Monthly Archives: November 2014

Tis the season to be thankful

DSC05677 Happy Thanksgiving from my kitchen to yours!

While my friends and family back home were sleeping, my new friends/family over here and I celebrated our Thanksgiving.  Um, and then much later while we were still celebrating, you guys back home were smelling your turkey roasting in the oven.  And, now, while some of you are doing your Black Friday shopping we are all sacked out on the couch being thankful for not having to go out in public.

Of course I miss my home now, but I’m also very lucky for a few things:

1. I live in a small apartment complex where I’ve become friends with my neighbors.   Three of us just left our doors open while the party migrated from one place to the next.  Photos will tell more of the story in a bit.  Another one of our neighbors runs a take out service, so we ordered our turkey and some sides from them, which was awesome.

2. Some of my Abu Dhabi friends made the trip to spend the holiday with us, so I got to also enjoy more time with them.

3. National Day is next week.  It’s a major holiday over here, and the town is lit up with green, red and white lights, so while the lights coincide with the country’s flag colors, they also give a festive feel.  Emirates are in good spirits; we expats are in good spirits; Mother Nature with her nice temperatures is in good spirits.  It’s a good time to be here.

4. The school term is winding down.  All I have left to do now is grade papers, proctor exams and prep for January.  The girls are happy; I’m happy.

Sooo, while I didn’t get to taste my daughter’s first turkey — she and Kelley made Thanksgiving dinner for Joe and Aaron — and I didn’t get to feast with my family, I’m not depressed.  I’m really, really grateful for this because now is the time I could see me getting horribly homesick.  So thank you to everyone involved for helping keep this a happy time of year for me!

I had to work on Thanksgiving, but only until noon.  In celebration of National Day, the school had an outdoor party for the girls.  There was music and traditional dancing, food and the girls showing off arts and crafts.  They also got to wear makeup, jewelry and their pretty dresses.  It was so nice to have fun with them and their families.  I also got to laugh with fellow Arabic teachers when the girls swarmed over me to braid my hair, henna my hands (with a traditional design versus the flowery kinds we see now — love the sentiment, but the flowery ones are more to my liking), and rub saffron oil on my face.

2014-11-27 09.19.342014-11-27 09.23.11DSC05689the henna continues to darken on my hand.  This was hours later during dinner.  Um, my nails are brown.

2014-11-27 09.22.53 I was nervous about the saffron oil because I really didn’t want to walk around for several weeks with an orange stripe on my face, but whew!  It wiped off.  The women use saffron oil for its scent and because it’s good for the skin.  They used to make their own saffron and henna pastes.  2014-11-27 08.40.53 2014-11-27 08.40.23 2014-11-27 08.39.27My girls looking pretty in their jewels and dresses.  I wish I could show you their beautiful, happy faces, but I can’t.  Just know that they melt my heart when they’re having fun.  Hahaha they almost melt my temper when they’re not, but we’re on a thankful thread, so let’s stay on the good stuff.  I love getting to know them, and I truly am grateful for the opportunity to spend this time in their lives. I also really enjoyed meeting some of their mothers, aunts and sisters.  We may not speak the same language, but we all appreciate the beauty of joy, and there’s something nice to be said about time alone with other women.

There’s also a whole lot of nice to be said having time alone with your own people — men included.  It’s mostly women in my complex, but we like our male teachers too.

DSC05671that said notice how, ahem it’s the Canadian Haneefa carving the turkey.  David, we’re calling you out to work a grill or slice some beast the next time we do this!

DSC05681 Two turkeys and a carcass.  I love that the camera focused on the bird’s butt versus my crazy girls Lisa and Ashley (Kaylene take a good look, Ashley is my current wine daughter)DSC05682 DSC05675 DSC05676 DSC05679 DSC05691 DSC05690Good times indeed.  Lots of feasting and laughing, which led to this…

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Badminton in the hallway is what happens when you no longer feel like playing ping pong in Lisa’s dining room.   But, you see, it then leads to a badminton match between my balcony and parking lot…

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which inevitably leads to “cocks” on the roof


which brings us to this…

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And then came the dare to go ahead and climb on to my patio from there

DSC05724which thankfully was a success!  It’s all good we’re insured, but I guess this proves that just because we’re brave souls who’ll take a job a gazillion miles from home, we’re not necessarily the brightest bulbs on the planet — but we do know fun.

Up next is some of the Al Ain crew going to Abu Dhabi to celebrate National Day.  I love this time of year!


Mama did a wadi!


Quick.  Someone call my son in Colorado and tell him there are photos on the Internet of his mother doing a wadi.  Of course, while my version also includes water, it is not the same thing he has in mind.  But, it’ll get him online reading my blog.  And, he would’ve loved my version too.

So, I had a fantastic weekend.  It began Thursday night with me winning a, um, massager with attachments and infrared lighting (or whatever the red light is called).  I guess if anyone were to win such a thing at a teacher happy hour in the Middle East it would be me.  After that little shindig we went to my absolute favorite place to hang out in Al Ain, the Leisure Center.  It’s this huge place with a beautiful patio area.  People lounge and smoke shisha, sip tea, listen to the two-man band (one with a violin, the other with a keyboard), talk, laugh, and eat really good food.  Shannan, one of my new friends, and I are totally working toward making it our Thursday night hangout.  Afterward, we went into Daiso, an Asian version of the Dollar Tree, and saw the creepiest Santa ever.

2014-11-20 21.31.26 This photo doesn’t do him justice.  One eye is way bigger than the other, and his eyebrows look like leeches.  But, we appreciate the effort, and I bought some cute christmas decorations in there.

Friday I hiked “the steps” with Lisa, my neighbor/buddy, stopped to get breakfast at La Brioche, cleaned house and then went out with the girls to watch the third Hunger Games movie.  When you buy movie tickets here you pick your seat and an usher with a flashlight walks you to your seat.  This is a chatty culture, so don’t expect everyone in the theater to stop talking when the movie starts.  That said when the really intense scenes were on, everyone shut the hell up and held their breath —- even those of us who read the books.  Great movie, and I’m glad I got talked into going.  Afterwards, we hung out at Trader Vics patio, which overlooks a nice pool area, and had mojitos and dinner.  Perfect day.

Today was even better.  We joined Al Ain Weekenders on a trek to find a few wadis in the Oman mountains.  A wadi is a pocket of water you can swim in.  Well, some don’t leave you much room for swimming, but others go on for quite a long ways.  We hiked to two small ones, but it was still worth it.  Folks who came in cars were able to drive to the first spot, but the second place we drove to was 4-wheel drive vehicles only, and trust me it was an experience.  I’m tired, so let me stop writing and just post some of the pics.

DSC_0253 our little caravan.  As you can see we are in the middle of nowhere. DSC_0106

DSC_0035_2 Amy, me and one of the cutie pies who made the hike.DSC_0029_2Another cutie pie and me rushing into the cold water.DSC_0021_2

DSC_0020 Shannan checking out the calcium pond10309517_10205530809255368_7955231759095446579_nLisa’s photo of pond

10424323_10205530812015437_3494780753491844954_n Lisa’s photo of the group. Wait, Lisa is in pic too.  Maybe Shannan took this.  Sorry, trying to give credit where it’s due.  Someone took it!

10388178_10205530808375346_7219037708895209292_nhahaha Lisa’s photo of Oman’s Angels 10678798_10205530804495249_315723873301145358_nand her photo of me taking a pic of her.  Um, of course mine was out of focus.  My eyes are going on me!

DSC_0065swimmers and a local man making sure we made it.  Okay, so he was out enjoying the sites as well.

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We weren’t the only ones treading water.


Just because I’m not impressed doesn’t mean I won’t eat it…okay, fake eat it.

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Amy, another Arizona girl, is far more adventurous on the rocks than I was.

DSC_0103 DSC_0077 DSC_0077Green!  It’s so much nicer when you hardly see it.

DSC_0216 DSC_0198_2we’re on top of the world!

DSC_0240but you kind of wonder what happened to whatever was tied to the end of that rock.  There is a very steep cliff a few inches away.

DSC_0293 DSC_0132 DSC_0116A small house, an Omani family in the middle of nowhere, and they gave us directions on how to get to where we wanted to be.  Notice how Amy’s little mirror guy is swinging. There are no pictures that can do the drive to our second spot justice.

DSC_0123Even the goat was like, “Bitch, you’re crazy driving here.”

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But, we all survived, and it was a beautiful day.

Now, if Thursday would just hurry up and get here so that I can get back to enjoying my weekend!

Some of the human gems…

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There’s an old Muslim woman at work who is not from here.  I don’t know where she’s from, or even what her official job is.  She wears blues and beiges and clothing that could be from anywhere in parts of the Middle East, Asia or North Africa.  I wish I could tell you her nationality.  I can’t even tell you her name (note to self make an effort to learn this!).  What I can tell you is that sometimes she is the highlight of my day.

She is not a teacher, but she is almost always one of the first people to shake my hand when I arrive in the mornings.  She lights up and wishes us all well.  It’s obvious she has the highest regard for what we do, and that while others may not think so highly of us, she thinks we’re something special.  She didn’t know English at first, but I think she asked the kids to teach her some because now when she sees me she says, “Good Morning!”  Her entire face bursts out into the proudest smile when I say it back to her.  She doesn’t just shake my hand, she hugs it.  Every work day this woman gives me love, and she too has no clue as to where I’m from or what my name is.   She has no idea just how special she is to me, and that when I leave this place her smile will be among my fondest memories.  In this new land of craziness I’ve learned that I can love a complete stranger.

A girl at school, who is not one of my students, finds me every so often just so she can tell me an English joke.  I first met her while I was on hall duty.  Like so many others she was curious about me because of my hair, my eyes, my style of clothing.  We introduced ourselves, and she told me the cutest joke.  I don’t remember it now, but it made me laugh out loud.  That’s all that child needed because I swear she finds these jokes, practices them, and then searches for me just so she can hear me laugh.  She found me yesterday, and told me one that included a bar and a beer.  I tried not to laugh too loud because it’s not something she should be joking about, but OMG it made my day that this child tracked me down to tell me it — because I will always love a good bar joke.

In the mornings the girls sing and recite snippets of goodness.  Much of the time the microphone is too close and my ears cringe at the screech until they figure out how to maneuver the darned thing.  Sometimes the girls are off key or don’t know all of the words (funny how even though I don’t understand Arabic I know off-key and lost words when I hear it), but all of the time I love hearing their young voices.  They have no idea of just how much beauty and power they hold within themselves.  Sadly, neither did any of us when we were young.

There’s an old Indian man who sweeps the parking lot of my carpool buddy’s apartment complex.  Every morning he’s there sweeping away the endless sand.  We’re in the middle of a massive desert, sand will never not be there.  At first I thought what a useless job for a man to have, but then, after weeks of watching him, I realized he took pride in his work.  It meant something to him, and, well, since the sand wasn’t going anywhere neither was he.  We smile and nod to each other while I wait for my coworker.  One week he wasn’t there, and I wondered what happened to him (the photo above is not of him but the person who subbed for him while he was gone).  I missed him, but a week later he was back.  He seemed almost as happy to wave to me as I was to him.  Why didn’t I think a parking-lot sweeper would also get vacation time?  And who am I to judge whether a job is worthwhile or not? Ha!  there are plenty of people out there who think mine is also a waste of time.

Today, I was at an offsite professional development session.  I’m not gonna lie it kind of felt like a waste of time, but it wasn’t.  I got to meet and interact with fellow teachers from around the world.  I met a lovely woman from Tunisia, a few more South Africans (they can always make me laugh), an Australian who is also an artist, fellow Americans who also made me laugh, and some Facebook friends I finally got to meet in person, and a bunch more.  I am reminded once again of just how lucky I am to be doing what I am currently doing.  To any of my teacher friends reading this, please do know you are fascinating and wonderful and, yes, talented — you are making a difference and your efforts are worth it.  Yeah, I know it doesn’t really feel that way right now, but take these words and enjoy them — they are as true and real as the end-of-term frustrations you’re facing.

And to my former students (since my current ones don’t know about this blog) you too are part of my human gem collection.  I sometimes see your updates on Facebook, and I love what you are doing with your lives.  If you’re in a funk, remember I know you can do better (as do you), so get to it — also know it’s okay if things went wrong, just as long as you get back to steering your own way (versus letting the uglies do all the driving for you, or something like that).  You are all also amongst my fondest memories of ‘back home.’

I must be getting all wishy washy to be writing a post about the good things of we humans, but it’s all good.  Thanksgiving is next week, and I’ll be at work during the day (but yay! I also just learned a friend from Abu Dhabi is coming to visit, so we’ll feast on turkey and laughs).  So, I guess I’m just getting a jumpstart on listing some of the less obvious things I’m thankful for.

To my long-time friends and family, you know I love you with all my heart and soul.  It hurts to be away from you, but I am so grateful that you accept my need to do this and support me every step of the way.

And, that’s all I have to share for now, but National Day celebrations begin next week, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to share then.  Oh wait, and I also FINALLY wrote another blog post for Teach UAE magazine — hmmmm, which might be what prompted me to write today’s post.  If you haven’t already read it, or not completed bored with my soft side, here’s the link to it:

p.s. I’m pretty sure I have some serious fun coming up, so I’ll be sure to post pics and anecdotes, which is probably what you really want to see in a blog.


Pumpkin spice and all the little things that make it nice…

DSC05613love looking at this while watching movies.

So what did I do Halloween weekend?  I bought stuff for my apartment, drank too much fermented grape juice and took pictures of new stuff, watched a little t.v. and totally enjoyed my alone time.  Don’t worry I didn’t turn into a hermit and avoid everyone.  Thursday night I went out to dinner with a friend and Halloween morning my neighbor baked brownies for everyone (and then for dinner treated me to shwarmas and hummus) .  I love my little complex —- it’s like living in a dorm hall except we have much nicer stuff and our own homes, but there’s always someone to hang out with when needed.

Today is our version of a Sunday, and I sort of did what I’d do back home on a Sunday.  I went to Starbucks and bought a pumpkin spice latte and sipped it out on my balcony. First of November and we finally have a bit of a cool breeze going —- yes!  Later on I’m cooking dinner and watching something on HBO with some of my friends (Shannon if you’re reading this, I’ve got dinner covered).

I’ll get back to whooping it up next weekend, but for now I’m so enjoying time at home.  Sorry there’s nothing wild and crazy to report to you, but here are some of those pics I took Halloween night.  Hahahaha the scary part was me forgetting there’s a shower hole on the other side of my shower curtain and almost knocking myself out snapping a shot of my sassy sprayer. See the danger I put myself into just to show my new normal to you guys back at home…


My sprayer.  I thought of putting a face on it.


Um, I may have gone a little overboard with wall stickers


My new hand-made bed spread.  I love it!


My little rental all by her lonesome.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who stayed home Halloween night. No parking spots available!  Oh wait, um, folks probably took cabs.

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The new welcome mat to pigeon balcony.  It only cost me $3.  Score!  And another bed shot with my new pink balcony chairs — I take them in because those pigeons are out to ruin my happiness.  I will win our ongoing battle — eventually.

DSC05607 my new purple/burgundy rug.  It’s so soft.  love, love, love it!

DSC05617 my cheery guest bathroom.  Nothing new in here, well, I guess everything in there IS new, but I bought that stuff last month.  Love my poppies growing out of the commode — thanks Ikea for getting me started on the whole wall sticky thing.

DSC05618eating area in my kitchen.  Oh and I have more stickies to show off.

DSC05615 ta da …. corner of my living room.  Not shown are the hallway stickies and the dandelions in guest room.  You’ll have to come visit to see those.

DSC05612 DSC05611living room at night.  I guess I should’ve straightened out that blanket, but now you see how cozy it is.  All I need are some things to hang on the walls, and I’m finally finished decorating.

DSC05616I finally have real dining chairs!

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Apparently I had a little too much time on my hands because I guess I thought it was a good idea to take close ups of my carpets, so I could show off how soft they are, AND the fact that I have red and purple carpets — go me!

Okay, that’s enough of my boring you with all the little things that make my home a happy place.  Time to get some stuff ready for work tomorrow and then read for fun.  yay!

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