Category Archives: Pre Abu Dhabi
‘Tis the season!
Okay, first off I know, I suck. I missed sharing the entire month of November with you. It’s not that I didn’t want to pop in here and tell you all about the cool things I get to be a part of, or that I haven’t been taking pics to post (I have plenty!) — it’s just that when I finally do have the time to type, my eyes are like “no way, woman!” And before you know it I’m snoring alongside the dog and Joe —- seriously all three of us have our own little orchestra going.
Speaking of which, we did get to see the Russian ballet perform the Nutcracker in Brussels (sorry about that abrupt transition) — and while I’ll never regret going to the ballet, it was the first performance I’ve ever watched to canned music not alongside an orchestra. It was lacklustre, BUT I got to go to the ballet in Brussels and that’s worth something. We’ve also been busy doing all sorts of glass clinking and touristing thanks to friends visiting. Thanksgiving week was busy, busy, busy with Suzanne and her beau flying in from Chicago, Jordan and Wilber from Korea, and Emilio from Phoenix. Needless to say lots of laughs and feasting went on — lol never once having a turkey included, although we did get to eat delicious pheasant.
Last week of October, first few days of November I was home meeting my adorable grandson and spending time with my own children. That time always goes by way too quickly, and I don’t have enough of it, but I’m grateful for every second of it. Warning: baby pic alert! And, yes, I look at pics of him (and video clips Kaylene sends me) way, way, way too much —- cannot get enough of that face. He’ll be walking the next time I see him in person.
My Babies and their babies
As for life here, it’s beautiful. I LOVE Christmas time, and Europe does it up right with the lights and Christmas markets. So far I’ve been to the Christmas market in Liege (another pretty Belgian city) and Cologne (my favourite German city); Joe also got to go to another one in Germany. Mons Christmas market opened up on Friday, but it was raining so much we decided to wait until today to stroll through it. Tonight, we’re just going to relax and soak in all the Christmas cheer despite the gloomy weather (which I also love because hello? candles!).
Kyle and his girlfriend arrive on Friday, so we’ll spend the weekend in Amsterdam with them, and then cart them back to Mons. I’m so excited they’re coming. They’ll be with us for three weeks, and we have all sorts of fun stuff planned (including a weekend in Paris! Yellow Jacket protests or not, we’re going). I’ll try to pop in to post pics and whatnot, but if not life will slow down again in January, so just in case I don’t get to type again until 2019: Happy, Happy Holidays!
I brought in 2017 bundled up next to my man, getting fireworks ash in our eyes, in Reykjavik, Iceland; I ended it huddled up under my new soft blankie (thanks to Aaron’s girlfriend), alone on my couch in Mons, Belgium. That sounds sad, but it’s exactly where I wanted to be. Of course I’d have preferred celebrating New Years with family and friends, but work begins again tomorrow, and my best flight option meant being back in Belgium on the 31st.
After two weeks of rushing around to get things done in Arizona, and a return journey that included three flights, a hot bath, some wine, and lots of shut eye is all I wanted. I slept until noon today! And it felt great. It’s been raining since I returned, so hibernating inside my warm, cozy apartment is what this weekend is all about.
My trip home went by way, way, way too quickly. My only 2017 regret is that both my trips back home were too rushed because there was so much to do, BUT the doing is done. My house is pretty much sold (signed all the papers; buyers sign on Jan 4), Badger and Joe are all set for their big move (the hound is chipped and immunised; the man is stressed and tackling his list of to-dos), and my kids are moving along in their versions of happy.
We spent Christmas at Kelly and Kaylene’s, where I finally got to meet Kelly’s mom (we had fun embarrassing our kids with our stories — hopefully something we’ll do many times more!). We feasted, we drank, we laughed, we watched movies, we played Game of Thrones monopoly, we familied it up! I sure do love my people.
I cherished my time with Joe and the kids, and I’m so glad we got to spend Christmas together. Again, I’m proud of all of them and love being witness to the adults they’ve become. I didn’t get to spend much time with friends, but the little bit of time some of us got together was awesome. Summer 2019 I’ll be back for a much longer visit, so lots of whooping it up time is in our future.
Party time with friends included a pub bicycle crawl to celebrate a friend’s 50th. LOL after all my years in Phoenix I can finally claim I hit the downtown Scottsdale bars. I also got to fit some patio bar time in, something I can no longer do during the winter where I now live. Sadly not pictured is my outing with Julie and Sushi with Tiffany and Joe. There are so many others I didn’t get to see, but we’ll catch up some where some time and it’ll be great.
As for 2018 resolutions, I have none. I’m a lucky, stable, healthy soul who is cool with her extra lumps and wrinkles. No need to promise to lose weight or save or whatever (but you know I’ll try). My only goal is to continue embracing all that comes my way. Good or bad it usually works out toward something great, so Happy New Everything that comes our way — and good riddance to the bad that usually, eventually melts away.
All of my kids adopted puppies, so our holidays also included a lot of pooch love. Not pictured are Kyle and Kendra’s two dogs, Piper and her puppy Penny. Kaylene and Kelly’s two white lab puppies are also Piper’s babies, and Aaron and Stacy’s pups are rescues. Dexter, the brown cutie (um, the dog who wanted to eat my unicorn slippers) won me over with his snores and snuggles. Okay, the others did too. Badger has learned to cope with all the whipper snappers.
And that’s all that I have for you right now. My jet lagged self needs to figure out what she’s torturing her students with tomorrow.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Happy New Year!
As is always the case, all good things must come to an end (although most would argue 2016 needed to hurry up and end). I’m sipping mint tea made from fresh mint leaves and wiping off sausage roll crumbs from my bosom while on my very long layover in Amsterdam. My original plan when I booked this flight was to stroll around the city, eat a meal at a cafe and find my way back to the airport. But, I’m beat. The idea of bundling up and finding my way around another city was just too much for me, so instead I’ve tooled around the airport, which is actually a lovely place to lose oneself in, bought some cheese, chatted with friends, and now I’m taking the time to write all about my last day of 2016, which topped 2016’s birthday — another fun filled, firework-laden night!
Reykjavik is an awesome place to say goodbye and hello! Icelanders stock up on fireworks and go all out. Just like in Copenhagen the fireworks show is put on by the inhabitants not the government, and believe you me these viking decedents love their fire. Holy hell it was amazing. Joe noticed that the police helped folks with the larger boomers, keeping people at a relatively safe place away from take off — although I got plenty of ash in my eye. We have no idea where we’ll be this time next year, but it’s going to be hard to top this new year’s.
First off at around 8:30 p.m. bonfires are lit all over the country. We went to the big one on Ægisíða, near where we were staying (about a 30 minute walk). The bonfire goes back to pagan days, and it’s either a way to burn off last year’s stuff or light the way for elves and the new, or just a chance to burn up shit while the kids play with sparklers. Either way it worked for us! Families and tourists all gather around and bond with the coming and passing of another year. Reminded me (a little, our fires weren’t this massive) of the cul de sac bonfires we used to have near my place every New Year’s Eve.
Best part is the fire wasn’t the only thing putting on a show. Right behind us the Northern Lights danced away, letting us know the skies too were whooping up the death and birth of time. I cannot believe we spent a week in remote areas looking for the northern lights and boom they show up in a city while fireworks and bonfires pollute the sky with light and smoke. That’s Iceland for you — sure read the guide books (and by all means do pay attention to the warnings! they’re legit!), but Iceland is gonna do what she wants to do when and where she wants to do it. She is not a land who plays by tourist rules.
The lights arched over our fire, way out to sea. They flared and twirled, but since I’m the laziest photographer in the world I did not have my tripod and DSLR on me (hey that shit is heavy). So, while I’m pleased to have captured the green, you don’t see the bits of purple and the seductive dance they weaved. The video on my camera just couldn’t capture it. But, I worked up a sweat keeping my arm high and still while clicking stills away.
Obviously Joe and I had a blast. It was magical, and we didn’t want to pull ourselves away, but eventually the lights dissipated and we found our way back to our part of town to prep up for the great big fireworks display (although they had been going off all day).
So we may have hit a pub or two… and an ice skating rink.
Another big tradition amongst natives is to gather around a t.v. and watch an annual comedy show that is loaded with comedic skits. The entire city calms down to almost a standstill while close friends and family members feast, laugh and watch the big show.
Looks like the only people on the streets during show are tourists, folks coming back out after the show is over. As for those fireworks they were still blasting away midnight last night, and are probably still booming away today.
Joe and I ate dinner at our apartment and watched some of the show. We were happy to be able to figure some of it out (thanks to some English thrown in and good ole fashioned fart jokes — apparently everyone understands those!). And then we were out in the thick of it kissing 2016 good bye.
New Years Day we headed over to Keflavik where we walked around the harbor and into a giant’s cave.
But mostly New Years Day was bittersweet for us because within a few hours we’d both be off to our corners of the world, but OUR countdown begins today. Seven more months, and we’re back to being together full time — lol for better or worse.
Some daytime Reykjavik pics for you
And, my flight is getting ready to board. Yay me I land early tomorrow and go straight to work from the airport. I’m so not looking forward to how exhausted and crappy looking I’ll be. But, come on 2017. Let’s see what you’ve got in store for us!
Our Christmas Story
We’re in our little cottage, although it’s listed as a studio apartment, made of rock and driftwood, nestled up against a mountain listening to the wind batter our Christmas home. Way up the mountain is a waterfall that I’m sure is blowing horizontal at this point. We’re on a farm that has been run by the same family for 200 years. It’s ice cold water comes from the water behind us, as does the electricity.
The information flyer tells us to keep an eye out for elves because they exist here, and I’m sure they do because something is banging the dwelling we’re in, and right now we’re the only guests. Oh those wild tiny people are whooping it up, and who am I to break up their party. The flyer also states that this is one of the windiest places in Iceland and assures us our place is built to withstand it all, so Joe and I are quite safe and snug in our comfy bed.
We didn’t stay in bed all day though. We drove to one to the two famous waterfalls near us (Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss). One of them is lit up at night, and we drove there for Christmas Eve, but forgot to bring our flashlight, so we admired it from our car. Today’s waterfall was bigger, but the winds kept whipping our faces with snow, so we didn’t last long.
We’re in an area called “under the mountains,” which is near the Eyjafjallajokul (a glacier) and I believe near where the 2010 volcano eruption happened. I cannot imagine a more perfect place for us to celebrate our holy day —- God is certainly with us (plus the elves). I’m in love with where we’re staying, The Garage in Holt (by all means book here if you’re looking for a cozy escape near Vik and all kinds of things to explore). The family who owns the place has been nothing but welcoming and accommodating, even sprucing up our place with holiday touches including gifts and a crispy candle wafer, which went well with the soup I made last night.
There is so much more to tell you about our trip: The Blue Lagoon, a ribbon of the Northern Lights (we tried to catch them again last night but no luck), a harrowing drive to a remote resort, our drive to here, the people, the land. But, those stories will wait for another day because today is all about our Christmas and how very blessed we are. Of course I wish my children were here experiencing this with us, but being here just gives me more stories to one day share with their children —- oh what a lucky life we lead.
Day after Christmas
Oh my goodness the family invited us over for Christmas dinner, and we had a fabulous time. We feasted on smoked lamb, potatoes in white sauce, red cabbage and grapes, and a certain brand of peas for Christmas, plus more of that crispy thing, which I learned is traditional bread. A lot of wine, Viking beer, laughs and good stories were shared. We hope to one day do this again with them.
Joe was even treated to a hidden cave on another family’s land (I chose to remain warm). I’ll post pics of that in another post.
There’s so much to share, but we just finished a long drive. Tonight we sleep near another glacier and tomorrow we hike it and crawl into an ice cave. I promise I’ll eventually post more about all of the other cool stuff we’ve gotten to do, but for now I’m off to get some more Icelandic food in my belly.
Merry Late Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you —- may you all be safe, loved and warm wherever in the world you are.
The view from our front door.
it’s a Moon Rising…
The super moon rising from behind the mountains that border Oman.
Good Evening Al Ain! The moon winking at us in all her glory.
Tonight was our turn to have fun greeting the moon, so here are some shots of what we howled to in Al Ain.
Some non moon Al Ain pics…
A view of the city with the moon behind me — still quite purty.
And last, but not least, the sunrises are pretty darn awesome too.
Speaking of which I’ve get to get up for work tomorrow, so time for me to sign off. But yeah those reds I’ll get to see from my balcony while sipping some chai.
Hopefully, all of you got to enjoy the moon as well. These are the gifts we have to hold on to. Night everyone!
Things I don’t see me missing
I’ve been spreading the love, showing off all the things I treasure here. Since the wind alarm, that seems to be only near my complex, woke me up most of the night, I’m in the mood to share some of the things I could do without.
- That siren! Although today its warning was real. My drive in was scary. It was all awesome and oh-wow-it’s-gonna rain at first, but then I hit a sandstorm streaking across Truck Road, which —- get this —- is where trucks drive (imagine that!). Apparently, at one point we drive over a drainage ditch because a wave of sand hit it, crashed up over the wall, and curled over my car. Had it been water my car would’ve flooded. The most excitement I’ve had on my drive in, ever (well except for the first time I saw a camel caravan use the cross walk). But back to that siren —- it goes off every few minutes on windy days. Leche?!
- It’s not a good idea to park in the right lane, so you can run into wherever, nor is it a good idea to take a right hand turn from the left lane — especially when there are cars in both lanes you need to cut across. On the bright side, I no longer flinch when this happens.
- Please don’t honk at me as soon as the light turns green. My foot was on the gas, but you just scared it back onto the brake —- and now I think I’ll wait awhile.
- I live near Dewan not Tawam roundabout. If I got paid a dirham for every time a delivery person called me from near Tawam —- where Miss? A. I realise my delivery dilemma is a sign of just how spoiled I am (because I can have just about anything brought to me), and B. I miss having an address. Although C. I’m amazed at how well we manage without it.
- Starbucks oh Starbucks why don’t you deliver?!!! It’s such a pain getting in my car and driving to even the one with a drive through (which is just a few minutes from my place). Yeah, I’ve officially gotten too lazy to brew my own.
- The definition of consistency has somehow gotten lost in translation. To my future employers: know that when I say I’m flexible and adaptable, I’m a flipping chameleon who can do yoga tricks with my appendages tied.
- My appendages, however, are in great shape because I use them a lot when I attempt communication.
- Arabic or Indian pickles —- just don’t like them. I’ve tried.
- The heat, which isn’t a problem now, but will be in too short of a time, and the heat brain that goes with it. We get a little zombified.
- Attempting to teach when it’s raining outside. The girls are all excited, and quite frankly so am I. All we want to do is enjoy this extremely rare phenomenon.
That said, I will probably miss all of the above as well —- except for the wind alarm (God help me if I ever move to tornado country because I’ll just end up ignoring the siren). Good news is I’m not leaving anytime soon, so I can whinge about it some more. Even better news: Tomorrow after school, I’m off to Bahrain for the weekend. whoop! whoop!
Aaargh was getting ready to go to pool, and then I read something that ticked me off…
I’d be lying if I typed that I’m not paying attention to the news, or not worried about this latest rash of terrorist attacks. Of course I’m bothered by it all, and of course I worry about where this will all lead. This time next week I’ll be packing my suitcase for another trip into another predominantly Muslim area, and while I’m not losing sleep over whether or not my friends and I might be targets, I am losing sleep over the state of our world and its bigotry/idiocracy.
I’m outraged by any human being who thinks it’s okay to slaughter other human beings in the name of their perceived God or higher calling; I’m sickened by those who pontificate the same sort of shit from their keyboards or political platforms. An American-Muslim friend of mine said she doesn’t consider ISIS (or better yet let’s get that whole Islamic State out of their name and call them douche — I like it better than daesh) Muslim. They are not what her faith or her people represent. I say the same for any authority figure —— politician, businessman, clergyman —- in America who spews anti-people vitriol. They are not America. They do not represent what my country’s doctrine represents. Deep within my heart of hearts I have to believe that the majority of Americans do not think this way. I have to hold on to hope that the majority of the world does not think this way. Because if they do, then the terrorists aren’t who we should fear.
I cannot believe I live in a time where I can watch movies on my phone and have my car tell me where to go, only to scan headlines where alleged leaders cater to a twisted version of playground politics. Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me. That’s the lie: its our words that are killing us. They lead to more fear and more hate, which feeds into “their” (insert enemy of choice here) fear and hate. Can’t we do better than this?
I’m not naive. I know wars need to be fought. I know, unfortunately, bloodshed will need to happen to prevent more bloodshed. I know more of our young people around the world will have to do the very adult thing of fighting these wars. I don’t know what to do about the Syrian refuge crisis. Of course there are douches imbedded with some of these camps, but oh my goodness so are countless good human souls. There are douches of all sorts imbedded in all forms of our societies. Do we give up on the good just because of the few, or do we use our damned intellect and figure a way to weed out who needs to be weeded —- and do we figure out how to do that without giving in to our prejudices?
I don’t know how we afford to feed and house and provide some sort of peace for so many who can no longer go home —- and not just Syrians, but so many others who also face a violence and fear most of us, thankfully (and hopefully), will never know. Some of those people are our own living and dying within our own borders.
There’s so much I don’t know, but what I do know is the older I get the more primitive my world seems to become. Or, maybe it’s just my country’s handling of it. Forgive me for connecting my world view with my country view —- I am American after all, and we sometimes do that. But, that’s also not always a bad thing. We have so much good to offer as well —- seriously, I know many of you in other parts of the world may not see this, but we are also a giving and loving people. Why oh why are we letting our uglies get center stage?
I try very hard to not publicly post political comments because the dialogue that tends to take place usually doesn’t solve anything, but today I’m posting my version of a war. It’s my war against hateful words. We can’t stop the media from focusing on the bullshit, but we can stop ourselves. Let’s not give credence to the fools who say hateful things that pull us back. Instead, let’s start posting our solutions or sharing things that might make sense —- even if they don’t align with our normal political or religious affiliations. If we take out our own biases we might just come up with something that works versus tearing us apart. Yeah, I know haters are still gonna hate, BUT WE don’t have to.
Work is work…
It’s early Monday morning, and I’m up so that I can print out my daily lesson plan just in case an administrator comes into my room and asks for it again. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to print out this week’s plans yesterday, and of course I had a pop in. I had a good lesson and resources prepared and the girls and I were doing what we needed to be doing, but that one little mistake made me nervous and I stressed over it throughout the rest of the day (even though I really didn’t need to). So, despite my lovely life I still stress over paperwork and whatnot. Later, on the same day, a parent came to ask about her daughter and emphasize how important the child’s grades were. She was a kind and lovely woman, and I’m glad she stopped by, but I’m also even more stressed because what if I don’t have enough time with her daughter before the big exam in December? I care as much about her marks as she does.
Last week I wrote an advice piece for TeachUAE (I’ll share when it’s published), and I wrote something along the lines of delete “it’s unfair” from your way of thinking. And, ever since I typed those words I find myself reminding inner me to stop whining. I’m stressed because I want to do a good job, I want to help my kids get to where they need to go, but sometimes I feel like I’m getting pulled in a million different directions. There’s not enough time in the day; there’s too much paperwork; there’s too much to teach in too short of a time, etc., etc. I want to throw my lil temper tantrum and yell It’s Not Fair! I’m only human.
Sounds like I’m back at home, doesn’t it? Thing is the hard stuff doesn’t go away just because I’m on another continent, living the life. The job is still difficult because it matters, and darn it all I — like everyone else involved — still care about those kids.
Then when I come home there’s no Joe to rub my tired feet, no Kaylene to discuss the innards of life with, no Aaron or Kyle to tease about whatever odd thing they’ve done that day, no Meiko or Badger to drool on my lap. Of course I do still chat with all of them, but it’s not the same. I miss my family.
I miss autumn in the states as well. Even in Phoenix it’s getting cooler (although not by much). I’d be making stews and planning for birthdays, halloween and the upcoming holidays. Fire pit season begins soon as well — oh how I miss sitting under the stars laughing through the craziness that is our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still LOVING my life here, and I have a wonderful network of friends I laugh with here (sometimes at a shisha place, which has become my new version of the fire pit). I cannot believe how lucky I am to have had the chance to do this, and it’s paying back in ways I didn’t expect. I am not complaining about my life here at all. I just wanted to share that it’s not all beach time and parties. I stress, I worry, I miss, I wish for more just like I did when I lived on my own soil. Apparently, those things never go away.
That said I have a fun weekend coming up. I’m going to the Dave Mathews Band concert — woo hoo! Cannot wait! And then I have a 5-course tasting event at the St. Regis on Saadiyat. Plus, we have an extra day off next week, so I’ll have time to catch up on rest and grading.
And when I do go back home, I will miss all that I have here. So, basically, I think I’ve set myself up for a life of missing ‘home.’
Vacay time again…
So, I’ve been back and working for the past 4 weeks, and I haven’t even popped in to let you all know how it’s going. As of now it’s super great since I’m on another mini vacation, but I’m saving money for some expensive upcoming trips so it’s just going to be time on the beaches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I know poor me.
I’m teaching 12th grade now, and one of my students (hey there Miss M!) googled me and has been reading my blog. Turns out I wrote about her last year. She’s the girl I didn’t know who’d randomly find me to tell me jokes. So, lucky me I now have instant access to Emirati humor. I’m really pleased with all of my classes, and I’m enjoying working with them. I guess it’s a combo of me having a better grip on what I should be doing and they being a bit more mature that’s making this work. Something tells me it’s going to be an even better year than last year, and I’m really going to miss these girls when they graduate in May.
As for life outside of work, it’s been great too. I’ve pretty much spent the weekends in Abu Dhabi or Dubai enjoying all those cities have to offer. It’s great to come back here and not have to learn how to do everything. This is my other home now, and I love navigating my way through life here. [here’s a link to a blog I wrote about this for Teach UAE ] I cannot wait to share it with Joe when he arrives in 2017, which sounds so far off but isn’t.
For the most part I’m really content and at ease with who I am, where I am, what I’m doing and not worrying too much about all the whys that surround me. That said I’m also looking forward to all the good stuff that’s being planned for this year.
First week of December I’m going somewhere during our next mini vacation — don’t know where yet, BUT somewhere new to me and cheap. A few weeks later I’m back to Germany to celebrate Christmas with my family there, and then I’m off to Copenhagen for New Years. A few months after it’s Spring break, a month after that it’s Kaylene’s graduation, and then it’s summer time and all our big plans for that.
Basically, my life revolves around vacations, and the work part in between isn’t (so far) nearly as tough as it was last year — although it is STILL work, and I do still get stressed. Trust me there is also plenty of crazy going on too, but it all manages to work itself out, which is part of the gift of being asked to live here. You really do discover that, yep, no matter how insane or illogical something may seem to you, it will eventually make sense in its own way — and you’re good with that. I wish I learned this lesson sooner in life — might not have as many gray hairs right now had I done so.
Oh, and a former co-worker from Phoenix is now here too. I introduced him to some of my Abu Dhabi pals, and he’s settling into his new digs on Reem island (lucky B-word — um, trying to watch my language, let’s see how long it lasts). He’s going to have a tough year — we all do at first; there’s a lot of adjusting to do — but I’m also excited for him. It’ll be fun showing off the weekends.
We also have new people moving into my complex, and I just sigh for them. It’s only been a year, but me oh my what a difference it all makes. So if any newbies are reading this, I promise you will get past the newbie phase.
And, that’s about all I have for you now. I’m going to Shannan’s place for a girls night tonight and tomorrow we’re off to Saadiyat beach, so maybe I’ll go take a nap to rest up for all the fun that’s coming my way these next few days. I’ll try to write something less “yay vacay time” next time around.
To learn more about why I’m off these next few days, check out my friend’s blog.
Paperwork never ends…
Okay, so it seems I’m spending most of my Monday on hold. You see about a month ago I called my financial institutions to check wire transfer fees, etc. — you know all the make-sure-my-money-is-good stuff. Today, I’m calling to get swift codes and whatnot, and holy hell it seems what person A told me is now different from person B, so I have to switch around the way I was going to bank.
It’s all good I’m getting it worked out (and if my credit union person B is correct there is now no incoming international wire transfer fee so that’s good news), but what a big ole pain in the butt. If you ever decide to take a job overseas know that the red tape you go through to get the job is just the beginning. From what I’ve been told this is a cake walk compared to the paper trail I will follow once I’m in my new land.
I will be so well documented, authenticated, visa whatevered. I’m developing a new skill: patience with stuff I hate doing. Hmmm, so I wonder if I’ll be like on the FBI/CIA watch list once my American accounts start receiving funds from my Middle Eastern ones.
Hahahha just call me Double O BB (prefer my initials to 7). Ewwww, the line is ringing. Onto to the next customer service rep…