Author Archives: bettinabennett2014

What I won’t miss…

New teachers are arriving in the UAE (and everywhere else).  It feels weird knowing I’m not flying back there this year, nor am I taking part in any of the back-to-school crazy (including those fun Welcome Back! parties and the NOT fun ‘PD’ sessions).   Since some new folk occasionally check out my blog for bits about living there, it’s time for me to share some of the less pleasant parts.  First let me point out that while there were many WTF moments, I would never disrespect my students, colleagues or former employer by speaking ill of them.  I may not have understood or agreed with everything, but I will forever be grateful for the experience and the chance to grow with people I will never forget.  So, if you’re looking for a bash UAE post, this one will only disappoint.  It will, however, share my list of struggles.  Remember everything’s relative, and this is all coming from my personal lens.

Haramamama!

I’m glad I’ll no longer be constantly walking that fine line of culturally appropriate and haram.  I cannot stress how incredibly accommodating the country is of our sinful ways.  There are so many alcohol-related events that a booze-swilling, pork-pie inhaling, leg-showing wench like myself never got bored — just as long as I remembered where I could do those things and respected the many places where I could not.    And, I did.

The drinking and dress code part was easy, although now that I’m home can I just say my cellulite loves flashing her stuff in broad daylight.  What wasn’t easy was making sure I didn’t offend by posting the wrong things publicly or accidentally slipping up at work by sharing maybe a bit too much of what I did during my weekend.

In teaching too it was tough because I never wanted to inadvertently bring up something that would go against their cultural norms, so I played it safe, which, in the long run, made many of my lessons dry.  Don’t get me wrong the girls and I had stimulating and fun moments together, but I feel like I could’ve done better if I wasn’t always in fear of revealing my true haramamama self.

That rule applies to you not me…

While I think this is getting better, consistency is not yet quite a strength.  What’s on paper does not apply to all.

About that consistency thing:

Don’t expect it.  Sometimes you have to call five times to speak to five different people to get five different answers to get close to what you need to do, and then you begin the process again.  Every now and then stuff gets done with one visit or phone call, and you’re so shocked you do a little dance.  In my case, work would sometimes change policy or curriculum and not tell us until last minute — sometimes you weren’t officially told at all and had to figure things out on your own.

I guess where there’s rapid change and growth there’s lots and lots of confusion, and, most surprisingly of all, things do manage to eventually get done.  There’s also people forgetting to communicate with other parties, like my EOS payment.  It took several tries for me to get an answer on what was going on with it, which was an incorrect answer because my file was passed on to another pile, etc. etc.  That said I did get my money, and I was very happy with the amount, and it transferred easily to my American account.  So it all worked out, but I had some tense, stressful moments thanks to miscommunication and lack of consistency — and that could so easily be avoided.  But, it’s all a work in progress.

Me, me, me!

There are people — expats included — who seem to think their time, needs, whatever are more important than everyone else’s.  They cut in front of you in line, they swerve into your lane and beep at you like it’s YOUR fault, or stop in the middle of a busy road to chat with a friend,  they shift things around to accommodate their needs regardless of how it might affect others, they barge into an examination room while a doctor is working with you to demand they be seen now.  For a polite soul like me this was probably the most jarring thing.  I experience this back home and in other countries too, but it felt worse while living as a foreigner in a land far, far away.

There are also some of the most wonderful, kind, gracious and giving people you will ever meet.  While the ME folk drove me crazy and caused me to mutter haram things under my breath, the good people were always there to give me exactly what I needed when I was at a low. Strangers and friends from all over the world have pulled me through and reminded me of how much more powerful being kind is.  And to be totally fair, there were days when I was that ME person — sometimes it just flipping happens.

The heat

Phoenix is hot.  The UAE makes it feel like a temperate climate.  I am done with living the desert life — too much sand, too much hot, Miss.  That said it’s pretty darn awesome swimming in the Arabian Gulf in October.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it again?

Most definitely!  I have no desire to move back and work there again because I’m ready to move on to other things, but if I could go back three years and warn me about the stuff I didn’t like I’d totally do this thing again.  There is so much more that I will miss.  To any of my students who might be reading this, OMG you were a joy (even though lol there were just as many times when you weren’t — girls are loud around the world!).  I will treasure remembering those smiles and moments of really, really trying to work out whatever I was teaching.  My students would always tell me I was beautiful or that they loved me or whatever kind things they would shower me with, if only they knew that I was giving back what they gave to me.  Hopefully, they know how beautiful and smart THEY are.

That said to newcomers: not all experiences are as good as mine were.  Read the nightmare stories and prepare yourself for the worst.  At first: you will not know how to manage a class (it’s just really different from what you think you know) or figure out what’s expected of you.  You will not have the right resources.  You might not even have your own classroom.  It’s demanding, overwhelming and terrifying at first, but if you let go of what you think of as right and go with the flow you will learn how to do this  — inshAllah!  I had many “why am I here?” moments, but I can honestly say I’ve left a much better teacher.  I’ve learned how to adapt, accommodate, scaffold, modify, etc., etc. like nobody’s business.  I was good at this before, but trust me if these teacherly skills were Olympic events I’m pretty sure I could place a medal now.  And, I have the people of the UAE to thank for that by letting me into their world and sharing their portion of it.  Of course I also have my coworkers and friends to thank for all of their tips, suggestions, and sanity (hahaha or not, sometimes our crazy got us through).

So best of luck to all my teacher friends because this time of year is always stressful and full of “can I do it” anxiety — even at schools we’ve tenured at.  A big hug to my UAE buds, and a big ole nice-to-meet you to the new colleagues I will learn from at my new location.

Masalama UAE.  I sip this morning’s tea in your honour, and to my Emirate co workers several cheek kisses and a hand shake are attached to this post.

 

 

 

We have a date!

Grabbed these from google images and didn’t write down the links.  I know shame on m, but here’s a glimpse of Mons.

I’ve been busy hacking up a lung and packing up the house and catching up with my man and dog.  No sooner did I land in the U.S. and I got a sore throat and then a full-blown cold (which I haven’t had in forever).  I have Joe and Kyle to thank for that one, but it’s all good I’m home.

I got my EOS payment last Thursday and my travel orders this past Monday.  Yesterday I got my flight itinerary and today we solidified my shipping dates.  Sooooooo, it’s official:  I move to Belgium on August 6.  My furniture and household goods begin their journey on August 15.  Joe and Badger join me in February.

It’s all coming together.  Pretty soon you’ll be getting bombarded with Belgium posts and all the new I get to experience.  I’m exhausted from all that we’re doing to get to that point, but I’m also very excited.

And on that note, I’ve got errands to run.  Woo Hoo this new job thing is happening!

Turbulence

I’m writing this on my flight back to the states.  I land in a few hours (okay I’ll be landed by the time this posts) to play on my country’s soil until I don’t know when, and then I’m off again to begin another new life in a country that borders my Mom’s birthplace, and also a good chunk of my childhood.

I wish I had tons of pics to post from my family’s visit to Germany and Amsterdam.  My Nikon is at Michelle’s in Virginia and my Sony quit on me (that bitch is tired of wowing us with what she sees).  As always it was a great time.  OMG it felt so good to laugh with my children (sadly minus Aaron, but time with him is right around the corner!) and to watch them dance with my cousins, with each other, with Joe and Me, and in the case of one dance, my mother.  We laughed, we drank, we ate, we walked the soles off of our feet.

And, we ticked each other off.  It’s family: eventually misunderstanding and tension will join too.  One person wants to do this, another that, and somehow during the debate old wounds resurface and boom there’s that stress only your blood can brew, but oh how I miss that too.  Just wait until you find yourself lugging bulky suitcases in a packed train with reserved seats (when you went the open seat route), forcing everyone to accidentally maim a few locals while attempting to throw bags overhead, misjudging our strength.  Even better get on a Tokyo-style packed metro during rush hour with said luggage only to realise we didn’t need to get on THAT train.  It’s all good:  Joe dislodged the stroller from his ass, Kyle got that weird man’s knee out of his thigh, Kaylene’s and my colouring returned after gripping the pole too tightly, and Kelly survived by staring at the wall in front of him secretly questioning his sanity for coming.  We got to laugh about it later over an amazing dinner, so love and our sense of humour still conquers all.

In Amsterdam we did non-family things like tour the Heinekin brewery, the adult museum (lol the kids took some great pics, but I’ll keep those for the family album), the red light district and a wine and beer canal cruise —- God Bless us and our unsavoury ways!   We also took in the beauty of the place strolling through alleyways, canal walkways, and parks.  Joe and I kept pinching ourselves because we’ll be living just a few hours away.  Sadly, during this trip we did not get to visit the museums or rent bicycles (rain and bad timing messed us up this time, but oh you crazy bikers out there, watch out.  We’re going to eventually join the mayhem).

Kaylene and Kelly left two days before us to visit Copenhagen, so Kyle, Joe and I sampled local goodies, went to the zoo and parted ways with me spending a night in Iceland (where I got to see sunlight at midnight) and them heading to Chicago.  I’ll spend two days in Virginia to whoop it up with friends and get my stuff clogging up Michelle’s guest room, and then finally Friday night I will be home with my man and my dog in Phoenix.  HumdAllah, Wunderbra and Schmetterling!  (lol our family cheer).  Let’s add a Cheers and Prost to that chant as well!

The only real turbulence is I’m still in limbo with my End of Service bonus from my former employer and my travel orders and firm offer from my new employer.  Social media is a wonderful tool for helping to gather information, but it’s also a curse when it feels like everyone around you is getting their stuff before you.   Hopefully, by the time I land both my money and my travel orders will be waiting for me.   If you’re reading this blog trying to learn more about teaching/living in the UAE I promise I’ll post a what I miss and what I don’t entry sometime soon (which might be a month or two away in the making).  First I must get my back in the USA legs working and more family/Badger time (that poor dog has no idea how much we’re gonna shake up his routine with the Belgium move).

 

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The fam!  Pic taken from my cousin Michelle, the beautiful bride.  Gotta love my gene pool!

 

 

Hotel living

pool selfi

I’m down to my final nights.  I’ve essentially been homeless since the first week of June, but let’s be real I haven’t really been homeless.  I’ve had my own bedroom and bathroom at Shannan’s, and then I spent a little over a week at Michelle’s in Virginia, and now I’m in my hotel room at the Danat in Al Ain.  Plus, I still own my house in Arizona (although that’s finally going on market before the end of this month!).  So, the correct thing to say is I’m living out of my suitcases.

While checking in  I ran into a family I moved here with — shout out to the Dafoes!   We were in the same hotel when we first moved here, and looks like we’re in the same on our way out.  Now, that I’m at the end of my journey here it feels like it just started while at the same time feeling like a lifetime ago.  Spending my final days at the Danat will be fun though.  I have friends here (and friends who will visit), a pool, several bars, a balcony and a comfy bed — minus all that stress of jet lag while being a new hire.  OMG it’s such a relief to be finished with all of the paperwork.  All I’m waiting on here is my EOS.  Time to breathe before I begin the new hire stress in Belgium.

I’ll be suitcase surfing for a while now.

Thursday I’m off to Germany for a week (woo hoo!  can’t wait to see my family.), then Amsterdam, then a stopover night in Iceland, then Virginia, then Phoenix for two or three weeks (depending on my travel orders) and then it’s back to hotel living for however long it’ll take for me to find my next home.   When I finally get a lazy weekend in my new home it’ll be epic — perhaps a blog post about how happy I am to be home alone in my own bed, wherever the hell that home is.   Mons?  suburb of Brussels?  somewhere in between?  or to the right or left of the base?  who knows?  All I know is it’ll be near all this green…

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Image taken from http://transcultures.be/en/2013/05/02/open-call-park-in-progress-mons-belgium-in-the-international-city-sonic-sound-art-festival/

Cooler temps, bicycle paths, canals and lakes, old pubs …. woo hoo!

But until then it’s back to enjoying room service, valet parking, pool and spa time!

bar

Where I’ll spend most of my time!

core crunc

Banana daiquiri core crunches!

pool

every now and then I’ll splash a lap!

We’re melting!

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Image taken from  http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/science/melting-glaciers-a-spoke-in-earths-wheel/

It’s that time of year again where you literally become a shrinky dink when you walk outside.  If you smell something roasting, it’s you.  Both in Phoenix and the UAE temps are hovering around 120 F, which is never a fun thing.  In the UAE we have the added fun of humidity, Ramadan (which includes hungry, thirsty, cranky drivers), and covering one’s arms and legs.  Not that I’m complaining (okay maybe a little).   Luckily, we also have a/c powerful enough to chill indoor skating rinks and ski slopes, so all is well.

I’m back from my time in Virginia and busy doing the exit tango.  For those of you who will one day leave the UAE remember the best way to handle this is play circus music in your head while you’re running from one place to the next to get your stamps and signatures.  For those of you not in the UAE wondering why we do this:  A. we want to leave legally and, most importantly, B. we want our End Of Service gratuity (which will be a pretty sight in my bank account, until, alas it melts away too).

I was in our main office on Sunday, and I totally wished I could play my mental circus tune out loud.  Hahaha I kept running into the same people I know (hey Sangita!) while dashing back and forth amongst corridors to get our signatures.

The good news is the visa in my passport is cancelled, as is my emirates ID, so I don’t have to panic wondering if my passport will be back in my hands in time for my July 6 flight.  It’s now official:  I have 30 days to leave the country (of course I can always come back for a visit).  The countdown is on.

It’s my hope that I will be finished with the close-out process by this Thursday, and I’m thinking that will actually happen — inshAllah.  I see a celebratory Iftar in my near future.  Then all I have to do is show up to work, play with my pals here, pack up my last suitcase and meet my family in Germany.  17 more days!

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to wax all nostalgic yet, but I’m sure that’ll happen next week when I’ll have time to relax and enjoy my last days here.

As for news on the Belgium job, I got an email that my travel orders paperwork was submitted yesterday.  I don’t actually know what that means, but I know it’s a good thing.  My official passport is being processed at the state gov office, which is also a good thing.  And, I have a tentative class schedule and rosters (teaching 11th grade English and ESL). So, I’m sensing I’ll be making my move to Belgium early August.  This means I’ll have just a few weeks — maybe two — in Phoenix before I leave, but I’ll be back for Christmas.

So, there you have it.  I’m melting (wish that included my fat, but ugh I’m still eating more than I burn), but things are getting done.  There’s an actual finish line in front of me, and right behind that another starting line.  Come on lands of cooler temps!

 

 

A Confederacy of Dunces…

richmond-va

Image taken from:  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/urban/richmond-va.htm

Not the novel, but my journey to new employment.  Oh my goodness what an eclectic ride it has been!

I’m back in Richmond for a few days, so that I can do the multitude of things I need to do to move along in my new-hire processing.  While Richmond is no New Orleans, it’s wonderful to be back in the southern city where I spent my 20s getting educated and, well, pregnated.  All sorts of birthing happened for me here.  Plus, it’s a beautiful almost-too-north-to-be-southern (if you ask folk from Georgia) city, although hello? it was the capital of another confederacy, so southern it is.  Today’s Richmond has kept its antebellum charm while mixing in a whole lot of modern art, edge and yumminess (micro breweries and restaurants galore — woo hoo!).  But, that’s not what this post is about (although God Bless the food, booze and my friends!).

Day Two of being back:  I finally get through to my HR specialist.  We haven’t been able to connect since I got good news from her in mid-May.  I told her I got paperwork from a friend and managed to get my medical check done (by 4 different doctors, but that’s part of my UAE crazy), etc. etc.  Could I meet with her after I met with the security guy?  Sure. Is there anything else I need to bring?  Lemme check.  Pause … she needs the welcome packet back that she thought she sent in May, and she needs the affidavit letter signed in front of a notary.

Um, I never got this packet.

Another pause to check, and an,  oh man, you didn’t get it, well I need it.  Let me send it to you.

I receive packet.  It’s 45 pages long.  Michelle, whom I’m staying with,  has a lovely printer, but it’s not working, so her friend goes to his work to print all of it out for me — on the softest, sleekest paper ever.  Win.

Next up, find a notary.  No problem, it’s a gorgeous day outside and the post office and a bank are within walking distance.  So two friends and I begin our three hour tour.  First up:  the Post Office, but it’s closed and a stationary mail truck is open instead.  The lady inside barely looks up from her magazine and then looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask if she’s also a notary.  She says something I can’t hear and points to the bank.

We go into bank only to get caught up in a bullet-proof glass security thing.  A lady loudly says “only one person in the box please!”  My friends escape outside, so I go in to be told sorry, our notary has left for the day, but there’s a funeral home down the road.

We’re not really sure where it is when a man with one of those mechanical voices scares the shit out of us by being nice and telling us which way to go.

Funeral home one:  friends and I go in feeling weird because we’re too alive and too happy to be there.  That notary is also gone for the day.

Funeral home lady is nice enough to call another funeral home to discover that yay their notary is in.  She tells us how to get there, but then looks at us (realizing we’re a little sweaty), “you walking or driving?”  Walking.  “Oh lord that’s a bit of a ways.”

You see our plan was to walk to notary, get my stamp and then stop at this place called Patrick Henrys, which is an awesome lil tavern, but now we have to walk all the way back to Michelle’s, so we can drive to the next funeral home, and then find our way to a much-needed bar stool.

Funeral home two:  Now we’re in Six Feet Under territory.  First funeral home could pass for something else, this one was definitely meant for the dead and grieving.  But, the man in suit and tie was very nice and brought me to the back room.  My pen explodes and I say something inappropriate about God and me being where the dead are getting spruced up.  I laugh, my notary laughs, and the other man in there laughs too.  We’re all happy and giddy, and I’m thanking them too cheerfully and loudly as I get to reception area and lo and behold there is a woman in an all-fuscia pant suit crying.  Why she was wearing all bright pink to mourn is beyond me, but I still felt awkward to be as cheery as her pants when she was obviously not.  It’s all good because ten minutes later I’m celebrating my stamp at Patrick Henrys.

Morning of Day Three:  The welcome packet email included contact information for the person who will be working on my official passport.  Luckily for me she’s an early riser and gets back to me before Michelle and I leave for D.C. for my HR appointments.  Long story short I quickly discover I need to turn in my regular passport, which is a problem because I’m going back to the UAE in a few days.  Official passport processing could take up to a month.  I won’t be back in the states until July 20, and I’m expected to begin my new job on Aug 10 — so as you can see there’s a problem.  Passport lady tells me to do something online and come see her when I’m finished with the rest of my appointments. Needless to say, I am freaking out and beyond stressed but off we go.

I get to HR office and now I feel like Maxwell Smart because I have to walk my way through concrete hallways and a series of doors (including, later on, one that looked like a vault door) before I get to a security man with a big-ass gun on his lap.  He’s nice and points to where I need to go next.  They’re serious security dudes who take my ID and have me call my first appointment to pick me up.  I’m dressed casually while everyone else waiting is all suited up because they’re interviewing.  Again, we’re surrounded by bullet proof glass and all sorts of security type doors.  My guy joins me, and I follow him to only, get this,  I shit you not:  get my back pack stuck in the revolving door.  I’m like a turtle on its back just kicking its lil legs up.  I’m embarrassed and joke “Oh shit I broke the DOD.”

Big-gun man laughs, the other guys try to keep it professional, but they’re definitely wondering who hired this idiot.  My appointment, thank God, is getting a kick out of this, and the rest of our time together is fun — even when my damned finger prints would NOT flipping take right.

Long story longer:  I enjoy everyone I meet in the security office (while Comey’s testifying on the t.v. near us) and am passed on to my HR person, who was so different in person than what I expected.  We do our thing — yay most of my stuff seems to be worked out — and then I’m brought to the passport lady, who is my saving grace!  She completes my processing in person, takes my pic, makes me swear it’s all true and tells me to rush my original birth certificate to her, which can take the place of my passport.  Do I have my birth certificate?  No, but it’s in Arizona, and God Bless my husband because he managed to find it (which I’m sure was an amusing sight) and overnight it, so my passport processing is happening — whew!  — and I can fly back to the UAE to finish up my contract there.

There are a few more things I need to do before I finally receive my travel orders, but despite the craziness and the stress, I’m glad I got to meet the people behind the scenes.  I liked them all and hope they’re a reflection of what my new co-workers will be like.  I don’t yet have the final orders, but after all this crazy I think it’s time I finally told you all where I’m going next.

I don’t know how I managed to pull it off, but I actually got a job in Belgium.  Lucky me will be working at an international high school in the NATO base south of Brussels.  It’s been a stressful few months, but woo hoo!  I can smell the frites, beer and chocolate now.   To heck with ever getting rid of my Budha belly.  Up next?  Mama has to learn some French.

And, survive any more trials and tribulations that are sure to come up before I get there. But Belgium here I come — um, inshAllah!

 

Bureaucracy and the Immigrant (my Beauty and the Beast tale, um flipped?)

I’m flying back to the states for a week to take care of stuff, so I’ve begun the close down of my expat status here in the UAE, so that InshAllah when I return the rest of my closeout will go quickly.  Since, I’ll also be moving to another country in a few months (part of the stuff I have to take care of), I’m also researching expat life in the new country.

It seems running around to different offices, being told different things, and having to get lots and lots of official stamps on official papers is also part of that country’s way of doing things.  Woes me and my never-ending stamp/paper trail.  Too bad this doesn’t tone body parts!

My home country has its fair share of bureaucratic bullpoop (in the spirit of Ramadan I’m trying not to cuss), but me oh my do I miss the efficiency of things like —- gasp!—- American utilities and cable companies.  I know some of you are thinking I’ve lost my mind here, but trust me on this.

It took almost two weeks of running around to get electricity and water turned on in my apartment.  It took only two days to shut it off (I was hoping for more time, but oh well).  That said, I then have to wait two days before receiving a text, so that I can go to the utility office to collect my clearance letter, and, find out how much longer I’ll have to wait to get back my 1,000 dirham (around $227) deposit.  Inshallah maybe I’ll get it that day?

Clearance letter?  Yes, I need to bring my employer proof that my debts are paid, which is fair enough.  I get that.  Why I have to go wait in line to go get it is beyond me.  The bill gets texted each month, why not the letter?

Cable and Internet took 3 months to finally get working right in my apartment.  I kid you not it took less than an hour for them to cut that sucker off.  That said, I will have to wait around two to three days before going to the main office —- God help me! that’s a DMV-like experience —- to possibly collect my clearance letter.  I’m fully expecting several trips before I actually get that letter.

Same company also needs to switch my mobile from post to pre paid.  Now that doesn’t cut off so quickly.  I’ve been told it’ll take up to 72 hours, and in the meantime if I go over my remaining balance of 10 call minutes and under 1 gigabyte of data the switch will be cancelled.  So, for three days — at a time when I’m making calls and using data because my Internet is gone — pretty much don’t use my phone.  Then, I have to do the prepaid thing, then, you know, wait for my clearance letter.  If I weren’t in such a hurry to get these clearance letters before I fly out, I’d space it out better, but it is what it is.

I’m a little confused about the whole closing out my apartment thing, which I will finish when I return.  Apparently, I do something online to get a “your closing out housing has been approved” form, then my landlord needs to print and sign a letter, and then I bring it to my employer with everything else, and then, if I’m lucky, during my first visit, someone there signs and stamps, takes my passport for a few days to close out my work visa, and then I get to, hopefully, chill by the hotel pool paid for my employer while waiting on my passport return (2 or 3 days I’m told).  I’m holding on to the dream of pool time to help get me through this.

Now, let’s add the fact that I’m also in the process of being hired by a government entity for my country (oh the joy of more paperwork), getting my teaching license renewed (which should be easy) and then I have to, you know, go through the legalities of immigration and housing in my new home, with a language I do not yet know (okay I know like 4 words of it).

I’d say send in the booze, but it’s Ramadan, and I’m trying to be good.

I’m atoning for my disorganised, procrastination sins because this is a whole other circle of hell.  I’m not looking forward to all the wasted line time associated with it.  BUT, this is a convoluted Beauty (so much for me being a modest soul) and the Beast story.  Beyond the curse is the magical, almost happily ever after, overseas life.  This too is what I hold on to when being told “Madam, you must go to X, then come back with Y.”  Or, being cussed out in a foreign language, while I sit there with my folder of papers, grinning like the mad hatter, hoping the raised voices are proclaiming progress is about to happen?

So yeah, there’s way more good than bad in this life, but do know if you’re planning on moving, working in another country, there is that never-ending cycle of lines you must stand, cry and sweat in.

Counting my blessings…

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First off Ramadan Kareem to my Muslim friends!  It’s the first day of a holy month of fasting, detoxing your spirit, being charitable and communing with God.  While I may not be Muslim, and I’m not even going to pretend that I’m fasting (I tried, but I just can’t go without water during the day, and let’s face it my cellulite demands to be fed too many times a day), I am grateful for this reminder to remember those who are not as fortunate as me, and to nourish my spiritual self.  And, to thank God for all of it!

It’s been a stressful few weeks, but the last two weeks have reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am.  I am so unbelievably touched by the people I work with.  My students blessed me with heartfelt notes and lovely gifts, all of which I’m taking to my new home.  Local teachers surprised me with heartfelt notes in English (which isn’t easy for them) and beautiful gifts (all of which are coming with me too!), and my fellow expat teachers took me to lunch and made me the most awesome, personal reminders of my time here, and how lucky I was to share it with all of them!  I am beyond words for how much I will miss everyone.  The job has had its horrible days, but oh my goodness the people I’ve met along the way are priceless.

I’m busy closing down my apartment, and it’s bittersweet.  Sometime this week my electricity and Internet will be shut off, and I’ll move in with Shannan until I leave for good.  Week after next I’m flying to Virginia for a few days to get some things done for my new job.  It took a month, but woo hoo I finally got the final word on my housing benefits, which are more than what I expected.  So, yes!   I can afford to take the job.  I cried for like 5 minutes and have been light on my feet ever since I got the “you’ve been approved” email.  I didn’t realise how much it was weighing me down.  I’m still not posting where this job is until I sign the final offer because I so don’t want to jinx it.  But, Joe and I are beyond excited.  I will tell you it’s not in Virginia (that’s just where HR is, and since I have friends and family there it’s the easiest stop for me to get fingerprints, etc. in) and that it’s for a Department of Defense school (holy moly I landed a DOD job — it’s only taken 4 or 5 years to get noticed!) somewhere on our planet.  No Mars schools yet.  As soon as I sign the final paper I’m blasting my news, and then you can all plan to come visit.

And, on that note, I need to get back to packing.  For the folks back home, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!  I’ve attached a ton of love and gratitude to this post, so that you can all, hopefully, feel the good in this world too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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While I get to travel the world and do many cool things and meet many cool people, these three are my most amazing accomplishment.  Despite my nagging and my constant “are you sure that’s a good idea?” I am so beyond-words grateful and proud of the souls I am blessed to have shared my womb and life with.

My kids aren’t into the Facebook or blogging thing, so they’re not gonna like me posting more pictures of them (lol nor will they see it — okay Kaylene will).  But screw it.  It’s my day, and I’m so sad to once again be away from them on a holiday.  So, of course, I can’t help but look through old pics and share.

I love my life and all the things that I am doing, but I do so miss being with my children who’ve grown into exactly the kind of adults I’m proud to be around.  They are each their own person, and I am so very proud of the way they choose to navigate their paths.

I’m digging this overseas thing, but me oh my do I long to be with my children.  I promise guys when I come back, Mama time is on!  And when the grand babies make their way into this world (no hurry!), I’ll have so many stories to wow them with — while you guys take your much-needed breaks.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!  I guess this also makes it happy kids day because we’re so darned happy to have them (lol even when we’re not)!

Okay, here comes the picture blast (sorry the baby pics are all in Arizona, otherwise I’d totally shame my kiddos with baby butt photos):

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In between the good is a bit of stress

Two Africa trips, Dubai weekends, brunches and parties, etc., etc.  As you all know I’ve been busy living it up.  But, there’s no such thing as all good.  Life likes to keep us in check.

During my first night in Kenya, while I was lounging on a porch swing, I got a message from Joe that Meiko had had her last day.   I knew I wouldn’t see her again when I left last summer, but, of course, I hoped I would.  I poured some gin on the ground and wished her well on her next journey.  I’m still saddened by her passing, and I worry about Badger since he’s a spaz to begin with, and now he’s missing his Meiko.  But he’ll be fine.  Death is part of the deal, and life will go on.

Meiko and bunnymeiko and bunny2

Sleep well my lil buddies.  Bunny is in both pics.  She passed my first year here.  They both lived a long and happy life, and ours had that much more love in it thanks to these two.

Toward the end of the Kenya trip I got an email for an interview for a school I’d love to work at in a location that Joe and I would both love to live at — a too good to be true kind of deal.  I interviewed that same day while surrounded by mangroves, monkeys and the Indian Ocean (definitely on the list as most memorable interview).  I was pretty sure I blew the interview, which of course stressed me out.  I lost too much sleep over what I should have said, but I figured lessons learned from this would better prepare me for the next big interview.  Three weeks later while I was in Egypt, I got the tentative offer for that job.   Africa must have good mojo for me on the job front!

Since it’s through the Department of Defense there’s a lot of paperwork and back ground checking involved, so I’m not jinxing myself by telling you where the job is until I’m much further along in the process (not that I’m expecting the background check to fail!).  That said it’s stressing me the eff out because you see I’m what they call a CONUS hire, which is meant for U.S. stateside folk.  Because I’m currently still working in the UAE I’m not yet back at my permanent residence in the U.S. (although I will be before moving to the new job) and that’s apparently making it unclear on whether or not I will qualify for a housing allowance and all the other financial perks that go with it.  The proper forms verifying my years of work are also not yet in, so the tentative salary is quite a bit lower than where I should be at, which I’ve been assured will change once years of experience have been properly approved.  Long story short, if things don’t work out as they should, I might not be able to afford to take my dream job, which — you guessed it — is stressing me out even more. This isn’t a job that opens up often, so if it doesn’t work out this time, it’s not gonna happen for me next year.   I’m sure it’ll all work out, but that’s not stopping negative me from doubting.  The biggest stresser is not hearing back from my HR rep.  I’m okay with jumping through hoops to get whatever documentation I need to get, but the empty inbox is killing me.  I feel like I’m in a bad dating scene again — why am I not getting return messages?!!!!  I’m so trying to do my part and if a paperwork glitch ruins this all for me I’m going to scream, possibly explode.

Work has also not been a barrel of fun.  We’re in our last days of teaching, so the girls are just a tad chaotic, but they’re not the ones really stressing me out.  It’s other craziness that is just best left unwritten.  This too will all pass soon, and before you know it I’ll be crying because it’s my last day. (lol today it’s tears of joy, but tomorrow it’ll be genuine sad-to-leave tears).

And then there’s the stress of getting rid of my stuff and getting things ready for my next move.  I also have to make sure I have enough saved to live off of until my end-of-service check from here clears, which may not happen until late August.

So, that’s about all that I have to whine about, and trust me I know what’s causing stress in my life isn’t nearly as bad as what other’s face.  Even if, heaven forbid (please don’t let this be so) I can’t afford to take the job, I still get to go home to my family and enjoy some down time.  So, it’s all good (um, ahem!  but powers that be I really, really want to keep the new job). [it’s best to attach as much positive, good vibes as possible]

Today I play with a bunch of friends and fill my belly with too many calories — so my poor jeans will also be stressed the hell out.  And, so will I when I step on the scale, but let’s save that one for another day.

OH and Happy Cinco Di Mayo!  I’m sure my friends back home will be whooping it up with a margarita and some nachos tonight.

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