Friday, December 16, 2011

Celebrating The U.A.E's National Day

Things have been quite busy in the U.A.E. lately with celebrations going on and holidays around the corner.  Things are going well and the past four months have moved quite quickly. I can’t believe that the 2011 year is already coming to an end and that I am getting to be a part of another culture and its experiences.
On December 2nd the U.A.E. celebrated its 40th National day with festivities unimaginable to an expat. The Emirates love their country beyond belief and go all out to show the love that they have for their country. The celebrations had really begun weeks in advance at our school with the children, teacher, and parents.  So the week of National Day, we had events from small festivals, bus trips, and a performance day for the parents. The thing with the U.A.E. is that if parents do not want their children attending school, then “In’Shallah” we will have children.  We had schedules set for the week, which included our performance and the government decided that we should have the Thursday going into the weekend off. Yes…a three day weekend to celebrate the U.A.E’s national day for my first time in the country!!! The announcement of time off of course pushed all of the week’s celebrations to be earlier. So on Wednesday of that week the children we to perform their English song about National day that I had taught them two weeks earlier.
The day of the performance I had a total of ten out of twenty-five children set and ready to perform. Luckily a few of the students who were here and ready to perform were some of the stronger English speakers and the ones who were eager to perform. When it was finally our turn to perform our song for the parents, my students did a stellar job and showed their parents the English that they have learned.  I really wish I had video showing you my student’s performance because they had done so well, but I to stand off on the side of the stage and sing along with my students and guide them. The students did a really great job performing and I was a really proud English teacher.
After the students performed we were back to watching the children whose parents did not take them after the performance. I had about a total of four students who stayed behind with me. I have to say though that I really enjoyed the time, because I got to know some of my students better and I learned how to fix some of the boys dish dashes (the white scarf that the men and little boys wear around their head). It was quite relaxing and enjoyment to learn how to fix their dish dashes and feel like I was really being a part of their culture. It’s as if those students who stayed behind with me, gave me bliss inside my heart.  A few hours later the LT’s were called back into the stage area to help celebrate the Nation’s birthday. We stood on stage, light sparklers, and Arabic teachers sprayed cans of spray snow. Not really a good combination to have fire and a flammable can within meters of one another on stage. Here in the U.A.E. though you learn that things like that are not really paid much attention to and again “In’Shalla” things will be fine.
Later on in the evening after work was done, I made it out to my weekly studies. While in the middle of studies; which is down by the Corniche, the first round of fireworks went off for the Countries celebrations.  We were on about the 14th floor of the building right at a bird’s eye view and out of the crowd. The fireworks had perfect timing and a powerful silence amongst the people while everyone was watching the show in awe.  The show was so impressive that everyone had wondered what the real National day fireworks show was going to look like since this was only the day before the “real” National Day (December 2nd).
The next day; the Country’s real National Day, we spent the day preparing for the day ahead of us and our first National day in the Emirates. We went to our local hypermarket (LuLu’s) and stocked up on spray snow and silly string. This is what the Emirates stock up on and use on their National day. The snow and silly string is used to spray people walking in the streets and cruising around in their cars. It was quite a lot of fun participating with the Emirates. If they covered you with a can of silly string or snow, they would laugh and say they are “Just having a good time” (imagine that being said in their accents, and then give you a full can of spray to use on someone else. There was quite a few times where they walked pass us and would try to spray us first, but I was quick to aim my can at them first and get their Kandoras covered in snow.  It was definitely an event that has become a huge custom to their country. The best way that I heard National day described was that a 12 year old boy must have come up with the idea. You get everyone driving around in their festive decorated cars, spraying people with stuff from cans, and staying out late into the wee hours of the night.
We all hung out down at the Corniche from about three in the afternoon to one in the morning. We saw their parade displayed on the jumbo screen set up for the weekend’s festivities.  They had their show jets make their way down to the Corniche and display a show in the air with the smoke and their technical moves. My favorite is when the two jets make a heart out of smoke in the air for the crowd. These people really do love their country and will show it any way possible. There were a ton of free shows, water fountains in the beach water , and even another fireworks show set up for the evening. Unfortunately the fireworks never happened on the Friday of National Day. We waited and waited many hours for the show, but they never happened. Many people were asking us and others around if we knew when the show was going to start. The schedule said eight at night, but we were already at midnight. So the rumor is that there was too much wind for the show to go on so they had to cancel them for safety reasons. Either way it was a great experience to be a part of and something I will not forget. I’m not too sure if I will partake again in next year’s festivities, but it was great to say that I was a part of their 40th and their traditions.
The celebrations took place about two weeks ago and since then we have had a week of a “normal” schedule and now this past week  the schedule with the students have been quite unusual. Today is the last day until we are off for a three week “Holiday” break.  Since Christmas is not celebrated it feels right now just like any other time of the year. The spirit is not around, there are no parties, gifts are not being exchanged, and the weather outside is not frightful. I am actually sitting in the staffroom with the rest of the LTs counting down the time until we get to go home. Our Principal doesn’t like to let us leave early at any point of time. She actually has the security lock the gates where we cannot drive or walk out of the compound.  The whole week we have had about ten students total gone from each classroom. It’s as if when there is some kind of major holiday or break coming up the parents stop bringing the kids to school. Every day within the week approaching a Holiday/break we have less and less children show up to school. Today….we had no children to show up to school. Our work is all done and there are no children around, but we are stuck inside the gates of the compound. I’m just anxious to get home to start getting ready for my trip to Prague, Vienna, and London.
This coming Sunday I will head out to Prague from Abu Dhabi and spend a few days there. The plan is to take a train ride to Vienna from Prague and spend some time there as well. The train ride is evidently about a four to five ride. I have never been on a train before, so I am excited to ride on one to see the sights that the Czech Republic has to offer. We will stay there for ten days (Christmas Eve and Christmas) then head out to London from Prague and spend a week in London for New Years Eve and New Years. My first time to travel out to Turkey did not work out so much, but I hope this time I can get on a plane and spend my time enjoying the sights, sounds, and travels. With anticipation, I cannot wait to blog about my trip and share with you all my experiences.

Watch this video that I made showing what I saw for U.A.E National Day

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting Ready for National Day

    So at school the start of celebrating National day was on! We spent a good four hours inside our gym. Imagine four hours of three-five year olds having to sit still and be quiet? Yeah that really didn’t happen. The kids only lasted for about an hour at the most which I thought was quite a feat. The gym was decorated in all red, green, white, and black. There were pictures of sheiks everywhere and the UAE flags all over the place. Students were dressed up with U.A.E spirit and have the U.A.E spirit running in their blood. They are only three, four, and five year olds, but know their flag color and how to put the colors in the correct order.  There was an array of activities in the gym and Mothers surrounding the gym in their Abayas.  Children danced to traditional Arabic music, Mothers competed on who could read the Kuran the best, and they had a competition with LTs on who could shout “I love the U.A.E.!” the loudest….I lost.  We took a tour of our school yards on a bus and most of the children were freaking out. Since they were getting on a bus they thought that it was time to go home and that they were being sent home on the wrong bus. Again, I couldn’t do anything to ease their pain with my words, so I just showed comfort and knowledge of their concerns the best I could. When the day was finally over, we were all exhausted and ready to go home.  I was anxious to start preparing for my Thanksgiving dinner later on in the evening.
A view of the room before we sat and ate our Thanksgiving dinner

My Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Pictures before dinner. My friend
from the U.K.
            Later on in the evening it was time to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UAE. It definitely was an amazing experience! Thanksgiving dinner was held, was at our group sponsors home. They did a splendid job of coordinating everything and opening up their home for the dinner. It was a feast for sure and with a little more than fifty in attendance.  For many it was their first American Thanksgiving and for many others of us, it was our first in the UAE with friends from all over the world. As I entered the home, I stood there in awe of seeing all my friends dressed up and how amazing the home looked all put together for dinner. There were even placed cards set at the table with your name on it so you knew where you would sit.  At my table four of us were from the US (two from Texas) and the rest were from all over the world. We had Canadian, South African, British, and Venezuelan….where else in the world would I get to say that I had an International Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was filled with happiness and joy to see one another on a special occasion. Everyone sat around, ate dinner, and chatted with friends.  Later desert was served and games were played. I didn’t make it home until two a.m. Abu Dhabi time. Which turned out perfect since back in Texas it was four in the afternoon and I was able to chat with my family.
Thanksgving with friends from around the world!

Friday and Saturday:
    The weekend I just spent time hanging out with friends playing some soccer at a park, celebrating a birthday, and even enjoying a second Thanksgiving dinner.

The drizzled rain on the cement at work
   The day started with dark clouds and finally "some rain"! It may not have been much, but most I have seen in three and a hlaf months of living here in Abu Dhabi. I just had to caputre the moment.  Then it was back to work and tough to settle down the kids with the upcoming National day celebrations. It’s like a major holiday in the states, where the kids know that a holiday is coming up and their adrenaline is all off the fun and excitement that is coming up in the next couple of days. Well, I can now say the same for the Emirati children here in the Middle East. I only had fourteen children show up out of my twenty-five students, which also may the day quite interesting. The children did pull through and learned for the most part and par took on working in the classroom.  
View from the outside of work and the clouds with the drizzle

Making the flag with the students today.
    Today was called “Open Day” for the continuous National Day celebration.  Again Mother’s filled the gym in their Abayas and the classrooms.  The children were served traditional food from the region, games, and little girls were given henna on their hands.  The students came to school dressed up in either all red, black, white, and green. Then the students were sent outside to make a big U.A.E. flag. As they stood there the students were asked to name the three Sheiks, and to no surprise anymore they were able to name all three  of them off without hesitation.
 A video of a building for the 40th National Day celebration. Sorry it's sideways.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Making Life fun in the Desert

November 17, 2011

     Much time has passed since my last blog and now it’s time on an update of what has been going on out here in the Middle East.

Camping in Fujairah:
Hanging out, having some fun on the mountains!
        Camping turned out to be in the Emirate of Ras Al Khamiah, which was still amazing. The day started early Friday morning meeting in Abu Dhabi and picking up a few in Dubai. We drove through six of the seven Emirates in a total of about four hours.  Once we reached RAK the scenery was completely different than what I am use to here in Abu Dhabi. There are tons of camels, goats, and mountains in RAK. We stayed in the vehicles to begin and drove around the mountains. The formation and geology of the rocks was completely amazing. We had lunch in one of the mountain's valleys and had a few goats who came to visit for food. Once we were done for lunch we headed out to find a place to set up our camp. The decision was made to stay in an old settlement where there was an obvious sign of tribal villages many many many years ago. There was also signs of a water fall from the left over water stains on the rock and some burial sites found in the dry hard rocks of the desert mountains.  At night we had a nice campfire under the stars in which we cooked and shared conversations.  It was amazing to see the stars at night in a clear sky and how the constellations are on the opposite side now, since I am on the other side of the world.  It was an unforgettable and truly breathe taking experience to see this and to sleep in an open tent underneath the stars on a crisp night. The next day I woke up to two goats staring at me from the nearby mountains. Had a light breakfast and off we went to hike on the mountains. Wow….we hiked for about four hours and on some rocky mountains! We also had some time to mess around and take some pictures on the mountains. Brad has great photography skills and captured some great moments from our camping trip. Here is a link to see the pictures which only capture a small piece of our time there in the mountains. (Please see all the pictures…amazing!)  Before you knew it time had flown and it was time to come back home and get settled for work the following days. I definitely can’t wait to do something like this again.
Goat leaving after being fed carrots.

The two black spots are the goats who
were staring at me when I woke up in the morning.

Passing some goats on our way to hike!
The weekend following I was set to go off to Turkey…never happened. So, we had been given three days off for the EID break (Sunday-Tuesday) and there were rumors that the government was going to announce later that we would have the full week off. When I booked my tickets I went ahead and bought the ticket to come back to Abu Dhabi the following Friday (Sunday-Friday), which would have been nine days to spend out in Turkey. As the days grew closer there were many local newspapers publishing that we would get the full week off and then the next day there would be a new news article saying that we would not get the extra time off. Our principal even stated that we needed to make sure we were at school on time those two days because we would have meetings and if we were even a minute late she would write us up. The last day before going into our break we all waited to hear if we would get the extra days off. Many people had said that last year they waited to the very last minute to announce the extra days, so I had waited to make any changes to my flight until this day….nothing!
 Thursday afternoon I came back to my apartment and knew that I had to change my flight itinerary to come back for Tuesday instead of Friday… a whole extra three days gone of time in Turkey. As I called I waited many hours to speak with someone all so they could tell me that the change could cost me an extra six hundred US dollars or two hundred US dollars to cancel the entire trip. The way that I felt; on the brink of getting sick, tired/exhausted, stressed from trying to get Romo out here, I thought it was the best to just cancel my trip.  I figured that this would also give me time to work on getting Romo out here to Abu Dhabi, since I had offers from people who were going back to the states during this EID break.  My break turned into a few days of relaxing and hanging out with a few friends who stuck around here in the Emirates as well. Really, I would have loved to have gone to Turkey, yet really enjoyed relaxing here in the Emirates and getting to know a few more friends a lot better.  
Some of the tombstones we found while camping.
            The two days that we did have to go back to work (Wednesday-Thursday) was quite interesting. On Wednesday we had three children show up in the entire school. So the principal called the student’s parents and sent them home. Thursday we didn’t have any children show up to school.  Our two days were spent without students, working on work, and building relationships with one another. The Arabic teachers bought some local food and had asked the LTS if we would like to have some. So we all sat around on the carpet shared some conversations and some food. The next day we decided as LTs to buy some local food to share with the Arabic teachers.  Both days were a hit and helped bring us closer together.
            As for Romo….yet again it did not go through. I tried getting in contact with those who said they would help me out, but never received a response from either one of the woman. There’s a man who has a plan…so I’m just trying to stay positive as to when and if Romo will come out here with me to Abu Dhabi.

            So during the EID break there were a lot of events for the Formula 1 races that were held here on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Down at the Corniche for a full week there were special events and concerts being held. I went down to the Corniche on Wednesday night to see the start of the free concerts. There were acts from Korea singing “K-pop”, which I have just found out moving out here seems to be a big deal. They also had some famous Arabic singers who came out and performed, which I found to be truly amazing. There on the sand you had local teens dancing around and enjoying dancing to music native to their culture.  An image that I cannot forget is seeing the teenage boys dancing around in the sand while hold up their Kandoras similar to how women would have to hold up their dresses in the same situation. The locals and Arabic speakers went crazy for their “Arabic Idols” and were just like any other star stricken human being belting out the songs and feeling free due to the music. Some even held up the Emirates flag and chanted on the beach.  It reminded me of being a Hispanic woman and seeing those who would go crazy for singers like Selena or Juanes. The celebrations with music reminded me of how diverse our world is and how our cultures can bring us together to celebrate and find happiness.
            I fully enjoyed myself and was delighted to be a part of this unique experience. Later Wyclef John performed and did and amazing job of keeping the crowd alive and having a good time. Finally made it home around two in the morning, so I was semi thankful that we didn’t have students show up to work the next day which had already been anticipated by the veteran teachers.
            Thursday evening I went to my usual bible study and when things had finished was offered a free ticket to see Britney Spears at the Formula 1 after the race concert. I was more than ecstatic to accept the ticket. Friday finally arrived and I was off to see Britney in concert. In my opinion she did a wonderful job and put on a great performance. Really I just enjoyed getting to see her in concert and feeling like I was a teenager all over again. When else would I get to say that I saw Britney Spears in concert and in Abu Dhabi? I just had to go and truly enjoy myself at her concert.

New Classroom:
       On the Wednesday returning from our break we also found out that one of us was being transferred to a cycle one school (Grades 1-5). They chose and LT who had about ten years plus in first grade. Then, three of our Arabic teachers were off to new schools as well since they had been chosen as Arabic HOFs (Head of Faculty) for other schools.  This left KG-2 needing a teacher for a classroom now without a teacher.  So, I found out that the coming Sunday I was now going to be a Kindergarten teacher with a classroom full of students to myself.
            This made me nervous and sad at the same time. I was sad to leave my students in the KG-1 classroom because they had already come such a long way with me and we had already built oour relationships together.  Nervous because the students who I was about to have as my new class had not really had a permanent teacher for the year. They had an LT at the beginning of the year who decided to just never show back to work again while their Arabic teacher was off in America on a two month vacation. So then these children were divided into the other remaining four KG-2 classrooms. Then their Arabic teacher came back from visiting the states and was now set to leave them two weeks later to be placed at a new school.
            So the situation has turned out to be quite all right. I do not have an Arabic teacher any longer who sits with me side by side to teacher. This classroom is now “my” classroom where the students are with me the entire day. We do have an Arabic who comes in and teaches them literacy and Islamic studies for about an hour a day. For the most part the students are well behaved and you can definitely tell are craving some routine and a teacher to call their own. We have managed to try and communicate with one another, but I just feel horrible when the students will come and talk to me to tell me something and all I can respond to them with in English is “I’m sorry, I wish I knew what you were saying.” As I stated earlier though, this past week with my new class has gone relatively well and myself and the students are learning/trying to figure out how to communicate with one another. I have met a few of my new parents now, who seemed to be pleased that their child now has a permanent teacher in the classroom.  Some have come in to greet me and ask how their student is doing.  Some come in and greet me in Arabic; in which I greet back with the Arabic greeting, and then being talking up a storm to me in Arabic. I politely try to tell them in Arabic that I speak English not Arabic. This again makes them think that I know Arabic and I try and to explain the best way I can that I only know a few words and phrases in Arabic. It’s not until they see the stumped look on my face that they realize I do not speak their language as a native speaks. I am more of an approaching BICS level speaker. I’m trying hard though to pick up as much Arabic as I can before I leave Abu Dhabi.
            Now we are just busy planning for National Day which is on December 2nd, but the celebrations and preparations have already begun. The Emirates will be forty years old and is a big deal to the people out here. I have to come up with a song for my students to sing at assembly and at a performance for their parents. Obviously I know nothing about their National day, but need to start on my research. Oh yes, and I have been getting students bringing in their flags, decorations that are all red, green, black, and white for the classroom, and pictures of the sheiks. Their countries birthday is a big deal out here like it is in the states as well. Only difference is that in the states we are on our Summer vacation for our Country’s birthday.
Sorry again for the lack of pictures...still without a camera or a way to charge it. May just have to look into buying a new camera while out here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Did I Forget to Mention...?!

October 27, 2011
Getting to Maya Beach
I forgot to mention that I am going to Turkey in one more week. Next Thursday November 3rd will be the start of our Eid break out here for the students.  We are suppose to have until the 8th of November off, but based on the moon we could have an entire nine days off of work. This is of course including the weekends. So we are still waiting to hear word on what the actual time frame may be, but for now we already have our flights and hostel booked for Istanbul, Turkey. Not too sure what to expect, but really ready for anything.  One thing I do know is that it will be significantly colder in Turkey than it is here in Abu Dhabi. Our current weather in Abu Dhabi is 94°F and in Turkey the current weather is 54°F, so I will need to be off to a mall soon to buy some clothes for the trip. I’m hoping to borrow a camera from a friend so I can take pictures and put them on here for everyone to see. It will be my first time to travel to Turkey which makes this even more exciting. Really I have not traveled many places, but Mexico, some states in the U.S. and now Abu Dhabi. Maybe this will be a start to something new. J
Fog on the Road

                Next, I just have to tell you all about fog days. Fog days out here are like snow days. They don’t happen too often, but when they do school is ran in different procedures. The fog out here is so thick that you cannot see what is within two feet ahead of you. So, the busses do not run at normal time and they advise you for the most part to stay home until the fog has cleared and safe to travel. The students usually arrive to school around 7:30a.m. a bus; now arrive around  10:00a.m. Really this procedure has only happened about three times this year (two which were last Wednesday and Thursday), but is so interesting.  You have to think though that for Abu Dhabi, this is their extreme weather. It doesn’t get too cold here for snow to occur (it’s a dry dessert). Which also brings me to the point; I miss seeing clouds high in the sky, especially the cumulus clouds. Yes fog is a cloud low to the ground, but for the most part you will not see a cloudy sky…the sky is 98% cloud free for a great day. Even as I type this and look outside there isn’t a single cloud of any type in sight.
View Sitting at the Beach

                Last weekend I spent it hanging out in Abu Dhabi seeing new sights that I had not yet seen.  A few friends and I went to a “new” beach this weekend. It’s not new to Abu Dhabi, just new to us.  It was a secluded beach a few miles away from the main city of Abu Dhabi. You have to take a small fifteen minute boat ride out to get to this beach. The beach allows loud music to be played during the day and has more of a tourist feel to it. Later on in the day I went to the Abu Dhabi film festival with a friend who is from Ireland. We went out and saw Pina which is a 2011 German 3-D film. It has won many awards and even voted on the New York Times top ten to see. It was an entertaining and inspiring film, definitely not like any other dance movies I’ve seen.

I was covering my friend's jellyfish
 sting on her leg :/
                Not too much has happened this week here in Abu Dhabi or out at work. This weekend I plan on just trying to get ready for my trip to Turkey and possibly go out camping in Fujairah on the mountains.  Seems like there is a lot to do within a short amount of time, but I guess I rather be busy than not experiencing things out here within my two years. Not too much is planned out here for Halloween, except for what the LTs have planned on their own. There will be some children coming around door to door trick-or-treating here in our buildings and some people having get togethers. Really out here you almost forget about the Holiday since there are not decorations and candy sold all over the place. You may see a few decorations or costumes at some stores that just came out here about a week ago. Really though I have only seen signs saying Happy Diwali (a celebration of India and Nepal). There is a store out here called Spinneys that sells quite a bit of American products and had pumpkins for sale. A few of my friends and I wanted to buy one, but found the price of 90 dirhams (24 dollars) to be a little pricey for something that will be thrown away in a few days, since we are trying to save some money for our Trip to Turkey. So the next few weeks will be busy packing, get ready for Turkey, spending time in Turkey, and then coming back to Abu Dhabi to get ready for work again. I will be posting soon to keep you all updated on how everything goes.
 One of the Boats to get to Beach

                The pictures on here are from this past weekend from my friend’s cameras. Since we are all doing the same things you can see some of what’s going on in my life, just through their eyes.
View of Abu Dhabi from Maya Beach

Waiting for the Boat
Riding to the Beach

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back To Some Basics

October 17, 2011
On Board the Boat @ the Corniche
So I spoke too soon the last time I wrote this blog. The next day after I wrote this blog I went to work and had to survive the classroom alone. Now you must be wondering why I am writing about being in the classroom by myself….that is what my job entailed in the U.S. right? Well, two big factors play a difference out here in Abu Dhabi.
                The first (and major) factor is that the children do not speak very much English. They are three and four and have nothing, but Arabic spoken at home. I am not the best in Arabic, really just started learning Arabic two months ago. So our communication in the classroom on Wednesday and Thursday was very simple and somewhat difficult. There is once student in particular who just cried his guts out with just me in the classroom. He kept trying to leave the classroom while I was trying to teach twenty three other students in a language different than their native. So day one he didn’t do too well and the bus monitors took him out of my class. Really I think it just freaks him out that I am not dressed in an abaya , sheila, and don’t speak Arabic. He’s actually one of the students who has picked up English the best. 
The City of Abu Dhabi from the water
                The second component is the fact that there are twenty four of them and only one of me. They are three and four year olds who are very active.  So with students who don’t have discipline in their culture and do not understand my language….it was tough. Thank goodness for the classroom words that I know in Arabic. This definitely helped me when having to get the students to continue with their normal class routines.
Getting ready to board the boat.

Our Friend's Birthday Dinner.
                Recently I have had a nice past few weekends. One weekend was a friend’s birthday who decided that they wanted to go down to the Corniche (popular beach here in AD) and ride a jet boat.  It was a splendid idea and loads of fun. It was nice to be out on the water with some great weather. Here we are still in the upper nineties (degrees Fahrenheit). The start was somewhat shaky, which was worrisome.  After about twenty tries the boat driver (captain…I suppose?) was able to start the boat and get it going. We rode around on the water and at one point we all were able to drive the boat. The scene was beautiful with the city right behind us and the sun setting.  There were also quite a few people out on their boats and jet skis enjoying the day as well. At one point we were allowed to get off the boat on swim on our own private beach. Later we all went out to a girls dinner and hung out the rest of the evening.   We had such an amazing time and it was so serene. It was nice way to rejuvenate myself here in Abu Dhabi.
Driving the Boat!
                This past Thursday I went back to the group Crossroads that I am a part of out here in AD.  I was greeted with such a warm welcome going back and seeing everyone who I hadn’t seen in a week. It was as if everyone hadn’t seen me in quite some time and was excited to have me back. It’s always nice to go have a homemade dinner and some quality time. The next day I continued my Friday mornings as I normally do here. Just because I can’t say too much here on my blog I will say that it’s the same way that I spent my Sunday mornings out in the U.S. Soon after it was time for our Jet Ski adventure, this time near the Fairmont hotel. Another day of sun, fun, and relaxation….this time on a jet ski that I was able to drive around for about an hour with the need for speed. Later on in the day we went out to see Abu Dhabi. As far as seeing everyone out and meeting new people, it’s just so surreal to me. You go out here and here and they play the same type of music that you would here in the U.S. Songs about life, love, and even….America? Yes, songs by Alicia Keys called “New York”. A song by Estelle called “American Boy”, and many other songs that are anthems in the states. Yet, you have people from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and here in the Emirates singing these songs at the top of their lungs. So out of curiosity I asked my friend from New Zealand if these songs are played normally in her hometown. “Yes”, was her reply…. “All the time!” Maybe it’s that I have just lived in my U.S./Texas bubble for too long, but I just thought that they would be singing songs about “Ireland Boys” and big cities in their countries. I should have known though in the first couple weeks of living here when everyone including a cabby was jamming out to Justin Beiber’s “Baby”.   An anthem out here that was new for me is a song by Shakira called Waka Waka. Pretty much everyone from South Africa sang this song from the top of their lungs and danced away. Now this I don’t think I would see the people as enthusiastic in the states.

We're proud to be Texans!
      Now I am back to my work week and back with my Arabic (co-op) teacher in the classroom with the students.  I do have to say that I am amazed with how much these kids have learned in the past six weeks. Every morning my students come in on their own time and greet me with “Good Morning Teacher”….Yes!!!  This is an expectation for them in the KG1 classroom, and the fact that they shake my hand as well. I am so proud of the students. It’s the cutest thing hearing them greet me with their little voices and accents. We still have a lot more to go, but we are taking things slowly and day by day. Hopefully the next time I blog, I will get to share another feat that the students will have overcome.
Girls at the Birthday Dinner.
Our Jet Ski Adventure
                Ah and finally some more good news. I now officially have gas to cook with my stove! After months of not cooking and not knowing when our apartments will be set up with gas pipes, I went ahead and bought a gas tank at the local gas station. Again, it wasn’t just that simple…I had bought it a week ago but had to go from “A” all the way to “Z” to finally get to point “B”. I’m just excited now that fire comes out of the burners on top. Never would I have thought that something that we see as so simple and take for granted could bring me so much joy. I already went out and bought some eggs and bread to make breakfast for the first time. Yes, my plan is to wake up early and cook some eggs with toast….just because I finally can. Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten how to cook since it’s been so long since I last really cooked for myself. In the summer my Mom didn’t want me to cook anything for her, because her “baby” was leaving the country and needed to “relax”. So, I think the last time I cooked for myself was maybe back in early May before I had packed up all my cooking utensils and supplies at my old apartment.
Driving the Jet Ski.... :D
                Now, I should be off to prepare for the next day to come out here in Abu Dhabi. Nothing is ever just “simple” out here and can really become exhausting after a while. Can’t wait to share more with you all soon.

All pictures are courtesy of my friends and their cameras :/

Shakira-Waka Waka

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Catching up and Taking Deep Breaths

October 11, 2011

Time to start blogging again…it’s not that I stopped. I just had to take some time away to take some breathers and take care of some things around here in Abu Dhabi. Life is definitely different out here than what I have been use to living before. I would also have to be honest and say that for a good three week period I was having a tough time and second thoughts on staying out here. Really I didn’t want anyone to know that I was struggling because I feel that I have to be tough for those who see me out here and are amazed that I took this adventure. I have now realized that I am a human being and that there are many others like me out here and in the rest of the world.

Thought it was interesting that the Duracell mascot
is like the Energizer Bunny back home in the U.S.
                So I have been teaching KG-1 (Pre-K) out here for about a month now. Wow, I surely have grown so much in the past month of teaching. It is a different experience out here beyond imaginable. I could have blogged about every single day, but I still don’t think that everyone would fully understand what teaching out here is like. The one thing that you for sure have to remember is that they are literally on the opposite world  of from where I call home. The way the children have been raised and brought up are different than home. Really you can have children raised differently even within the same country, state, city, and school district. You just have to take into account that their cultural views are very different than what I have been brought up with. Doesn’t matter how many videos, sessions, and talks that they prepare you with….it’s something that you just end up having to experience and learn from first hand. It’s the nature of the game I suppose because even as a teacher you get all this schooling in college, but nothing can prepare you for your very first day of teaching.

                First, take the children’s cultural views and how they perceive me. I am obviously someone who is foreign in their world. I am not wearing an abaya and sheila like the women in their culture do and I don’t speak their language.  So the children for the first few weeks would not show me any respect since I do not match their cultures description on a woman.They would go hysterical when left in the classroom with me by myself, either crying or running around the room like animals. Really option number two is what happened more often with the children here. You can’t blame them since I am dressed like their nanny, therefore why else would they treat me any different...? Thankfully I have had an Arabic co-teacher in the classroom that had to tell the students that I am a teacher just like her and that there needs to be respect towards me as well as her. We are still working with all the students to get on board with the idea, but we have made quite a bit of progress since the first day.
A trip to Ikea one day, already very use to seeing arabic
writing everywhere.

                Second take the student’s have been living their way of life all these years and now some woman from the other side of the world wants to change things. Uhh….not going to happen so easy. I have had to realize that what I knew and how I worked in the U.S. is not going to be the same way with the children out here. I have had to learn more of their culture and become even more conscious of how to be respectful with the children as well. I have since been learning Arabic and picking up some of their cues in the classroom to help myself to help teach them. This has made quite a change and now there seems to be a mutual respect between the students and I. Again not all students are on board, but really where there is a single classroom that has a hundred percent of students who are behaved “ideally”?

                Besides the challenges at work I have had plenty of challenges at home as well. I have to say that I am still not completely settled here in Abu Dhabi. I still lack things I need for my apartment. We don’t have gas yet here and they do not know when we will have gas to be able to start cooking. So I took it upon myself to buy a gas tank but, now I need some help with setting it up so I don’t start and explosion.  So not being able to cook has led to not eating healthy as well. The gym just opened up here at our “flats” so I have just started being able to go and workout. I shouldn’t complain because back home I didn’t have a gym…would just us my resources around me. I have become lazy as far as taking care of myself. Really need to get out of it, since it’s a bad habit that has continued for a while now here in Abu Dhabi.

     Oh yes and let’s not forget my recent trip to the dentist…yeah I had to get my first cavity out here in a foreign country. I have to admit that I have had quite a bit of problems with my teeth since moving into my flat. They say that you have to buy a water filter to make sure that you get the extra junk out of the water that they have here in their water. Who knows what is, besides some left over sodium I suppose. The water has made my teeth hurt, my hair fall out and break easily, and my skin extra dry. So needless to say, I’m not looking to nice out here in the desert. I have switched to brushing my teeth with bottle water now. I use anti-hair fall shampoo and extra dry skin lotion.  So yes, many of the problems are not just at work but at home as well. Thank goodness the dentist and I did not have too much of a language barrier and he took very good care of me knowing that it was my first trip to the dentist.
Small things from home that you miss. Searched far and wide for
my favorite candle and finally found them here in AD.

      I also should be known as the Abu Dhabi fairy since I seem to leave my stuff everywhere and I am sure that people have found these nice new electronics. I have to say though that my biggest bum is the cord to my camera. Now I have a camera but no cord to charge it. So I have an amazing camera that does not turn on to take photos. We shall see, currently trying to see if I can find one in a store here in Abu Dhabi. You learn quickly though that out here nothing…I mean nothing is done easily. It’s as if you have to take three left turns and two rights before you can finally go straight. It’s never just a simple process, but over time you learn that it is life in the Emirates and you just deal with it.

                Maybe now that I have gotten some things out I will try and blog more so you can understand what I mean by nothing is every simple. Everyday there is always something complicated that should be simple. Thank goodness for the friendships out here. If anything they seem to be simple. Hanging out with  coworkers/friends at their flats while just watching a movie, playing games, chatting or even just hanging out. It’s a simple thing of life that you for sure do not take for granted while out here in a desert of nothing but complication. Hoping that this blog does not sound negative because it’s not intended to; more just to share what my life has been like in this past month. Talk to me about two weeks ago and I was ready to get out for my mental and physical health, but I was revived recently and so thankful for that.

     Thank you to my fellow teachers who have been there to talk to and share these experiences with. No one really understands what this is until they are out here and put in this situation. I am ever so grateful for our chats and laughs. Hoping that these next two years will be full of memories.

P.S. I know my pictures are random, but it's hard when you don't have a camera that's charged to capture life around me. Hope I can get the USB cord soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Have Passed...and Look at My Life Now....

September 11, 2011
I have to start off with saying that I have wondered all day today how America is spending the ten year anniversary of 9/11. I can remember that day almost as if it was yesterday. Actually, probably better than yesterday. Its days like this that remind me of “home” and makes me miss it more. Oh well I am a big girl and am doing what I have set out to do.
I haven’t blogged in a while due to time constraints and lack of internet. I am not even sure that I will get this blog out by tonight (here in AD). I’m going to have to beg and plead with someone to let me use their internet. So yes, I was officially kicked out of the hotel about a week ago and had to move into my “flat”. Doesn’t sound bad right?! Well, our flats were not really ready to be moved into quite yet. I have to say that they are still not all up to par, but what can you do? So we moved in and for a while I was camping out on the floor in my living room. Really my furniture came in yesterday sometime. So last night was the first night that my place looked like a home and that I didn’t have to rummage through suitcases to find clothes. Now I have everything that I officially need as far as furniture and appliances go. The only thing that lacks is gas to cook with. Most of us have gas cookers but have found out that there is currently no gas in our flats for quite some time. Rumor has it that it could be weeks and even up to months until we get gas. Thank goodness I have some friends who bought convectional ovens that allow us to heat up small food items. For now though cooking a meal is still out the window.
Last Sunday was the official fist work day for teachers and today was the first day of school for the children. It has already been quite a challenge and the language barrier makes things that much more difficult. I have signed at least five papers all written in Arabic that has been written by my principal. I had to find out the hard way that one of them was telling me that I had to attend a meeting right then and there. The Arabic teachers I feel have somewhat opened up with the new Licensed Teachers. The first couple of days there was a complete separation between us. They would sit and gather alone in one room and we would sit and gather alone in another. It wasn’t until we had our meeting that discussed the schedule for the new year, that we came together with each other realizing that we need one another’s help to do our job the right way.

At the Bedaya "New Beginning"

This year they have the Arabic teacher and “LT” working side by side in the classroom. So while she goes over something in Arabic I am there alongside her to reiterate in the English language. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I am actually teaching KG1 this year which are the 3-4 year olds. So really it’s like pre-k in the states. So this is why they have both an Arabic and English speaking teacher in the classroom. They have decided this year to start from the ground up. Really it’s from the roots up to implement this reform in a way that they like. They hope that starting them now will have them a lot farther by the time they reach the upper level grades. So that is why I have an Arabic teacher in the classroom with me. I can’t complain because that means the language barrier is not quite as much as it may be without an Arabic teacher.
New Co-Workers at Bedaya
So my cooperating Arabic teacher is a few years older than me and has four children. She received her bachelor’s from a university here and learned English while at the university. Really she had no choice because all of her classes were taught in English, so either you learned it or you did pass your classes. She seems to be a really great teacher and gets rave reviews from the staff around her. She had a lot of the basic labeling in English/Arabic before I arrived so she really does know her stuff. There are some things that I need to help her set up, such as centers and a few more labeling items. I think its best that I don’t say her name here on my blog out of respect for her and her privacy, so I will call her “Zoon”. The first day that “Zoon” and I met she made me feel very welcomed and privileged to be working with her. She told me that she was looking forward to working together and that she wanted for us to be close like sisters. I thought that this was a very nice thought and made me feel comfortable with her and the classroom. Zoon also stated that I could put up anything that I would like in the classroom to help out with English and to make it my own.
So last week we had meetings with the principal and head of faculty (HoF), grade level meetings, and the bedaya. Bedaya is an Arabic word for beginning, so this bedaya was a kick off to the beginning of our new school year. It was televised and had several media sources inside the convention center along with about three five thousand Arabic and English speaking teachers combined. They discussed the new school model that they want to implement and showed us their statistics from previous years. All in all it was an interesting even and was spoken all in Arabic. They say the “English speaking” teacher to one side of the room so they could pass out headsets to us so we could hear a translator through our headsets. It was an interesting experience sitting in the shoes of a person who needs a translator, trying to keep up with the speaker and translator as well as accounting for the bits and pieces the translator may have missed. After the speakers they served us foods galore from all different parts of the world. It was an International buffet that was extremely tasty and definitely satisfied my hunger.
Fast forward to today and we have the first day of school. It is quite different than what I am use to back home. Usually we spend weeks, even the whole summer planning for the school year and the first day of school. “In’shalla “ we will have kids, “In’shalla” the first day will go well. Everything here in the culture is “In’shalla” and it isn’t any different when it comes to school. “In’shalla” is a phrase that could be compared to hopefully or for the religious people Lord willing. So here they have no concerns or worry about how things will turn out and they do not like to over prepare because “In’shalla” things will happen or get done. So with that in mind a day like today was a crazy first day. There was nothing planned and about fifteen three to four year olds inside a classroom crying for “ma ma”. Again the language barrier was the toughest part I have to say. I had kids yanking my arm and crying and I am only going to assume that they wanted “ma ma”. I was helpless since I couldn’t reciprocate to them that they would be okay with Zoon and I. I couldn’t distract them with a conversation. I could only speak my language and they could only speak there’s. I found myself at some points speaking to them in Spanish. I guess my brain is use to speaking in Spanish if there is a language barrier. Really I think I must have started the tears with at least three of the children. There were in a unknown environment and I am speaking to them in a foreign language. They would look at me with concern and confusion then would begin to cry.
I refuse for that to continue any longer so I went out and bought a program similar to Rosetta Stone called byki Arabic. It was fast and convenient and seems simple to use. The man at the mall selling it to me showed me all the quick and easy selling point. I was sold and plan to begin my fist lesson after I finish writing this blog. I also plan on making some flash cards to carry with me that may help me and the students in my classroom as well. So “In’shala” I will learn some more Arabic and become semi proficient that I can decently communicate with my students and their parents.
Hoping that this blog finds everyone on well terms and that I can get internet very soon to keep you all up to date. So many new and interesting experiences are happening in this new chapter of my life. To my family: I love you all and miss you all. You are in my thoughts and literally in my dreams every night. To my friends/co-workers: Thank you for keeping in touch with me and reading this blog. Really your simple replies and comments help me feel a little less far from home. Thank you to everyone for your love and continued support. You all have been the ones to motivate me and inspire me to stick to the journey when times get difficult.
P.S. Sorry for grammatical errors and continued use of “garbage” words in this blog. It’s been a long day, but I had to post for you all so that way more time wouldn’t pass without filling you all in on things out here in Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AD and KG

Flower Grill at Lebanese Flower
So the past three days have yet again been filled with adventure and have been relatively interesting. On Saturday I decided to take a day to relax and play it easy.  I hadn’t done this since about early July and I figured if I still had a little bit of time left I might as well. The most I did was go out to eat with some co-workers at the Lebanese Flower. It’s a restaurant here in Abu Dhabi that gets rave reviews….and I can see why. The food is amazing and served in large portions as if you will not see food in years. The service is also one of the many amazing things about this place. The owner was ready to greet us and even take our order. He gave us some complimentary hummus as well as the usual “salad” that is set at the table in the beginning.  We all ordered (split) a Flower Grill which has the various types of meats on the platter. Similar to what a botana would be in south Texas. It’s very fulfilling and can easily be split among four people.  This has to be hands down the best food that I have eaten here so far.

Ramadan at Al Wahda Mall
 Sometime last week I had found out that I have been placed here in Abu Dhabi which was a tossup from the beginning. I’m going to say that I’m pretty pleased with my choice and look forward to staying here in the city and seeing what more it has to offer. Sunday night we were asked to be up and in the hotel lobby at about 8:00am so they could shuttle us to see our new apartments. Well…I should really say high rises….yes a high rise.  So Monday morning (8/22/11) we were off. The place is beautiful and amazing. I can’t believe that they are paying for me to stay in a place like this. I will be on the eleventh floor which has an amazing view and a cozy little balcony. The place it a great size for a single person such as myself and will be even better if Romo can soon come and join me.  The high rise also has a roof top pool and a separate gym (workout) area for the men and women, along with Jacuzzis. The floors are all tile and the and trimming in some areas is all pure granite…..!!! They have done nothing but treat us with respect here in Abu Dhabi and they are even going far beyond my expectations. I was thankful for them giving me a place to live, but I never dreamed that it would be like this….Amazing!!!!

Al Wahda Mall Inside (check out the bowling alley)
Shortly after seeing my place on Monday I decided that I needed to start looking for appliances and living furniture for my place. This has been a completely new experience and even feels awkward in a way. One, I have never had to shop around and look at appliances such as refrigerators and stoves. I can’t really say that I am doing things the right way either. I am just trying to find these appliances at a feasible price as well as also make sure that they last two years. Two, just a few months ago I was moving out of my apartment where I once lived that was filled with everything I needed. From couches, beds, tables, and clothes….now I’m back to square one; nothing. It’s a weird feeling to know that I am back to the beginning with my basics in addition to having to find out again what it is that I really need. Truth be told, back in Texas I always had someone who could help me out. If not then they knew someone who knew someone. Now I am halfway across the world and do not have those types of connections out here yet. I have found some deals and some not so great deals. We shall see in time what will happen and how things work out. I just have to stay positive and proactive on finding things for my new place.
 Grand Mosque at Sunset (very far background)
Here we are on Tuesday; we just finished out first day of orientation. It was quite enjoyable and I was very pleased.  Going back to a “work” setting was quite nice and has been much needed.  Things have felt “funny” here knowing that back home everyone is already back to work. I love my vacation time, but I think I may have already had too much. I know one day I may miss this time, but right now I’m craving the work. I also enjoyed the orientation because my interviewer was there. I think I was so happy because the last time I saw him was in Texas. So it was kind of like having a little piece of Texas with me here in the Middle East. We just covered the basics and learned our grade placements. As of right now I am a kindergarten teacher, but things could change. I am excited about this either way. If I get moved to second grade then that will be awesome since I already have that experience, but if I stay kinder then that will also be great so I can try something new.  

  Within the next few days I should be moving into my new place and out of the hotel. I have been in the hotel for almost two weeks now. I love it though because we get free breakfast and many of the hotel workers know who I am, know what I like to order, and call me by my name. The service here is wonderful and will be missed when I have to get out.

 In the video above you will find some pictures of this past week. Things from American food, grocery store items, waiting at the bus stops, and even some of my new high rise. Enjoy and I hope you all like it. Let me know if this works for you all.  :D

A City view of Abu Dhabi