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

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is This Really My Life?!

I know I haven't posted for a week now, so much has happened too. It has been quite an adventure out here so far with so many wonderful people. I will have to catch you all up sometime very soon...hoping that I can balance those "old" memories with the new ones. For now though I decided to write about the day I had today and hope to start keeping up with this blog daily since *so* much has gone on in a week. Yes, can you believe it? I have been living here in Abu Dhabi already for a week. Here we go for today:
     Today was quite a day to say the least. After only having four hours of sleep and surprisingly still making it to our tradition of 9:00am breakfast I had quite an adventure.  After breakfast we decided to check out our apartments, which are about about twenty minutes from the hotel we are staying at.
 If I have learned anything about living here so far is that the cab drivers take a major advantage of you especially if you do not know the city and its ways around. The city does not have very many street names to help you understand or explain where you are going. Imagine that on top of some of the language barriers. Our first cabby took us about an extra five minutes around the town until we reached our destination. So, seeing as how we are no longer living in a country to speak your peace; we had no choice but to pay him the full price. We finally made it to our apartment building which was pleasant. It was hard to get a good clear perspective of them since they are still under construction. I took a few quick glances, but didn’t hold my breath for too long since I had really wanted to wait to see them until they were finished. There was no harm going though. I just decided not to take pictures of the unfinished project. I take it that is why the council has not set us up with a ride to go see our places. Coming back from the hotel our cabby seemed to be much friendlier and I decided to try and make conversation. I found out that he was from Pakistan and has lived here in the Emirates for three years. He tried moving to America, but it sounds like either paperwork or money was why he didn’t make it in. We talked about a variety of subjects and he thought I was from the UK, Australia, or Germany. I finally told him I was an American and he said “Ahh yes, Obama….Hilary Clinton”. He also knew about New York, Chicago, and California. It was interesting to say the least…..oh and the cab ride was six dollars cheaper coming back (since he wasn’t trying to cheat us out of our money).

On Top of A Sand Dune
  After arriving to our hotel we relaxed for a bit in our own rooms. I saw one of my co workers for a tad to make sure we had things ready to go for our evening adventure. Shortly following, I came back to my room and a few more co-workers came over and had some lunch. Before you knew it….it was time to start heading out for our adventure in the desert.

Our Traditional Iftal Meal
 There was much anticipation as we all met up in the lobby and finally boarded a shuttle that would eventually take us out to our desert safari excursion. The ride was about an hour long and very lively on the way out to the desert. Many people were laughing and conversations were not scarce. Eventually after much anticipation we made it out to the desert and ride a land rover to our specific destination. There you first rode on a camel which was rather amazing. You are so high in the air while riding a camel. I just felt really bad because the camel I rode on did not want to cooperate and you could tell that it did not enjoy being ridden on by so many people. Following our camel ride we were able to sand surf from the top of a very tall sand dune. I only made it down about an eighth of the way before falling. It was truly a thrill despite the fact that I fell so quickly. I really should have gone back up and tried it another time.  Oh well, maybe a different time. Finally, we got to ride in the Land Rovers and go “sand bashing”. This was by far the best part of the excursion for sure!  We must have gone sand bashing for about twenty minutes; with each and every moment an adventure and never a bore.  There were some parts where you thought that for sure the vehicle was going to flip over and it was going to go tumbling down the dunes. I would have to say that “sand bashing” is for sure something to do for the thrill seekers.
Dressing Up Was an Activity on the Excursion

                When all the sand “excursion” was done they had a nice place for us to sit down, mingle, do some activities, and eat. The food was what they considered a traditional Iftar meal (the meal breaking the fast for the evening).  It was quite delicious and the portion was very generous. Actually there has not been a meal here that I have not enjoyed. Once done they shut off all lights and had us sit in the desert with nothing, but the natural light from the stars. The peace and serenity was unbelievable and had me thinking yet again….”Wow! Is this really my life right now?”  I also thought about my how amazing it was that I was sitting underneath the stars about to finish my day while my family and friends back home were still working in the middle of their days. This is truly amazing and still mind boggling to me.  Then once the experience was completed we all loaded back on the shuttles and headed back to our hotel. The ambiance of the shuttle was quite different than on our way out there. This time many were sleeping or much quitter. I’m positive our adventure and the sun was the culprit seeing as how it was only 9:00pm and many of us have still not adjusted to the “time change” in our lives.
   Today was an amazing day and had me excited to have done something that most only get to think to do. I really am still in the “honeymoon” phase of this process and want to take full advantage of it. It really is wonderful to be surrounded by people who are a lot like you and have the same thoughts, wants, and goals. We all for sure were able to cross off something on some kind of “list” we have.

Sand Surfing!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm International Baby

So I finally arrived here in Abu Dhabi around 1:00 am Friday (AD time) 3:00pm (TX time). What a ride it was.  It was quite a plane ride out here. In total I spent 22 hours on a plane and rode three different planes. My first flight was using United Airlines which could have been a real big hassle.  I was nine pounds total over weight with my bags, so they wanted to charge me $400 dollars.  I wasn’t willing to pay that amount so I decided to take stuff out of my bags and leave it with my mother. Fortunately there was a man named Todd at the check-in counter who saw this and gave me some great tips bout placement and what I should switch in and out between my check in/carry -on luggage.  Finally I had everything arranged where I was able to bring everything I had originally packed in my bag.
                On my first flight out from United I was seated with a man named Bernie who shared great conversation with me. We literally talked for the entire three hour flight. He was actually on his way to Belize to go out and teach as well for about fifty days. So we both had traveling abroad to teach in common. Once I reached Washington International Airport I had an hour to find Qatar airlines to check in. Well guess who I ran into at the same airport….Todd. Again he was wonderful; since he travels so much for his job he knew the airport system like the back of his hand. He had me running around the airport in order to check in with Qatar airlines on time.  Glad he did, because I made it to check in with a few minutes to spare. Definitely thankful for Todd and all the things he did for me to be able to have smooth travels.
My Seat and its Goodies on Qatar Airlines
       Qatar airline was definitely a new and different experience. Everything was so nice and we were well taken care of. They had pillows, blankets, ear plugs, toothbrushes, head phones, and so much more set up for us as we boarded on the plane. For dinner I had chicken, mashed potatoes, and buttered vegetables with some water and apple crisp for dessert. Snacks in between ranged from complimentary beverages, chips, crackers, and even some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Later breakfast was served with the choice of an omelet or pancakes. It also included fresh fruit, OJ, yogurt, and a bagel. I have never been so spoiled on a plane before. Anything you wanted or needed, they were there to service you right away.  There was also entertainment on a personalized tv in front of you that offered so much to watch and do. I just chose an American show that I love to watch (How I Met Your Mother).
With My Work Visa and Teacher Badge
 Then we arrived in Doha, Qatar where I ended up meeting up with some of the other teachers who are also a part of the same program that brought us out here to Abu Dhabi. They were all from America and lived in different parts of the states.  I walked around and explored the airport in Qatar since I had an hour to spare. It was definitely interesting and how quite a bit of duty free shops located inside. Luckily they accepted American dollars, so I could buy some water to help my headache. Flying so high and for so long in the air definitely makes you dehydrated; which in turn you suffer from horrible headaches. That’s because I tried to drink water consistently throughout the flights. We eventually took off from Qatar and were off to Abu Dhabi. This was the shortest plane ride of my entire trip. It was only about an hour long. We had some spicy sandwich and water to drink. The next thing you know….we were in Abu Dhabi.

Getting Eye Scan to Leave Airport and Enter Country
   Finally, we had reached our destination (Abu Dhabi). Ahh, it was so nice to have landed to the finally destination after spending a whole day on an airplane. There were people there from our program to meet/greet us with signs. Once we were all gathered they passed out our visas and we were swept off to be let into the country. We took an eye scan and got our passports/visa stamped with an Emirate stamp.  They proceeded to take us to get out luggage and we had our own individual person who carried/push our luggage around. Next we were off to our bus where I met more people a part of the same program. These people were from London and as ecstatic as we were to finally be in Abu Dhabi.  On the shuttle to the hotel we shared teaching stories from different states in the US and around the world. It was very cool to hear everyone’s stories and how things vary/change from place to place. In the end, we have one thing in common: all of us pour our hearts and souls into teaching.
 Licensed Teachers on Shuttle to the Hotel
                Now we are staying at the Intercontinental Hotel here in Abu Dhabi, which is very very nice. They had fresh squeezed juice for us as we entered and our rooms ready to go. So far I am very pleased with my experience and can’t wait to see what more Abu Dhabi has to offer. We have our first orientation on Sunday, so I have one more day to explore the city. Just in case some do not know; we have orientation on Sunday since that is the first day of their work week here in the U.A.E.  Fridays are holy days so many people do not work and Saturday is part of their weekend. We also are currently in Ramadan out here so all food places are closed and do not open until sundown. Majority of stores and places are also closed right now due to it being a Friday and Ramadan. Needless to say…this American can’t wait for sundown, so I can eat.
    Pay Me- Usher Feat. Miguel

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Golden Ticket Has Arrived

So it is now official....I take off to Abu Dhabi on August 10th (this Wednesday). I actually found out this Saturday afternoon, but have been so busy with my "Going Away" events. I have to say that things worked out perfectly as far as how this was my last weekend and we had all of our events done this past weekend.  It started out with my really good friend Lynisa coming into town on Thursday. I was excited the whole day and had so much anticipation for her arrival. She arrived at the airport Thursday evening and we had quite the adventure from the moment I picked her up. When we were waiting for her bags at the carousels we found hers. It was easy to distinguish for the fact that her bag was open and her clothes were all over the carousel going round and round. Cricky!!!We both were laughing so hard that we were in tears and others had to help us grab her clothes. It was just too much for us to handle through all of our tears of laughter. Thank goodness there wasn't anything embarrassing being shown. It was unfortunate for my friend, but we both could laugh about it all weekend. This was pretty much how our weekend went.  It was full of laughter and tears from laughter. We met so many new people and made great memories with our "old" friends as well.
@ the boat party :)
   On Saturday is the day we had the boat party. It really was an amazing time and I am so thankful for everyone who went out and made it fun. The weather was awesome and the company was even better. I really hope that everyone else who made it out enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  It was a great way to spend my Saturday. Being out there on the water with great company really gave me the opportunity to enjoy my time here in America one last time before I leave. There was a time on the boat where I found myself alone thinking about my life and the direction its going in. Looking around,  seeing all the other boats full of people enjoying themselves and seeing the boat I'm in full of people with smiles and spilling with laughter made me thankful for my life. These images will forever be in my head when I think back of my life in America. I'm thankful for the time I had this past weekend; it really was a great way to spend my last weekend in America.
Fun with Friends!
            On the flip side, once everyone was gone...reality hit me in the face. Once my friends started leaving I realized that this would be many of goodbyes with people I love here. The biggest hit yet is Romo. On Sunday my friend Lisa; who will be watching him, was visiting and asking questions about him. Which pleases me, knowing that she wants to take care of him the same way that I do. Going through his things and showing her his needs and wants, had me choked up. That was my first true time that I broke down in tears. After this the day continued full of tears and realization that I am going to either have to live a few months or the next two years without my best friend in life. It may sound silly to those who don't know the bond an owner and a dog have, but I know that Romo knows. He has continued to be clingy and won't let me out of his sight. Friday when my friend Lynisa and I were leaving to go out; Romo ran out and hid underneath the car. I thought if he was out in the heat for a while he would come back if I left him be. Fifteen minutes later he still hadn't. I then tried to entice him with his favorite treats (Pupperoni) even with that he wouldn't budge. I decided I would just reach for him underneath the car and grab him. Romo would see me approach and squeeze himself into another crevice of the car underneath where he couldn't be reached. Finally I had to shimmy my way underneath the car to grab him. Romo didn't want me to leave. Even as I blog about this Romo is by my side with his head laying on my feet. I wish he could talk to me so we could share our feelings and make things better for one another. He's starting to mope around next to me and you can see in his eyes that he knows our last days together for awhile are approaching. I never thought it was easy but, never knew it would be this hard. My Mother has been doing a great job though of trying to keep his mind off things and play with him while I am packing up and running around getting last minute things together.
      So I must say that receiving the plane tickets are bittersweet. I'm glad that I finally know when the new chapter of my life begins, yet sad that I know when this one will be closed for a while. I find myself stretched very thin trying to call everyone, hangout with family and friends, and pack all within the next two and a half days. I don't think I will be sleeping much the next few days and will have to sleep on the plane. I will have plenty of time to do that since I won't arrive in Abu Dhabi until Thursday. I leave Austin at five o'clock and fly to Washington for four hours. Then I have a hour layover in Washington and fly out to Doha. I will be on my flight to Qatar overnight and will arrive there on Thursday. I have a few hours in Qatar and fly off to Abu Dhabi. Finally on Thursday I should arrive to Abu Dhabi around 11:00p.m. Abu Dhabi time (7:00 a.m. Thursday Texas time). I will have quite a flight to look forward to the next couple of days.  Hoping that all goes well (Inshallah!)
       Now it's time to buckle down and pack for the next two years of my life, pretty easy huh?! Wish me luck :) Like My Dog- Billy Currington

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So...When Are You Leaving?

The million dollar question right now....So when are you leaving?
       This past week has found me playing the waiting game. For a few days I had found myself constantly checking who was getting their flight tickets and then immediately rushing to my inbox to see if mine was there. What worried me the most was hearing that some people could have delays on their tickets and work visas due to lack of paperwork and security clearance on behalf of the U.A.E. Me just being myself, I thought the worst and figured some paperwork had been my hold back. Everyday at least two-three people have asked me when I am leaving. My only response is that I don't know and I'm still waiting on my ticket.
      I did get some relief on Tuesday when I got my work visa from the Emirates. It was great knowing that I'm ticket less due to them having to process so many tickets and not because there is some kind of hold up on my behalf. So, today I still wait for a ticket and an itinerary to be sent my way. Some of the other fellow Licensed Teachers (LTs) have landed in Abu Dhabi today from their flights out yesterday. They arrived around 11:00 am our time and 8:00pm Abu Dhabi time. I can feel it getting closer. Just seeing my work visa and confirming that everything was correct on it made me put a pep in my step.
         I pretty much have most things squared away: my car has a place to stay, insurance for my car is taken care of, important documents scanned, extra passport photos, cell phone cancelled without a fee, appropriate clothing bought, communication resources taken care of, and Romo has a place to stay.....for a while....???
        Most people know that Romo got sick very recently and had to receive emergency care. This changed my perspective on how Romo and I would spend the next two years of our lives. Together...or not?! I initially thought that it didn't seem feasible to take my dog with me half way across the world and put him through all that traveling simply because he truly is my best friend and I want him around. After his incident in emergency care my train of thought completely changed. I feel as if Romo needs me as much as I need him. Anyone who's an owner to any type of animal knows the connection you build with them. Romo and I have been a part of each other's life going on four years now. That is really a long time and a lot of commitment to each other. Romo has been there through some of the toughest times of my life; lapping up my tears. He's also been a part of the happiest times as well. The bond I have with him is far beyond explanation. When he's sick I am essentially his "Mom"and take care of him and provide him with the things he needs.
             So, it's not as if Romo is going away to some random family, but he will be staying with one of my friends. As much as others love Romo around me, not many were keen on letting Romo stay with them while I was gone. Which is a point proven to me. The bonds they share with Romo is a different one than what Romo and I have. So if there is ever another emergency situation I don't want someone to doubt what to do. Pay whatever the amount is....I'll find any way to care care of my pup. Plus he's not someone else's responsibility. I decided I wanted a dog not someone else. So for now he will stay with a good friend of mine and her dog Bolt. This makes for a great situation seeing as how Bolt and Romo get along well and they will have another to hang out with during the day while my friend is at work. I've started working on getting Romo set with all of his requirements so when the time come he can be sent out to the U.A.E. as well. The last thing for him will to make sure to try and find a dog friendly accommodation for him to come join me. We shall see what cards I am dealt while I'm out there.
Bobby Bones Show!!! Name That Tune
        Since all other things are taken care of (besides my packing), I have still been taking advantage of getting out and enjoying things here in Austin. Recently I participated with some of my friends in the Name That Tune contest for the Bobby Bones Show. They are a really big morning show here in Austin and are syndicated in other areas of Texas and the country. That's my name drop for them, just because I find myself listening every morning and laughing with these people on the radio.  I also went to this free summer concert here that Austin has called Blues on the Green. I loved sitting on the grass and feeling the fresh air of a Summer night. I've also have just sat many times outdoors and thought about somethings I take for granted hear that I will not have or see much of while out there. One thing is the rain....I know we're in a drought here in Texas, but when it did rain a week ago I had to film it. The sound and smell of rain is so soothing to me. We may have not had much here recently, but living in a desert...there really won't be that much rain.
Blues on The Green <3
    Today one of my really good friends comes into town for my "official" going away celebration. While she's in town I plan on enjoying my time with friends who I won't get to see for at least the next two years in my life. So much can change in two years, so I hope to take advantage of what's in front of me today.
< Sitting outside and watching the rain. May be my last for a while.