men and women to fight against this form of terrorism. Now, they too could become a target, so the State Department has sent out several warnings for Westerners to be careful. There’s also the obvious, just like at home, not everyone who lives here is happy, so there’s that.
I don’t know what to say to people back home about the politics of this, or what my odds are, or any of that. What I do know is I am still — despite some hurdles I’ve tripped over — so pleased to have been invited to come here. While temporary, this is my home now, and I love being a part of it. When I do return to my country and my family I will miss what I have here (while also being so flipping happy to be back amongst my loved ones). I cannot worry about what I cannot control, but I am being careful. I am so sorry this thing exists, and I am afraid of it, but I can’t let it overshadow the good I have found here. Soooooo, I guess in one very long ramble I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve managed to blend my love of choice with Inshallah. If only our worlds could blend so easily. Ha, and as if on cue the call to prayer just started. I may not be Muslim, but it warms my heart every time I hear it.
When I started telling people I was moving to Abu Dhabi, the reaction was normally “Abu what?” So, then I’d say it’s near Dubai. Once I said that it was all about how lucky I was to be going to such a cosmo, ritzy, famous place. Anyone I knew who had been to Dubai said that I’d love it and needed to go as soon as I got off the plane. Well almost two months into my time here, and I finally got to go.
I didn’t go to see the Burj Khalifa, the malls, or the Dubai fountains. I didn’t even go check out the Palms or any of the other famous resorts. Nope. I went to chill with friends, get some beach time, some food, and a little bit of souq shopping. I’ve been swamped with work and moving into my new life, so I needed a whole lot of relaxation. And OMG was the beach soooo sooooo soooo worth it. The chilled pool with a view of the beach was even better because I could cool off, wash off salt and sand and get a drink. Walking the beach at night is amazing. Dubai is a sight to see when the sun is awake, but when she goes down it’s a whole other level of OMG.
The ride from Al Ain was an easy hour’s drive. My friend did the driving, but if you leave on a Friday morning the traffic is something even stressed-out me can handle. Good to know because I totally plan on doing this again and again and again. I’ll even get around to checking out all the other touristy spots. My monthly budget now includes Dubai because I’m doing this city as much as I can. I absolutely love it, and I’m a whole lot jealous of the friends who are living there (but it’s all good because I totally plan on taking them up on their couch offers). Because I’m still busy with work and moving in (TWO cable guys are here working on my stuff as I type this — holy hell I think I might actually get my own Internet today!) I’ll stop writing and post some pics. I’m sorry I’m not taking that many. I promise I’ll get better once I’ve settled in more. Now, I’m just taking it all in.
Dubai on the horizon Um this cow’s Eid break might not have been as nice as mine, but she doesn’t know it yet. Or maybe she’s just going for a ride and eating grass right now. I normally see one of these guys on the back of a pick up hey there! does my hump smell? I look evil posing in front of this parked RR, which we thought was for show, but no it belonged to someone. movies on the beach the sun setting on our little beach. The water is bathwater warm and very salty, but heaven just the same. the beach area at night. It’s even prettier in person. the burj in the distance. The bottom right is the top of another very tall building. I’ll take Joe to visit this in December. I hear the best time to go is during sunset. Below are shots from the gold and spice souq area. Obviously the old boats fascinated me. I also plan on taking a dhow ride when Joe visits, and doing one of the dinner cruises (on a nicer boat).
and last but not least had my hair done by a Russian in the hotel salon. I figured a salon in Dubai would be less likely to burn my hair. AND, I went in there because there was another guy who reminded me of Zohan, and I just had to get my hair done by an Adam Sandler character. But, the guy had another client, and there was no dancing or Zohan antics, so I’m glad I got the other guy, who was great. Jill, if you’re reading this, don’t worry you’re still my favorite stylist!
I’m back to a darker shade of blonde because our sink water comes from the ocean, so it’s hell on everything including the hair. And why my head looks like a pumpkin is beyond me, but there you go. Time for me to heat up some dinner and get back to working on work stuff. This gig isn’t all Dubai and glamour!
p.s. Cable guys left. Um, they say it works, but it’ll be two hours before I can use my Internet and 24-hours before I can use the cable T.V. The whole cable thing just cracks me up. Best part is I already came to grips with not having it. I was just going to pay my neighbor for her wifi access. Hopefully, the next time I post it’ll be using my own router.
my new pet. I really have to name her though. I know it’s been a while. There’s so much I’d like to share with you, but I’m exhausted. The job is tough considering all the new I’m adjusting to. I pretty much have to change everything I know to make it work. I’m not complaining. I’m just sharing that it’s really, really hard doing this while also adjusting to living in a whole new world. I do still love my students (even on their bad days, and they have them), and I know that I will, eventually, settle into some sense of normal.
For now though I’m busy adjusting. I had a few low days these past two weeks — missing everything about home, especially since I now realize how easy it is since I know everything there. BUT, I’ve also had some great days. I don’t regret coming here at all — although there are moments when I just want to scream. Take for instance my cable drama. I’m still tapping into my neighbor’s wifi (allegedly with a capital A they’re coming on Wednesday. Um, allegedly they were supposed to come on Saturday then Tuesday, and I’m still waiting, so we shall see). Anyone thinking about doing this really needs to prepare themselves to be tested on everything imaginable (and some you wouldn’t even think about it). The stress the first few weeks (probably months) is unreal. This is a wonderful country, but it is way different from what you know. My version of logic and their’s are polar opposites. I’m in their world now, so gotta do it their way. I knew this coming here, but knowing it and doing it are two completely different things.
That said there are so many unexpected wonderful moments too, and I am learning so much good. I saw my first camel crossing the other day — hahahaha you’d think I saw a leprechaun I was so happy. The old man who sweeps my carpool buddy’s parking lot always greets me with a warm smile. I miss him on his off days. The other English teachers I work with are all amazing and interesting women. I love listening and talking to them. Sometimes I get to sit at a table with my students and just talk to them. I love learning who they are. Many times a complete stranger will make the day by either taking an interest in me or openly sharing a bit of themselves.
I went to Abu Dhabi last weekend to visit with friends and do some shopping at a Souq (Arabian market). A completely covered older lady sat at a jewelry maker’s stall with her grown son and daughter. I was lugging this 3-foot wooden camel I bought (my new pet, who I think I’ll name Sheika, but I’m up for suggestions), and the lady said nice while pointing to my camel, who wasn’t too pleased with me carrying her by the neck. We stopped to talk to this family who turned out to be from Saudi Arabia. The lady didn’t speak much English, but her children translated. She was as interested and delighted to meet us as we were her. While I love the stuff I bought and the fun I had with my friends, that 10-minute chat was the highlight of my trip. As an American when I think of a fully-covered Saudi Arabian woman, I don’t think happy or friendly. Well duh on me for that! Hello? But, you see I’m learning — even things I didn’t know I needed to learn.
There’s also the expat community, which I’m so glad to be a part of. I’m making wonderful friends. I’m lucky that some live in the same building as me, so woo hoo on that! I got off early today because Eid is on Saturday, and we have Sunday and Monday off, so woo hoo to that too! Although, on to a negative, the schedule changed. Originally we had Tuesday off too (calendars are not to be taken seriously), but I’m looking at the extra work day as a day for me to catch up. The students say they won’t be coming in at all next week, so FINALLY I can get some better lessons together. whew! Anyway, back to the good stuff. Tomorrow I’m going to Dubai for a few days, and I cannot wait. Beach, shopping and good food and bevies with friends. Soooo, the only adjusting I’ll be doing this weekend is having fun, and maybe popping a few advils in the mornings. I’m tired — had fun at my neighbor’s last night — so I’ll stop writing for now and post some pics that show off some of the good.
Desert sunsets and camels — can you ever get too much of this? Turkish lights. I bought 2 . need I say more Shisha and friends dancing in the desert more sun photos because it’s something I will never get bored of. And that’s it for now. I’ll be sure to write more about Dubai and post pics.