Category Archives: Abu Dhabi First Quarter

Happy New Year!

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Right this very second Joe is snoring on the couch while I upload photos and reflect on the passing of another year.  This is as it should be.   It’s pretty much how we spend New Years day every year.

New Years Eve, however, was quite different from the annual neighborhood cul de sac party (although I did get to call home today and wish my old party buddies well).  Lisa, Joe and I joined some friends from Abu Dhabi and did a desert safari/camping trip.  My friend Sangita, who is also in Al Ain, also happened to be on the same tour, so it worked out perfectly. Right now I’m tired and suffering bedouin butt — my new ailment thanks to getting up and down from the hard cushions on desert floor.  BUT, I am so grateful for the life I have been blessed with.  2014 was a great year, and I sense 2015 holds many more magical moments.

But, you’re not here for that.  You want to know what trouble we got into.  I’m happy to say none, but we did bash some dunes (basically it’s like riding a roller coaster in the middle of nowhere in, our case, a hummer — freaking awesome), ride some camels, smoke some shisha, watch all kinds of dancers (Arabian men LOVE to dance), do some dancing of our own, eat and drink well, and laugh with friends from around the world.  Somewhere around 4 a.m. we crawled into our traditional tent and passed out, only to wake right before the sun and stumble our way to the rustic (that’s a good word for it) bathroom.  I wish I would’ve thought to nab my camera because my words can’t do the morning fog caressing the dunes justice.  It’s one of those moments meant to be remembered and cherished, but that didn’t stop me from crawling back into my sleeping bag.  Mama needed to get some sleep before crawling back into reality.

My only regret is that I couldn’t pull all of my loved ones from home to do this with me.  It was the absolute perfect way to end one year and bring in another.  But it’s all good — we have all year to play and discover different parts of the world together!

10460278_10205907632595716_2775116421070758038_n 10881550_10205907632075703_4697517337608056512_nparty girls. Photos taken from Lisa’s Facebook page.

10888391_10205907634715769_5402199802774390083_nSuzanne I have your shisha directions flagged now.  I’m on a mission to buy mine.

DSC06375 DSC06373 DSC06371our tent!

DSC06278 DSC06273pre party — things are just getting started at ‘camp.’

DSC06236 10676118_10153042211910802_439314616684581654_n Camels!  Sangita has the best mount and dismount photos, but they’re not posted.  Um, we’re so not sexy in those…

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DSC06356 DSC06355 Dance!  That Sheik comes from Scotland and is visiting his son here…Crazy set of parents!  Hope to dance and camp with them again one day.

DSC06352 DSC06339 DSC06333 DSC06316 Pakistani and U.S. girls having a blast. They would later dance with a Syrian girl.  Children raised here live such a magical life.  Let’s hope they bring some of that into their adult lives.

DSC06313 DSC06306 hahahaha there’s that Scottish Sheik finding the nipple in my wine purse. 2014-12-31 12.28.11my wine purse…

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learning some moves from a young pro

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time on the dunes!

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woke to find puppies.

DSC06369 DSC06370breakfast and remnants from the night before.  When the clock struck 12 it was glitter, silly string and fireworks galore.  Hahahaha since safety regulations are not the same as back home, the fireworks where shot off a dune over our heads.  This was fantastically awesome until some of those embers landed on dance floor, but it’s all good everyone just ducked and danced around them.  Not gonna lie it’s all good until someone loses an eye, but it was pretty amazing to have the flares blossom so close to you.

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On our drive home we had to stop while three mama camels and their babies meandered on the long dirt road.  Apparently the lil ones got thirsty.  Great way to start the new year though.

I hope you’re all having a lovely day as well, and can’t wait to see what we all do in 2015!

Happy New Year, my friends!

Joe’s visit

My man is in town, and we’ve been having a great time.  We’ve done so much that it’s hard to tell you all about it.  So, I will blast you with photos because, well, that’s what it’s all about. Here’s an outline to help you out.

Dubai —  I had to work his first two days here, so we hung out at my place, but on his third day we headed for the big city. Mail AttachmentJumeirah beach photo station

DSC06158 Sangria by the pool

DSC06151 Spent a good chunk of a day discussing philosophy and world politics with our South African bartender in an “American” bar

DSC06148 DSC06136 My big man meets the burjDSC06134 Sandmen!DSC06140 DSC_0324the Dubai fountains before they perform DSC_0313 View from the tallest building in the worldDSC06102 DSC06089 DSC06064 DSC06050 Santa at the ski area in Emirates Mall

DSC06033um, this window display makes me wonder what’s above not below my bed!

Christmas:  We went to the pork store and bought Westphalian ham, french ham and, you know, yummy pork products for our Christmas eve buffet.  Shannan and Lisa came over, and after getting bored with watching the fire crackle on the t.v. screen we watched Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Does “those aint pillows” ever get old?).  Next day, we went to watch my carpool buddy’s husband compete in an international equestrian show (where I didn’t take a single photo — what was I thinking?!).  Both days were lots of fun — best way to spend my first Christmas away from home

. xmas3 xmas2 10868278_10205820071966755_5331708340167006196_nphotos taken by Lisa or Shannon, Joe took the last one

xmas1see those paintings on the wall … they’re finally hung thanks to Joe!  He bought me a drill, so I can make holes in these concrete walls — yee haw!  More art to be bought and hung.

The wild west and camel fest:  The western region of Abu Dhabi is rural, and more conservative than Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  It’s more remote location borders Saudi Arabia.  Every year about this time in Madinat Zayed is the Al Dhafrah Camel Festival, which celebrates Bedouin heritage, but is mostly known for its camel beauty contest, which holds lucrative prizes for the winners.  We booked a room for one night at the Mirfa hotel on the coast, but ended up spending two nights there because we had way more fun than anticipated.  You just never know who you will bump into in the middle of the desert, but from our experience it’s all good

. DSC_0431Our guide is also a freshmen at ASU.  His family’s camels came in second place last year, and he’s home on break.  In a few days he’ll be back in Arizona studying chemical engineering.  To my kids and former students, say hi to him if you run into each other on campus!

DSC_0376This man’s beauties were feisty, but they seemed to love him. DSC_0407 watch this, she doesn’t suspect a thing…DSC_0409 camel kiss! DSC_0334 I floss!DSC_0331

DSC_0315 hahaha the camel is like what is your problem?10868110_10205848256111341_7136676406049179811_nWe got to sit on thrones and drink Arabic coffee while waiting for our personal tour guide.  How cool is that?

10888879_10205854825315567_8076258252273300060_nOur rooms weren’t ready yet, so we went into the hotel pub for lunch.  Um, we didn’t leave until many hours later, but we did make new friends with a Finn and a Scott.  I believe a man from Poland took this photo for us.

10888596_10205837439160924_7262348456062304010_n 10420782_10205837436480857_1023469910066742670_n 10891783_10205837435200825_3462452403578316491_n Jenga and pool games!  541603_10205854825675576_4630327988748687093_n DSC06216Camel bling at the souk. Sunrise photos taken by Lisa. Um, I was still sleeping

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Absolutely love the tranquility of this beach.  I’ll be back when I need time to just chill and breathe.

My man taking a moment to contemplate all the food we just consumed at a brunch buffet at the Liwa hotel, which is stunning (sorry didn’t take much photos there). DSC_0433 Our time together has been wonderful.  We have just a few more days together, and then it’s back to him working on one continent and me another, but we’ll meet again somewhere else on this planet come July.  Good news is he’s totally cool with making the big move after he retires next year.  I see many, many wonderful travels in our future! Before then, though, we have some more sightseeing to do here.  We’re not going to Dubai for New Years.  Instead, we opted to join friends on a desert safari/camping trip.  I’m sure a good time will be had by all. Click here if you want to see more photos…

Weddings and whatnot….

1470041_10205716109247752_6221693281796722286_nHenna hands (belonging to Lisa) and feet (mine) all glamored up for a wedding. There’s so much of my life here that I will never be able to show you, but I guess that goes for life anywhere really.  We can only give glimpses.  You already know I can’t show you pictures of women uncovered, which makes today’s entry a tough one for photos — although I’ll show you food. Emirate weddings are celebrated separately.  Men whoop it up in one room while the women do their thing in another one.  It’s a weird concept for westerners, but it works here.  This is the second wedding I’ve been invited to simply because of where I work, but I felt like I had to go to this one.  The bride and I have never met, but she is well loved by the other teachers.  I’m told she’s witty and sweet and just the most-deserving woman, but that’s not why I went. I went because a group of local teachers came to us earlier in the week to let us know how horrified they were about the murder that took place a few weeks ago.  “This is not us,” they said.  “It is against God.”  And, best of all, the heart felt “we are mothers too …. you are our sisters.”  They also reminded us of the wedding, and that it was on a Friday night, so we could stay up late and not have to worry about work the next day.  “Bring your friends, come have fun.” So, I did.  I wanted to experience a local wedding, and I wanted to show my Emirate sisters that, yes, I do want to bond and have fun with them.  I don’t know how much bonding we did, but again I am grateful to have been invited to be a part of their lives.  I was also so proud and touched when the math teacher I share students with grabbed my hand and pulled me across the room to meet her family.  I might actually speak more Arabic than she does English, but through facial expressions and body language we warn one another when a class is being good or bad — especially the one group that loves to test us.  We really like each other even though we don’t know much about each other.  Now, I’ve met two of her daughters, a sister, and her son’s wife.  I’ll be sure to bring photos of my kids to show to her next week.  Why can’t it be this easy to connect worlds and families all of the time? Now as for the wedding I’ve discovered it’s not quite the same without the sparkly drinks, but there were cans of soda — so bubblies were there.  The women are stunning in their dresses, and it was shocking to see so much of their skin.  Those who decided to remain in their abayas did so in classy, beaded ones.  Servers came around and offered expensive perfumes, oud (perfumed smoke), chocolates (OMG I must be part emirate because they love chocolate and nuts as much as I do), an assortment of teas, food, you name it. 10675658_10205716105047647_5245999994023625582_n just one of the platters of chocolate that came around  2014-12-12 19.58.24Lukaimat, my favorite!  They’re served warm. I ate way more than 3. 10858369_10205716104287628_2339445989464915685_ni think this is lamb, not my favorite.  I stuffed myself with chocolates, lukaimat, hummus and salads, so it was totally true when I responded to “why you no eat?” with “I am full from all the chocolate.”  The bride’s sister laughed and whispered back to me, “I like the chocolate too much too.” 2014-12-12 21.22.51a tapioca tea.  I liked it, and, of course, more chocolates! 2014-12-12 21.06.50jello, or as my British coworker calls it “jelly.”  This one baffled us because who serves jello at a wedding?  The only reason I can guess as to why this was served is because the bride went with a beautiful red and gold dress, so maybe it was meant to match her dress.  Oh well, I ate it.  tastes just like strawberry jello. Sorry I didn’t think to take pictures of the perfume and oud, which is a shame because they are in beautiful containers. So, basically, you eat and drink until the bride arrives.  When she does they lower the lights, play music and put a spotlight on her as she slowly walks down the aisle toward a golden throne for two.  Her dress and hair was absolutely gorgeous. emirati-weddingI totally nabbed this off the Internet, but the lady in red is wearing something similar to what our bride wore.  Picture taken from  http://www.arabiangazette.com/big-fat-global-wedding-industry/ The bride was so nervous.  My heart just bled for her, but she made it down the aisle, got hugged and kissed by I’m assuming the groom’s mother, swarmed by kids running after her, and cheered by her friends.  Later on abayas were swooped back on and her husband was brought down the aisle by I’m assuming his sisters.  He was so friendly and confident, just waving at all of us like a celebrity.  We liked watching him joke with his bride, and it looks like her nerves disappeared.  Friends and family walked up to wish them luck, the cake was cut, and that was about it. It’s different, but at the end of the day a wedding is a wedding.  We all want the new couple to be blessed with lots of love and happiness.  It looks like this one is off to a good start, so I’m glad I got to see it. 2014-12-13 07.57.35And me today kicking up my feet (and yeah showing off the lovely henna), writing you this while my curtains dance in the breeze, and loving the fact that I have free time to share all of this with you.  Hope you guys have a great weekend!

Do I have to go back to work?

I’m on the last day of having 5 days off.  Bummer.  For the most part it’s been a whole lot of fun.  I mean look how relaxed I am on this beach pic…

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I love this pic.  It just sums up some of what I love doing most — chilling by water with friends.  Wine and food on the beach with some more of my loved ones would make it even better.

Tuesday was National Day, so Lisa, my infamous neighbor, and I drove to Abu Dhabi to spend time with fellow Phoenicians Naomi and Kelley.  I absolutely love where they live, and sometimes I’m a little jealous.  But, my corner of the emirate has its pluses too.  Best part is we can all visit each other’s corners at times like this.

We went to the Corniche (beach area), watched an air show, relaxed, watched the cars honk and parade up and down the street, strolled and relaxed some more, and then the sun went down and the crazy string and shaving cream wars began.  It’s insane, but a lot of fun just as long as you stay on the family side of things.  Loved seeing families picnic all over the park with their grills and shisha.  The kids and moms had a blast spraying us, and we had fun spraying them.

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Our major lesson learned was that it’s best to stay on the family side because if you cross the street — at night — to the beach side when a free event is taking place, you just might find yourself on the single male side of things.  Their idea of fun with silly string and shaving cream is a little more brutal — especially when unsuspecting western women walk their way.  Nothing bad happened, and the best way to sum this up is to say I can now add getting assaulted by silly string to my list of shit I’d never thought I do.  We quickly made it back to the family side of things and decided to just watch the fireworks from their balcony versus the beach.

The next day was all about shopping, and then we headed home for a night’s rest before taking off to Dubai.

Here are a few more fun pics of the Abu Dhabi portion of this week’s trip.10389280_10205604744343699_447312307029142301_nDSC05861 DSC05832 DSC05782 colored smoke from planesDSC05768 DSC05731 DSC05726 the lovely CornicheDSC05771

The Dubai portion of trip was all about exploring new things.  Shannan and I went to our first rugby match, and it just happened to be during the Rugby Sevens, which seems to be a pretty big deal to rugby fans.  Yay us, we got to watch our girls kick China’s shins.  And let me just say this is not a sport for sissies — they beat each other down!

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We were pretty pleased to learn a few of the mens teams were staying at our hotel and that our hotel had a rooftop pool and bar, but then way disappointed to learn it was a juice bar — drinks looked awesome though.  So, yeah, we booked at possibly the only dry hotel in Dubai, but it’s all good because we were so tired when we got back to our room we passed out, which was good because the next day we were busy, busy, busy.

First we ate breakfast on a patio at a lovely french restaurant, then we learned how to use the Metro, and then we explored Dubai Mall (which was a first for me).

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And then we checked out Global Village, which is a massive state fair, except it’s an international one.  Games, shops, rides, food — oh glorious food! — and shows.  Lot’s of fun.

DSC05952 DSC05955 the Americas exhibit was a let down.  What made me laugh was they had an Abaya stand there, and these abayas showed cleavage.  I guess that Americanizes it…DSC05956 DSC05957 DSC05958 I never knew honey was such a big deal in Yemen, but it is.  We got tons of free samples.DSC05959 Honey there’s a honey for us…DSC05963 want a cup of tea?DSC05967 DSC05968 DSC05972 roar!  monsters and moon!DSC05984 Three continents in one swoop DSC05992 DSC05994 Yep, I went to Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, etc. all on the same day!

DSC06000Aaah and my favorite stop, the Turkish Restaurant.  We shared a table with two Russian women, and enjoyed watching the men work as much as the food they served us.  I’m a fan of grilled meat and cheesy dishes!

Needless to say, I had a wonderful 5 days off.

I wasn’t going to mention the bit of UAE news that made it’s way back home because it’s not my story to tell.  Sadly, it does belong to others.  But, I’ve gotten so many emails on it that I feel like I have to end this happy post with ugly news.  Yes, I heard about that poor woman who got stabbed in the mall, and, yes, if I were stationed in Abu Dhabi that’s probably the grocery store I would use, and, yes, we are all shocked and horrified this happened.  I did not know the woman, but like everyone else my heart goes out to her family and friends.  I am so sorry the woman who wanted to create havoc did indeed end an innocent woman’s life.  I’m sure had I known the woman who died, I would’ve loved calling her friend.

Violence isn’t normal here. Crime isn’t normal.  The only time any of us feel in danger is when we’re on the roads, and then we learn how to drive here and we don’t mind so much. Heaven help the U.S. when we return.

Whether or not the murderer was associated with any terrorist groups is unknown, but her act was obviously one of terror.  To everyone back home I cannot stress enough that, for the most part, we are safe here.  Of course because we’re Western and because we’re in a Middle Eastern country we do keep our eyes open, but we hear of more horrors going on at home than we do in this country.

I want to thank everyone back home for their love and concern, and I also want you to know that I am quite happy with being here.  I am learning so much good from the people here, and I know one day I will enjoy sharing their tales with all of you around the fire pit in my yard back home — until then, know this is still a really good place for me to be.

Okay, time to fit in some t.v. before having to go back to doing the work thing again…

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

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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!

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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.

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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:  http://teachuae.com/im-still-hereim-uae/

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…

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

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

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

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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!

Okay, let’s get to the good stuff

DSC05274time to chillax!

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.

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