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.