Category Archives: Al Ain Second Year

Hellos and Goodbyes!

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Photo taken and edited by Andrew Cole … thanks Andy!  I’ll share more of your goodies later.

The past few days have been all about having fun with friends and saying good bye.  Too many farewell parties this time around, but I’m happy for my friends moving on to new experiences.  I’m sad for my future here without them, but I’m sure some of us will most certainly drink and eat together again.  And, I’m grateful that a few of my friends will also be returning in August.

Some of our good byes.  Wish I had more pics to show, but we were too busy having fun to snap it all.

There are only three main to-dos for me today:  finish packing, clean up my mess of an apartment and land my tuckus on the window seat that leads to the flight that will get me back home.  I’ve accomplished two, and in about an hour I’ll be on my way to the airport.  (time IS dragging a bit right now)

I cannot wait to see everyone!  And then six weeks later I’m back to saying goodbyes.  It’s my ever-revolving circle of tears and laughter.

And, that’s about all I’ve got to share for now … more posts will be in the making shortly!  Have a great summer everyone.!

 

 

As-salamu alaykum

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It’s Ramadan.  Real Muslims use this time to get closer to God.  Blowing oneself up to murder people doesn’t accomplish that goal.  This type of thing is as anti Islam as it is anti Christian — regardless of what heretic leaders of any religious sect might say to manipulate their followers into terrible acts that must make God cry.

I am horrified once again to wake to news that another place I have visited has been attacked.  It’s always terrible to read of these things, but human nature makes it even more so when you have broken bread with people of that land.  Just this week alone I’ve read about attacks in Lebanon and now Turkey, as well as in places I haven’t yet been.  Yeah, yeah I know these areas are frequent targets, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific — especially when you’ve laughed alongside their people and watched their children play.

Having this happen during Ramadan makes it even more disturbing because Ramadan is about respecting and, most importantly, living the words of God.  Sacrifice takes place to better emphasize with those who do without regularly and to remember the power of charity.  So I imagine this must bruise the hearts and souls of my Muslim brothers and sisters.

I’m sharing this because of a few comments I’ve read this morning, which only exasperates a chasm amongst us — mankind — that just doesn’t need to be there.   Our words can be as counterproductive as those idiotic suicide bombs (look at some of the issues we’re voting on and decisions being made based on angry words), and they can be as powerful as the love of our chosen God (or person if you’re not into the whole spiritual being thing).  We’ve gotta get a grip on our species and reign in our hatred for one another and, you know, do the whole good humanity thing. Racism, Xenophobia, and all the other isms and obias out there that divide us needs to be put in check — wish I could believe it’d be possible to eradicate it, but looks like we’re a long way from that.  But, we can put a leash on it and tell it to back the eff down.  (out of respect to Ramadan I’m also watching my language)

As-salamu alaykum is a common Arabic greeting.  It is the first thing Arabs will say when they enter a room.  It is what I hear every time an announcement is made over the PA system at work.  It means Peace Be Upon You.  Sometimes the greeting is shortened to Salam, which means peace.

So, while it is a greeting, I’m choosing to end my post with a wish that peace be upon all of you and your loved ones.  We need our peace to be bigger than our hate.  Seriously folk we’re tearing ourselves apart here; we can do better.

Uncertainty

If you assess my life based solely on my blog posts, you might assume I live in some happy-happy, joy-joy bubble.  My life IS pretty darn sweet, but a bubble it is not.  I am fully aware of all the nastiness going on in the world, and have met people directly affected by some of it.

Eventually though, flare ups in our world affect us all, whether it’s divisive politics, war, famine, climate change, you name it —- the big bad things have a ripple effect.

There are too many uncertainties right now, and that’s got to be on the top of leaders minds (regardless of whether or not for personal reasons, better planning for all involved, or a combination of both).  In the wake of economic uncertainty, planners here are incorporating cut backs.  That means jobs and benefits are changing.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that whenever this type of change takes place it’s painful, especially when it’s in an environment that communicates differently from what many of us are accustomed to, or define as fair.  Then again when things like this happen at home, it rarely feels fair, regardless of how well (or poorly) communicated it was.

This year I’m saying good bye to more friends than expected.  Some resigned for their own reasons, some were asked to go.  It hurts and it’s stressful.  We’re all forced to contemplate whether or not we’re next, which again isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does suck in the short term. Now is a good time to remember my own financial goals and long-term planning:  the weekend trips and brunches may need to take a back seat to paying off my credit card balance (and then yay! they can resume again).

This year is ending on a much sadder note than last year.  I’ll come back in August to more unknowns, but I will figure them out one step at a time, just like my friends who are leaving are currently doing.  I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve gone from shock and despair to better horizons.  I will miss them all, but I also look forward to what they will do next in their lives.

I guess if there’s one thing for me to learn from this it is that as shitty as this whole “uncertainty” thing is it can push us to something better.  So, when I’m home this summer and people bring up politics (please don’t —- seriously I can’t cope with all the petty back biting on any side), terrorism, unpredictable weather, etc. I can remind myself that, yes, we can get past all of this —— just take it one step at a time.  Of course we have to first learn how to weigh all that’s happening, quit bitching/moaning/blaming others for it, and come up with a plan.  But, hey, one step at a time.  May we all heal and move on as quickly as my friends seem to be doing.

Getting scrubbed and spiffy…

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So I had my first hammam (also known as a Turkish or Moroccan bath) today, and while you might think it’d be awkward paying someone to bathe you, turns out I’m totally cool with it.  Only time I felt funny was when I stood up so the attendant could dry me and, well, her face came up to my bosom.  Nothing says Hello There!  more than good ole eye to nipple contact.

A hammam is an Arabian treat, where you sit in a steam room and have an attendant deep scrub all sorts of grime from your pores.   I had mine done at the beautiful Turkish spa down the road from my apartment.  Sadly, my camera phone pics will not do this place justice.  I got the package that included a hair and face mask and a massage after the bath.

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The first thing I got to do was put on these lil black disposable panties and bra — my rebellious goods busted out the minute I slipped them on, so basically I had remnants of modesty clinging to bits that demanded to be seen anyway.  Oh well, the attendant pretended not to notice; she was way more professional and mature about the whole thing than my giggling, jiggling self.

Then I was asked to lie down on a marble slab in the middle of this luxurious steam room with a copper sink and bowls.  The lights were dimmed, and I was left alone for a few minutes to steam it up before the attendant returned to pour warm water over my hair.  She washed my hair, and then gently washed my face, before moving on to the rest of me.  I’ve been binge watching Six Feet Under (I know it’s crazy that I didn’t watch it when it was on t.v.), and at first all I could think of was that holy formaldehyde I’m like the recently deceased getting prepped for burial.  Except I’m not and I guarantee it smelled so much prettier where I was.

Just about every inch (not all — thankfully some is left alone) of me was gently scrubbed while more bowls of warm water were poured over me.  When that was done she poured a bunch of suds on me and massaged them in while a mask worked its goodness on my hair and face, and then I had to stand to get a lot more water doused on me, which is when I first realized just how much bigger I was than the poor woman bathing me.  After I’m toweled off,  I’m asked to replace my torn disposables for another pair, so that I could lie face down on a massage chair and have that tiny girl show me whose boss while she kneaded out the kinks in my doughy back and thighs.  I wasn’t too sure I’d be able to walk after that, but my body feels great.

Several hours later, and I keep caressing my hair and skin.  They’re both so soft and shiny. Too bad I can’t magically keep it this way for when I land in Arizona — two weeks from now.  BUT, I’ve discovered I’m a fan of the hammam and look forward to my next experience (InshAllah) when I return in August (adding another much-needed InshAllah) .

 

 

Say Cheese!

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As always lots of photo opps on the weekend.  Two weeks ago some friends and I took off for a weekend Amsterdam adventure, where they surprised me with a bachelorette party.  It started off classy with a mimosa brunch they cooked up in our cozy flat, while Ian, Charlotte and I sipped coffee at a local pub. Ian was in on the secret but Charlotte was as surprised as me when we got back because it was also her birthday weekend — so the brunch was in her honor as well.   It ended with a scavenger hunt in the red light district — bachelorette paraphernalia and all.  I didn’t have a last-days-of-single party the first time I married, so this one totally made up for it.  I bet I was the oldest bachelorette out there, but that’s okay because I had just as much fun as all the other ‘stag’ and ‘hen’ stars whooping it up in the alleyways and pubs.

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Since it’s wise I don’t show off my bachelorette attire here, I’m just going to post a pic of the roses Jordan’s friend Michal blessed us with.

It was a great weekend, and I wish I could write more about all the fun we had, but some memories are just meant to be kept amongst friends.  I also wish I could write more about Amsterdam because it’s a wonderful city, but two days there isn’t enough to explore all of its wonders.  That’s okay because I plan on visiting again next summer.

Here’s just a few photos to show you some of what we did.  I’ll do the city justice next summer.

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The flight to Amsterdam had its own adventures as well.  If you’re ever in an overnight layover in Prague, look for the kids play house.  It has padded flooring, so you can crawl up in there and attempt a nap (although airport noise gets in the way).

Last weekend Shannan and I spent time with Suzanne in Abu Dhabi.  Sadly, she is moving back home in a few weeks, so we’re getting in as much Suzanne time as we can.  We’ll be there for the next two weekends and 4th of July festivities, and then I’ll have to say good bye to one of my close friends here.  It’s all good, I totally plan on visiting her back home when I get the chance, but it’s still one of the disadvantages of living here.  We all go home eventually, so goodbyes happen.  It’s tough, and I can’t imagine my Abu Dhabi weekends without Suzanne.

As for what we did this weekend, we hung out at the pool, which was so much nicer than expected.  We didn’t think we’d last long because of the heat and our inability to drink water at the pool (it’s Ramadan and illegal to eat or drink in public during daylight hours — I’ll write more about Ramadan in another post).  BUT, the pool water was chilled, so it was refreshing.  Thanks to whomever decided to treat residents to this lovely oasis!

Since we’re just a few weeks away from going home for the summer, I also wanted to buy some gifts at World Trade Center mall, where we also discovered The Hub, a new restaurant corner that includes a latin restaurant we fell in love with.  It’s not cheap, but it’s a welcome surprise for hungry, thirsty shoppers.  I totally recommend you check it out if you’re ever in that corner of the world.

And now it’s time for me to jump in the shower and get ready for work.  We’re down to our last few weeks, so before you know it I’ll be posting from Arizona again.  Until then Ramadam Kareem to my muslim friends, and whoop whoop it’s almost School’s Out to my UAE teacher friends!

Skydiving, yachting, graduating and brunching

 

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There’s a whole lot of inging going on over here.  Last Thursday I went to Dubai to watch some of my friends sky dive over the palm (notice how I said watch, not partake), the next day I was swimming in its waters thanks to another friend’s bachelorette party on a yacht. Day after that I was practically mugging the frozen drink guy thanks to me melting on Jumeira beach.  The heat is definitely back!

On Sunday I watched my girls transform into Cinderellas and then glide across the stage to nab their diplomas.  Oh how I wish I could show you how mature and beautiful they were.  I am so very proud of each and every one of them, and I can’t wait to see what they do after they graduate from university.

This weekend I joined friends in Abu Dhabi for brunch at the Intercontinental — we have a soft spot for that place since it was our first UAE home.  For those of you back home brunch isn’t your typical Mother’s Day affair.  Um, in 4 hours I was able to destroy what good a month’s worth of dieting and exercising has done for my body.  Back to the drawing board, although we have another brunch next weekend.  It’s a never ending battle — the living here sometimes is just too good for my own good.

Thanks Ashley for taking and sending brunch pics.

Ramadan begins again in a week, so we’ll calm down on the splurging and get ourselves ready for all of our trips home to loved ones this summer.  Just a few more weeks, and year two is already khallas.  Where does the time go?

Girls Just Wanna have fun…

The yacht party was so much fun.  I totally plan on attending more of these next year.

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The view from our Dubai apartment.  We found this great place near Jumeirah beach, which will just happen to be our new digs every time we go.

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And now I get to chill.  Some girls are coming over to watch last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so we’ll inhale some Indian food and OMG at whatever surprises HBO throws at us tonight and then again on Monday.

Hopefully, everyone back home is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend.  I’ll see you all soon.

Teach UAE articles

It’s been an easy work week.  Caps and gowns are in, so my girls are really excited about their upcoming graduation.  We’re just finishing off some  last-minute review and then khallas it’s exam and ceremony time, and then they’re on to university.  Inshallah and a big ole humduallah!

It’s getting hot here, as it tends to do.  Today it’s 108 F, and it will only get hotter.  Thank God we have our chilled pools and air-conditioned everything.  This weekend I’m pretty much cooling off at the pool or reading on my chaise.  I’m saving money because next weekend I’m off to Dubai to see some friends sky dive (um that’s a big hell no on my end) and celebrate Jordan’s and my birthday, so a weekend home is a good way to give my wallet and body a healthy break — before I do more damage to both.

Since I don’t have much new to report right now, here’s the latest edition of Teach UAE.  A letter from me to new hires is on page 18, and my buddy Suzanne has a piece on repatriation (so very sad she’s leaving) on page 39.  There’s a whole bunch of other goodies in between, so give it a read when you have time.

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Babes in Beirutland

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Thanks to the Islamic holiday Isra and Mi’raj we had a long weekend, so Haneefa and I decided to fly off to Beirut instead of hanging out on the couch Netflix binging.    I’m so glad we did.  Oh my goodness I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, even though friends who have been have bragged about it.

Other than news of the civil war and current security warnings, I really didn’t know much about Lebanon — except that I have yet to meet a Lebanese I don’t like.    Everyone we met was friendly and curious about us.  It’s nice to have strangers greet you with “Welcome!  Welcome very much.”  Heck, we even got a few marriage proposals, and one man stopped traffic just so we could cross the street — can’t beat that.

While there is definitely a military presence, and it might be a little jarring at first, you eventually forget they’re there — and, quite frankly, I’d rather have too much protection than not enough.  It’s a shame this country’s uglies take center stage because it’s an amazing place to visit and it deserves — needs — our tourism dollars.  But, of course, until terrorism simmers the eff out it’s a vacation many will put on hold, and while I would totally go back, I can’t blame anyone for heeding security warnings.

This is the second country I’ve visited that borders Syria, and it saddens me even more to think what those people are going through.  In this area there is so much beauty, history, ruins from the dawn of time, culture, layers of life, and to think of it being raped and dismembered by ignorance and hatred is an unimaginable miscarriage of humanity — not only to Syrians, but to all of us.  This is where much of what we know as civilization was born.  Visiting Lebanon — Beirut in particular — you see remnants of life long before now, life now, and the scars of violence.  On the bright side, it seems brutality has not yet broken the people’s zest for life. I hope it is the same for Syrians, or that one day soon it will be.

But enough of my thoughts on something I know so little about.  On to the best part of this post … the pictures.  Oh how I wish they could do the trip justice, but they give you an idea of why the locals manage to stay so darned spirited.

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Love this picture.  That flag may be wet and tattered thanks to the ocean’s constant battering, but it’s still proud and it’s still snapping back.

Beirut’s corniche is 10 kilometers of a walker’s (or runner’s) paradise.

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We pretty much just enjoyed the corniche and our hotel pool the first night.

I mean who wouldn’t enjoy that?!  Lots of Roman influence here, and, well, it’s also close to Cyprus.

Second day we hired a driver who took us to Jeita Grotto, Our Lady of Lebanon and Byblos.

These pictures were taken off of the Internet since we couldn’t take our cameras inside.  We rode a gondola to the upper cave to walk through its massive interior, and then we were treated to a boat ride in its lower cave.

My pics of Jeita Grotto’s exterior

It was pouring down rain when we got there, but when it was our turn to stroll through the little park area it was beautiful weather.  It’s like the Gods wanted us to enjoy this.

 

Next up was a ride on the telepherique — thanks to Haneefa I can’t type this without humming it to the tune of super freak — up to the Lady of Lebanon.   This is something that is not to be missed.

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At the tippy top you get to meet the gracious Lady of Lebanon.  Muslims and Christians alike visit here, and regardless of what you believe it’s a good place to remind you that there is still holiness in our world.

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Before I move on to our next stop, let’s just take a moment to appreciate this view.  Awesomeness, yes!

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And last, but OMG not least, was our trip to Byblos, which is a thriving city next to the ruins of an ancient Phoenician city, which also holds gifts from many other civilizations. It’s named after the bible because bible means book of Papyrus, and this place just so happens to be directly linked to the Phoenician alphabet — pretty nifty stuff for someone who loves words to see.

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And some random shots for you

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Of course there’s so much more I could share, but this post is long enough.  I’m so thankful I got visit this boisterous beauty, and I hope some of you will one day do the same.

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Beirut in the distance as seen from the ruins of ancient Byblos.  I kind of like that the present looks ghostly from the past’s perspective.

p.s. Selfie shots are thanks to Haneefa.

 

From my moon to yours…

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My man watching the moon rise in Arizona — a few years ago

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that glorious moon

Thursday was a super busy day at work.  The 12th grade English teachers threw an afternoon party for our seniors, including an academic awards ceremony.  We wore ourselves out managing the thing, but it was worth it to see the girls having fun being girls — watch out when you throw a tug-of-war rope into the mix; or tie their ankles for three-legged races.  Sadly, it’s back to exam prep tomorrow, but for now it’s still the weekend.

Thursday night I was too exhausted to want to leave my place, but it’s all good because Shannan came over so we could feast on pizza, inhale shisha and watch Game of Thrones episodes (can you tell we’re looking forward to the new season?).  All was right with the world until one of us decided to scan Facebook and see that Prince had died.  Two days later, and I’m still in shock.  I get it … he wasn’t someone I actually knew, but Good God he was Prince — an icon of my high school/ early college and beyond days (not to mention an unbelievably gifted, innovative soul).  I remember how excited my cousins from New York and I were the day we drove to Richmond — ewww an hour drive by ourselves! — to see Purple Rain.  And I couldn’t tell you how many times I danced to 1999, Let’s Go Crazy, Darling Nikki, and the list goes on.

He was also only 57 — the same age as my man; same age (or close to it) as many of my friends.  Yeah, yeah I know we’re no longer the young fools shaking our hips to Prince tunes, but hello we’re still young enough TO shake our hips (and then wish we hadn’t the next morning).

Yesterday, I spent the day on Saadiyat Beach with Suzanne and Craig, and later a few more friends joined us at her apartment.  It shouldn’t be a surprise then that, of course, we played Prince songs while feasting on apps and enjoying glimpses of the full moon’s reflection kiss the Arabian Gulf.

This morning I read a message from Joe telling me that he was outside with the dogs and cat huddled by his feet, watching the full moon, and thinking of me.  We are not the couple that comes to people’s minds when they think of romantic or sexy, but me oh my we do know how to enjoy our sun and moon time — and we sure do love each other. I miss my man and cannot wait to see him again this summer.  We’re so lucky to have our time together, and that we shine when doing mundane things like sitting outside with the pets and just watching time go by.  March 2017, when he finally retires, cannot get here quick enough.  Although I type this knowing that all of us must enjoy the minutes we have while we have them, and I do — while at the same time looking forward to Inshallah all the time ahead of me (I’m two dimensional, what can I say?).

In honor of my man and The man, I leave you with this:

Nothing Compares to U (Prince & Jennifer Hudson singing it in concert)

p.s. sorry about the bad video, but you get the point.

 

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Summer is coming…

I’m a little under the weather, so I spent a good chunk of the weekend watching Game of Thrones reruns with Shannan.  I also booked a weekend trip with Haneefa — will tell you all about it in May — started looking up potential spots for Michelle’s and my next big trip (next school year), caught up with some friends not living in the UAE, and I ordered some things for our big family event this summer.  It’s been a weekend of reminiscing and planning.

In three months I’ll be in a beautiful cabin in Show Low, Arizona with the people I love, celebrating the best of what my family has become.  It’s crazy how many different corners of the world I find myself in throughout the year, and I still cannot believe how lucky I am.

That said, of course, I have plenty of moments where I’m feeling anything but lucky.  Take for example right now, I’m afraid to eat because my stomach is waging its own war, and, sadly, despite its refusal to house food the scale is also rebelling because she just won’t deduct the pounds.  What The Fat?

I guess if I’m going to feel crappy it’s a good weekend to do so since it’s dusty, humid and windy out there, but I’d rather be writing about playing at the beach or going to the gym or hanging out at the pool.  Inshallah I’ll do that next weekend.

But since I’m in a whiny mood, I can share some of  things I find not lucky  — especially since I’ve goofed around on Internet more than usual and scanned through the latest batch of “we’re coming in August” Facebook posts.   So, for the upcoming newbies and any of you who are tired of my “damn I’m lucky (but seriously I am!)” posts here’s some of my less pollyanna stuff to deal with:

  • Cultural differences and language barriers sometimes bring up frustrating moments at work.  At the end of the day we all want to do the right thing, but sometimes our version of that clashes, and while it’s all part of the deal, sometimes I just want to yell “Puhlease can you just let me do it this way.”  I’m not saying I’m right, just saying sometimes I long for the days where I’m on the same page and alphabet as everyone else.
  • Ditto for getting stuff done outside of work.  Sometimes my face and arms hurt from gesticulating and enunciating so much.  Hahaha those might be the only toned muscles in my body.
  • Shaky paradigms — things change while at the same time some not so much.  It gets a little confusing sometimes.  But isn’t that a worldwide complaint right now?  Everything is changing while at the same time some of our old uglies are popping right back up again.  It’s a frantic Whack A Mole game, and I’m hoping we all come out winners in the end.

And, that’s all I’ve got for now.  Back to the bright side of things:   there’s always the next vacation to plan for!  Or, the next good thing — at work or play — to look forward to.  The good still outweighs the bad.  And…

Game of Thrones Season 6 AND Summer vacay is coming!  While I will sooooo miss my girls this year when they graduate, I’m also sooo looking forward to playing at home with my loved ones.  (not to mention all the fun stuff planned here for the next three months — you’ll never see or hear me complain about being bored).

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