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I SURVIVED!

 Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So, the first trimester is over. I'm back in Houston, relaxing and spending time with my family and friends who I've missed SO much!

All in all, I've enjoyed my first trimester as an AD LT (Licensed Teacher). There were challenges - and at one point I did think about moving back to the States - but overall, I'm glad I made the decision to move. I've been on a desert safari, to Dubai (several times), saw both Janet Jackson AND Sade in concert, not to mention I'm in a high rise apartment (rent-free), and making a tax-free salary. And my students are awesome. And I've met some wonderful people (both Westerners & Arabic).

I wonder what will next trimester bring? I know two things definite: I'm going to Morocco (March) & my mother's coming to visit me (April). I can't wait to see what else!

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Update

 Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's up, good people! Or should I say assalamu alikum! Long time, no blog right? I'm sorry. I've been here for almost 3 months. I thought I'd be writing and blogging consistently by now, but clearly not. Honestly, I haven't had much energy to do a lot of things, reading and writing included. Who knew teaching 25 three/four year olds could be so draining! The fact that English is not their 1st language (Arabic is) also makes things...interesting. I have an Arabic co-teacher but  she's pregnant and sometimes in and out.

I'm enjoying this experience, but the challenges we (the LTs...Licensed Teachers) face... Teaching here is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. If you're considering a move overseas to teach, think long and hard before you make your final decision. This emirate (Abu Dhabi) is in the midst of an educational reform, so of course things are gonna be challenging. Some like the reform...some do not. It's been met with enthusiasm as well as resistance. I can only speak from my experience, it's NOT easy. At all. It can be stressful. And draining. And sometimes, it leaves you wondering why in the hell did you do this. 

I have to be honest. Some of my students have very challenging behavior. I mean, what can I expect when they're allowed to do whatever they want at home and have no boundaries. Then add to that the fact that I have KG1 (like preschool), so they've never been in school. Rules and routines are new to them. AND, I don't even speak their language. So yeah, it's been draining. And we're only in school til 12:30. I feel more drained in the four hours here than I've ever had in 7.5 hours of school back home. 

Despite the challenging behavior, I absolutely adore my kids. They're my babies. And they're getting used to me. They see me as their teacher...not some random woman in their class who speaks an alien language. I'm either "Miss Raenice" "Abla Raenice" "Abla" or "Mualima". And I have a few who've grown attached to me. Like literally. They hold on to my dress or leg - or whatever they can grab - for dear life. And boy do they tug on my heartstrings. Just this week, I got a great big hug from one of mine who, at first, didn't want to come to school. And today, one of my boys gave me a flower he made during the celebration we had at school.

Flower from one of my babies
And I can't forget about the things I'm doing here that I haven't been able to afford to do back home. I mean, I was up front, clos and personal at the Janet Jackson concert - which was awesome, by the way. JANET JACKSON! And I'm going to Dubai this weekend. I live in a high-rise apartment for free. I'm not living paycheck to paycheck any more. And in March, I'm going to Morocco. And that's just a few things.

So I'm enjoying myself, challenges and all. I look at any challenge I face and remind myself that God is molding me for something big. I don't know what it is. I can't see it. I don't even know when it's coming. But I know He's preparing me. So I'm taking it all in stride. And my kids make it all worth it. Especially when I see the growth in them when it comes to their English vocabulary.

Do I recommend moving to Abu Dhabi to teach? If you can't handle constant change, not knowing things, a totally different culture, kids with challenging behavior, being far away from family, etc, then my answer is no. This move is not for you. BUT, if you're strong enough to handle these challenges, then my answer is a resounding YES. This can be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have!

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program...

 Wednesday, October 12, 2011

...ONE MORE DAY TIL I SEE JANET JACKSON PERFORM!!!!! PLEASE EXCUSE MY ALL CAPS WRITING, BUT I'M JUST SO DOGGONE EXCITED! That is all. Carry on... :)

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Friday Fragments: Episode #3

 Saturday, October 8, 2011


Friday Fragments is hosted by "Mrs. Fours" at Half Past Kissin Time. Wanna join in on the fun? Check it out here. Basically, you take bits and pieces of your week and list them on your blog. The bits and pieces would each be too small for a regular blog post, but put together, they make Friday Fragments.

Since I missed last Friday, I'm doubling up in this post.

LAST WEEK
  • Sometimes, less really is more. Last weekend, I visited the emirate of Al Gharbia, about 2.5 hours away from Abu Dhabi. We stayed at a beach resort surrounded by beach & mostly desert. There was absolutely nothing to do in Al Gharbia...and that was just what I needed. The beach was...it took my breath away. I stayed in the water for hours. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here ya go!




  • On the way to Al Gharbia, my friend and I traveled on a bus full of men. There were only 4 women. Thank God for priority seating. The women sat up front near the bus driver. Could've been an uncomfortable situation.
  • At some clubs, when they say they have a band, they really mean they have karaoke singers. They're not what we in the States would think a band is, but they are good.
  • When they say one hour here in the UAE, they really mean, two, three, four hours. Time really isn't an issure here. Their favorite saying is "Inshallah" (Allah willing). Their attitude is "It will happen when it happens, Inshallah."
  • Some of the men here are aggressive. Sometimes, not in a good way, but in a creepy, stalkerish kind of way.
  • My Arabic partner was on bed rest for 2 days last week. This meant I was left in a classroom full of 3-4 year olds...alone. Did I mention they don't speak English? Cos they don't. They speak Arabic. Very interesting, I must say. But I survived.
  • Speaking of school, I've learned that I LOVE fog days. When it's foggy here, the bus drivers won't drive. They wait until it lifts, then go pick up the kids. This means, school gets a late start. And we still get to end on time. Yeah, fog days are awesome.
  • Saw a belly dancer perform last week. I thought she was ok, but I've never seen a performance before. Those who have weren't impressed with her. The men liked it tho, so she did her job. Watching her perform DID make me realize I really want to learn how to belly dance. Put that on my list of must do's while in the Middle East.
THIS WEEK
  • Just cos we're a brand new school doesn't mean we won't have our share of difficulties. The ac didn't work in our classrooms this week, which is not good considering the fact that it's like a gazillion degrees here. We also don't have materials or resources nor do we have enough teachers. But we make do with what we have.
  • Our apartment building won't have gas for another year or so. At least that's what we've been told. This sucks cos most of us bought gas stoves. Wish they'd have told us BEFORE we spent the money. Some people are having a hard time returning their stoves. Thankfully, the store I bought mine from is letting me return so I can buy an electric stove. God is good!
  • Getting our UAE ID and drivers license has been...interesting. Thankfully, I'm almost done with the process. Then I'll really be official with my residence visa, ID, and DL.
  • They have so many malls here! Seems like one on every corner. And these malls aren't little either. I'm talking about big elaborate malls. We're even getting a mall built RIGHT NEXT DOOR to our apartment building. Like I can seriously walk to the mall. Now that I think about it, that may not be such a good thing. Easier shopping access...more ways to spend money. Hmmm....
  • Just like any other country, they have an issue with equal rights here. Classism is big. The Filipinos, who are considered the lowest class, are treated the worse. It's sad really, but it happens. Not just in the UAE, but everywhere. The more money you have, the more power you have. Sounds familar? They're really more "westernized" than they'd like to admit.
  • Speaking of power and importance, the license plate tags reflect their statuses. The lower the number you have on your tags, the more power you have. The lowest number I've seen was 10. And the car was a niiiice Bentley. Must be nice.
  • What about those Houston Texans!!!!! 3-1 record so far. I can't watch the football games, but I've been following what's been going on. Keep it up!
  • So sad about Steve Jobs. RIP
  • Last but certainly not least...I'M GOING TO SEE JANET JACKSON PERFORM IN FIVE DAYS!!!!! That's right. She'll be here in Abu Dhabi and I get to be there. In the fan pit. Close to the stage. I. Can't. Wait.
 

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Friday Fragments: Episode #2

 Friday, September 16, 2011


Friday Fragments is hosted by "Mrs. Fours" at Half Past Kissin Time. Wanna join in on the fun? Check it out here. Basically, you take bits and pieces of your week and list them on your blog. The bits and pieces would each be too small for a regular blog post, but put together, they make Friday Fragments.

So, today, I've spent the last 2 hours people watching at the mall around the corner from my apartment. Here's what I've noticed...


  • Letting kids run wild seems to be the norm here. LOTS of parents allowed their kids to run around the mall - especially the food court - freely...no stopping them, no watching them. I guess there's no worries about people snatching your kids. One man let his two boys run around the entire food court while he stood (his back to them) and talked to a friend. The only time he actually paid attention to them was when they somehow got on top of the counter where people order their food.
  • PDA isn't as illegal as we've been told. Before moving here, we were told that even holding hands was a big no-no. I've seen so many people - Emiratis, Expats, Nationals, everyone - holding hands, putting hands on their mates' butt, snuggling, etc. I even saw 2 men holding hands (at another mall).
  • There is a HUGE popluation of Asians here. Most are Filipino. They are treated the worse here by Emiratis (the whole "lower class" status Filipinos have here), but they are some of the nicest people.
  • Despite the fact that showing too much skin or wearing tight clothes is frowned upon, some women still choose to wear it. I've seen women wearing tank tops (complete with bra straps showing) or EXTREMELY tight jeans.
  • I guess the whole "guys in pink" thing isn't taboo here. Saw a guy carrying a pink backpack. And before you ask, there were no kids with him. One day this week, we even saw a man driving a pink SUV.
  • The Emirati men who wear kandoras (seen in the pic below) are very confident of themselves. They walk with this...I don't know, swag? I guess that's the word. I've seen some attractive Emirati men. Never thought I'd find ANY man in an outfit that looks like a dress attractive, but there you go.

That's my Friday Fragments for this week. Have a great weekend!

 

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Friday Fragments: Episode #1

 Friday, September 9, 2011


Friday Fragments is hosted by "Mrs. Fours" at Half Past Kissin Time. Wanna join in on the fun? Check it out here. Basically, you take bits and pieces of your week and list them on your blog. The bits and pieces would each be too small for a regular blog post, but put together, they make Friday Fragments.

So, on to my Friday Fragments...

* Obama is well-liked here in Abu Dhabi. I'd venture to say they love him. Sometimes, when replying that I'm from America, the first thing they'd say is, "Oooh! Obama! He's a good man. I like Obama."

* There are no street names here which makes getting around kinda hard for a newbie. It's all about landmarks. Now, what happens if the landmark is taken down, I have NO idea.

* Driving here is gonna be a challenge. Besides the fact that they have no street names, they have these roundabouts that seem impossible to figure out. And then, some of the people here drive absolutely CRAZY. Really. I've rode in taxis where we had to hold on for dear life. And we've had several close calls.

* They like speed bumps. They're everywhere. Seriously. No exaggeration. I mean, I understand being about safety and all, but EVERYWHERE?

* I have keys for everything in my apartment. Every room has a key. Even my living room and kitchen. So weird. My fridge has a key, my nightstands, dresser, vanity, and wardrobe (like a moveable closet) all have keys.

* The outside of my windows are dirty. I'd clean them, but alas, I can't. Not unless I wanna fall nine stories to my death. Nope. Windows will stay dirty. I wonder if they'll have window cleaners. Hmm...


Well, that's it for my first Friday Fragments.

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Busy Busy Busy - Part Dos

 Thursday, September 1, 2011

Remember that advance I mentioned a few weeks ago? We got it last Saturday. YAY! I must admit, any bank accounts I've had in the past have NEVER looked that good. And this will pretty much be a normal occurance (my account looking good, I mean). They deposited the advance as well as the furniture allowance. Needless to say, it was time to do some shopping. Who knew furniture shopping could be so draining! Going to different stores, pricing the items, trying to bargain with the dealers...more work than I thought it would be. I decided I wasn't going to go to a lot of different stores for shopping. I've gotten my furniture/appliances at 3 stores...each offering something pleasing to me. So I'm happy. This was definitely a lesson in bargaining. I watched one of my friends do her thing, talking the store owners down from the original price. Of course, I made mental notes. Those mental notes came in handy when it came time for me to talk the owner at the final store down. I was able to bargain my way down to 1500 dirhams ($400 USD) cheaper than what he offered. Thanks KaLinda!

I now have what I need as far as furniture and appliances are concerned. I've decided not to furnish my whole apartment right now. Since it's just me, I can take my time. Now, all I need are the little stuff like dishes, bathroom decorations, towels, pots/pans, etc. I went on and bought a real mattress...not just a cheap one. I have never splurged on a mattress before, so this will be my 1st nice one. Everything will be delivered by next week. Then my apartment will be move in ready. Of course, I'll miss this five-star hotel and the awesome treatment, but I'm happy I can move into my apartment.

The schools here are a bit different than in the US. They have KG1 (like US preschool), KG2 (Kindergarten), Cycle 1 (1st - 5th grade), Cycle 2 (6th - 9th), and Cycle 3 (10th - 12th). I found out I will more than likely be teaching KG. Not sure which one, KG1 or KG2, or whether I'll be teaching both. This should be interesting. I am so not a Kinder teacher. And KG 1? Three - Four year olds? They're so little! But wherever God puts me, I'll be ok. I'll adapt. The awesome thing about KG is (1) all KG LTs (Licensed Teachers) are partnered with a KG Arabic teacher and (2) their days are shorter than Cycle 1 - Cycle 3 teachers. Sweet! I pray God blesses me with a partner teacher I'm going to bond with. Someone who will be helpful and awesome. And who will teach me Arabic. I want to be friends with my partner teacher, not just coworkers.

I'm going to tell you the truth. I definitely see God's favor upon me since I've moved here. Don't believe me? Here's my evidence:

  • I was blessed to be on one airlines for the duration of my flight to Abu Dhabi. Many people ended up having to switch airlines at one point, thus having to pay more baggage fees. I didn't. One airline flight and only $50 fee cos one of my bags went over the 50lb limit. Plus, we only had one layover that lasted less than an hour.
  • Besides being absolutely gorgeous, the hotel my group (group 2) was put in has free internet for the teachers. If I'm not mistaken, we're the only group out of the 3 that has free internet access the whole time we're here.
  • I got the keys to my apartment three days after my arrival. There are people who are still waiting to know where they're gonna live.
  • They told us singles were gonna have 1-bedroom apartments. Mine? 2-bedrooms.
  • I found out that not only is my school new, but it's also only about a 10-minute drive from my apartment. There are teachers who will have to make a 30-40 minute drive to work everyday. And they're school may not be a new one.
These are just a few examples. Why has God chosen to shower His favor down on me? I have NO idea. But I praise Him for it. No matter what comes my way during my time in Abu Dhabi, I'm ready for it...good or bad. I have chosen not to complain about anything nor will I worry about the challenges. I'm not here just to be here. I'm here for a purpose. My focus will be on God, who will in turn help me stay on that purposeful journey. I have many lessons to learn...some easy, some hard, but it's all for building my character.

The first day for teachers is this Sunday. We're supposed to get our official school letters and maybe meet our principals. I'm so excited about this school year. I will keep y'all posted!


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Busy Busy Busy - Part Uno

 Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So, it's been almost 2 weeks since my last post. Boy, have I been busy! So busy, in fact, that I'm splitting this post into two.

First things first...the desert safari. Two words: So. Fun. I definitely recommend it when and if you ever come to this side of the world. Before we got started on our adventure, the drivers had to let some of the air out of the tires and the engines had to cool off.


After about 10 minutes, we got back in our vehicles and went dune bashing, which is when you drive up and down the sand dunes. It may not sound like much fun, but you'd have to see the dunes...like tall hills made of sand. Our driver, Yusef, was pretty cool. The ride was like a roller coaster: up, down, big drops, twists and turns. There were even times when it felt like the car was going to flip on its side. And since I was in the very back of the truck, I felt every bump. Here's a video of our experience. It can get quite bumpy.

video

We stopped to take pics of camels. On the ground, we saw what looked like black rocks all over the ground. It took someone (not me, thank God) to step on them to find out that those pebble-like things on the ground were actually camel poop.
Yes, this is camel poop...not rocks.

Three camels sharing a meal of yummylicious sand and poop.
The gorgeous sun set.


We had to take a break cos one of the trucks ended up with a flat tire (guess he let out too much air). Yusef was nice enough to stop and help the other driver out.


About 10 minutes later, we continued dune bashing. I admit, my stomach got a little queasy toward the end, but nothing happened. After dune bashing, we arrived at the area we were to spend the next few hours. There was camel rides, sand surfing, riding on ATV vehicles and, later, a yummy dinner under the stars. And the stars definitely shone that night. Because of Ramadan (Muslim month of fasting), they didn't have belly dancing, which I SO want to learn. Anyway, the desert safari was by far the best part of my move so far.






The rest of the week was filled with orientation and preparing the teachers for school (the vision, what we should expect as new teachers, do's and dont's, etc) They showed us a video of what Abu Dhabi should look and be like by 2030. My mind is blown away by their vision and the fact that God has chosen ME to be a small, yet significant part of it.




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Toto, I don't think we're in Houston anymore!

 Saturday, August 20, 2011

One week down...103 to go.

I am definitely NOT in Houston anymore! It's gonna take some time to get used to how different things are here. Houston and Abu Dhabi may be "twins" and there are similarities (the hot, humid climate and diversity to name a few), but the differences between my hometown and my new home are quite noticeable.

Before I go on, let me make a correction. In my last post, I said an emirate is a city and there were no states. That's wrong. An emirate is actually like a state. So, my new country is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), my new "state" or emirate is Abu Dhabi, and my new city is Abu Dhabi City.

Photo courtesy of www.lonelyplanet.com

So, anyway, here's how my week went:
  • Sunday. We opened our bank accounts first. They already had our cards and everything. We just had to fill out the information. Later on, we had our first orientation. We found out that we'd be getting an advance of 5,000 AED (about $1,360 USD). Of course, I was excited. This will definitely help since I came here with limited funds. We'll also get a 20,000 AED (about $5,400 USD) furniture allowance. Both will be deposited in my account soon. ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) hired teachers to teach and live in three cities in Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi City, Al Ain, and Al Gharbia. After orientation, they put up some of the Abu Dhabi City placements. I was on the list! I got the key to my apartment that night! YAY!
  • Monday. In the morning, we went to have our medical exams. They checked our weight, blood pressure, and skin (for skin diseases I assume). We also had a chest x-ray and blood taken (for diseases check). It went quicker than I thought it would. Very organized. Afterwards, while trying to figure out what to do, my new friend and I came across three people who were going to see their apartments, so we went with them. OMG, I live in a high rise! Like, seriously, I've always wanted to know what it felt like to live in a loft/high rise building and now I'll know. The apartments are brand new. They're not even finished yet, that's how new they are. Gorgeous view, health club (workout room, suana, jacuzzi, steam room, massage area, pool) on the roof, doorman...I'm in heaven!
  • Tuesday. We had to go to the police station to have our pics taken and fingers printed. I was in group 3, which meant we went to the station at 10. At night. Before going, I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant with new friends. I decided to step even further out of my comfort zone and eat shish kabob (grilled lamb cubes). OMG! So. Good. I'm definitely a new lamb fan. The only thing is they cook it medium rare. I just can't get with eating it like that. I only ate the cubes that didn't have red in them. I must say, the pic they took of me at the police station was NOT flattering. He caught me by surprise. I sooooo hope they don't use that pic for anything. It looked like a mug shot...fitting since it was taken at a police station. Anyway, we didn't get back from the police station til about 1:30 am. Very interesting, this trip.
  • Wednesday. We took a shuttle to Marina Mall. Saw some of the awesomeness that is Abu Dhabi City. This is truly a beautiful city, man. I'm thanking God every day for sending me here. We rode down the Corniche and saw the beach. OMG, how BEE-YOO-TI-FUL! Absolutely gorgeous! I've got to go one day. It's so hot, tho. But I may endure the heat just to go to that beach. We also saw the Emirates Palace hotel. Definitely a place I'm going to visit. I'm sure the price to stay there is crazy high, so clearly I won't be staying. The Marina Mall is like the Galleria Mall in Houston, only better. And it has a Carrefour (like Walmart) under it.
  • Thursday. Didn't do much today. Just went back to my apartment to take more pics.
  • Friday. Didn't do much today either. My morning started off rough. I overslept and missed breakfast as well as church (Fridays are their sabbath day). I'm thankful I'm in a place that practices freedom of religion. They have a few Christian churches here. We can't proudly display our Christianity, but we can practice it. This will definitely put the "let your light shine" thing to the test. I pray that God lets His light shine through me the whole time I'm here so that people, even the Muslims, will know there's something different about me. Anyway, I was having a hard time with this growth thing God is putting me through. This whole trip is about my growing in God and Him doing some reconstruction within me. Not an easy thing to endure, but it's necessary. I admit, I cried my eyes out Friday morning. But after talking to my mom, who knew what was going on even when I tried to hide it (awesome, right), and listening to my Jesus music and praying, I was fine. In fact, the day ended waaaay better than it started. My spirit was lifted. I went to a festival at the convention center. This is where vendors set up inside and sell, sell, sell. Kinda like a flew market. If you're a great bargainer (and I'm not), you can get awesome things for cheap. My first item, I didn't bargain. The second thing I wanted, I couldn't get them to change their minds. But afterwards, with the help of my new friend, who was awesome with bargaining, I got a dress and a comfy lounge around dress for way cheaper than regular price. I'm definintely gonna work on my bargaining skills! I also noticed how much they love Spongebob Squarepants. I mean, he was everywhere! Sheesh! We ended the night at a Lebonese restaurant where I ate lamb and chicken. I am absolutely LOVING lamb!
  • Saturday. Today was just a chill day. Didn't do anything special. I'm trying to save the little money I do have cos I'm not sure when we're getting our advances.
So that's it. That's how my week went. Tomorrow, we go on a desert safari. Dune bashing, camel rides, sand boarding, eating an authentic meal, and watching the sun set in an Arabian desert. I SO can't wait! Enjoy my slideshow!


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What's Up So Far

 Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ok, I'm so in love with this beautiful city. I know I'm only in the honeymoon phase of the 5 phases of culture shock (more on this a little later), but still. It's gorgeous! And the view from my hotel room...I know I showed you a pic last post, but this bears repeating...this time in a bigger size.

Anyway, like I said. I LOVE this city, so far. Since it's still relatively new, there's still a lot of construction going on. It's not all the way developed yet. The fact that I get to help in the development  of a new city by educating the kids blows my mind. I may never be recognized or put in history books, but helping a newly developed city is a reward in itself.

Here's what I'm learning so far:
  • The United Arab Emirates is the country, Abu Dhabi is the capital city. I was confused as to what they called these places (cities, states, etc) before I came, but now I know. The UAE is made up of emirates, or cities. There are no states...just cities.
  • Throw out your image of Abu Dhabi, a Middle Eastern city cos it's probably wrong. It's not a desert city filled with men and women in traditional Muslim wear. I mean, the desert is part of it. And there are men and women in traditional wear. But it's not like you'd think. Abu Dhabi is located on an island and has a desert in it, so it's not totally desert. And like I said, there are people wearing traditional gear, but I've seen lots of people wearing regular clothes. Some of the younger emirati women even jazz up their traditional wear. Only about 20% of the people living here are actually born here. The rest are from around the world. It's a very diverse place. Abu Dhabi also isn't as strict as people are saying it is. I've seen people in shorts and tank tops, skinny jeans, muscle shirts, etc (and not just expats - people not born here - but also emiratis - people born here). I've seen several public displays of affection. There was even one man who had his hand on his lady's bottom while walking! Now, don't get me wrong. It is strict, just not as strict as I thought.
  • I discovered a concept I've never heard of before: town twinning. It's when cities are paired with other cities across the globe as a way to foster human and cultural links among nations. You may be wondering why in the world am I telling you this. Well, turns out Houston is a "twin" of Abu Dhabi. That may explain why there's such a huge group of Houston teachers here. What a cool, random fact.
  • What's considered rude/polite in the US is not always thought the same here. For example, in the US, it's rude to cut in front of someone while waiting in line. Here, they do it all the time. While I may think it rude (and I do), it's a normal thing here. Also, in the US, it's polite to smile and say hi when you're passing someone in public. Here, not so much, especially when it comes to the men. If I were to smile and say hi to an emirati man, it could be seen as flirting or sensual. Because of the kind of person I am, it's kind of hard not to smile politely, but I definitely do NOT want them thinking I'm flirting with them, lol. In the US, it's not all that "proper" to eat with your hands. Here, that's how they eat. And eating with the left hand is considered improper here cos the left hand is considered unclean. THAT'S gonna take some getting used to since I'm a lefty.
  • There is a sense of entitlement here that comes along with being wealthy. I think this is a global thing, tho. Wealthy people around the world feel they're entitled to certain treatment and things. It's no different here...except Abu Dhabi is the world's richest city (and the UAE is 5th on the list of world's richest countries). I hear that racism is not a big problem here, but classism is. If you're not part of the elite, you're not considered important. I wonder how this will affect teaching wealthy kids. Will they look down on me? Will their parents? Probably so. Won't let it bother me, tho.
Oh about the phases of culture shock. There are 5:
  • Honeymoon Phase: Occurs first few days or weeks. You are excited, maybe even euphoric and optimistic about your experience. You'll be ready and willing to learn everything about the new culture.
  • Frustration Phase: You experience resentment at the culture you're surrounded by. By this time, you've come across difficulties and challenges that results in frustration. Also, homesickness may hit you big time here.
  • Understanding Phase: You develop an understanding of the culture. You've become more familiar with the culture, people, food, etc. You've even made friends. You handle the stresses and difficulties better.
  • Acclimation Phase: Here, you feel as tho you really belong. You feel less like a foreigner.
  • Reverse Culture Shock: This occurs when you go back to your country/culture after getting used to the foreign culture. You have to get used to your culture after living abroad.

I'm definitely in the honeymoon phase. I'm thinking that frustration phase will hit me once school starts. Some teachers do not make it past the frustration phase, moving back to the US before the 6 month period. I'm determined to get through this. I came knowing I'm going to experience difficulty. I'm cool with that. Those challenges will only make me stronger. Believe me, I speak from experience. I'm not the type to give up anyway. Once I put my mind to something, I work at it with all I've got until I'm done.

So far, that's it. I'm learning something new everyday. Honestly, I'm so feeling a change in me already, and I've only been here for 5 days. Things that would normally bother me in the States aren't bothering me any more. I'm practicing more patience than I've ever had to. Tonight, we go to the police station for fingerprinting and background checks. This may take awhile, but I pray it doesn't. My group is scheduled for 10:00 tonight. My next post will be on what I've been doing thus far.

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MADE IT!

 Saturday, August 13, 2011

Well, I did it. I'm in Abu Dhabi. It hasn't completely sunk in that I'm on the other side of the world for the next 2 years (not counting vacations). The flight was long, but not bad. The movies helped. I was able to watch like 5 movies. I slept, but it was uncomfortable, so I didn't sleep for too long. My neck is hurting cos of how I was sleeping. It was sooo comforting to see all the teachers at the airport. It felt good to know that I wasn't alone in this venture. I look forward to getting to know my new coworkers.

When we got off the plane, we were given our visas and an ADEC teacher lanyard.


Then, we got our eyes scanned, passports stamped, and we were good to go. One of my luggage (the one with my clothes) wasn't there when I went to get it. What a way to start off my adventure, right? But the good thing was that it was put on the later flight. I was able to pick it up at the hotel's front desk this morning.

Speaking of hotel, mine is amazing. The Fairmont Abu Dhabi is where I'm at. ADEC did it up big with the teachers. All groups are staying at 5-star hotels. Cool, huh? If I don't get my apartment assignment early like other people, I will NOT complain. This is awesome.

My hotel room

OMG! This bed is soooo comfortable!

I LOVE this bathroom! It's separated into 3 sections (sink/mirrors; toilet; bathtub/shower)

This is the view from my window! GORGEOUS!
We have our registration/orientation tomorrow. Can't wait. This is gonna be an interesting adventure!

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Two Weeks and Counting

 Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just got my itinerary this morning. I'm leaving on August 11th. As I looked at the email, it hit me: I'm really leaving. I admit, I cried. I'm tearing up now as I post this. I'm seriously going to miss my family. I'm positive August 11th is going to be a bittersweet day - exciting cos I'm moving to one of the richest cities in the world; sad cos I'm leaving my family. What takes the sting off is the fact that during the first year, I may see them (or some of them) every 4-5 months. I'll be back in December during my winter break, I plan to fly my parents out during my spring break (their 35th wedding anniversary is in April, so this'll be my gift), my sister comes in May, then I go home in July for summer vacation. All that's left is seeing my brother, nephews, and my adopted sibs and I'm cool. This helps me, tho. It's just the in between...the fact that they won't be a hope, skip, and a jump away. But there's always Skype, although we'd have to think of a good time since there's a nine-hour time difference.

So anyway, ask me if I'm ready. Go on. Ask me. My answer? Nope. I mean, mentally, yeah, I'm so there. But otherwise, no. I still have stuff to do. I'm getting rid of practically everything I own (except my books...can't part with my books). Sis and I are still trying to find someone to take over our lease. I don't have luggage, which explains why I'm not packed. I have a few things I have to download before I leave to make life easier over there. I have to get more long dresses and sandals. I have to get an international drivers license. I have other things I need to do and only two weeks to do it. But I'm not worried...okay, maybe I started to panic, but I'm good now. Things will work out.

I just remembered I haven't blogged about my new haircut! With the changes I'm making with this trip, I've decided to make a few other changes to kind of symbolize what's going on in my life. Getting rid of almost everything I own reminds me that this is a new beginning for me. Letting go of the old and welcoming the new. I'm hopefully getting my nose pierced this weekend, symbolizing the fact that I've let go of fear and am ready to live life to the fullest (I've always wanted a nose piercing, but have been too scared to get one). My haircut was somewhat the same. I've cut away what's holding me back. The biggest reason I've cut my hair is cos I'm going natural (no chemicals to my hair) and without perms, my hair is CRAZY thick. I didn't want to go to Abu Dhabi, where the temps can get to 108 degrees or higher, with my long, thick hair. It would've been UNBEARABLE. So, I chopped my hair off. I'm hoping to get braids at some point before the year ends. Just easier to maintain. So, here's a pic of my new haircut:


Yep. Chopped it off. Like a good five inches gone bye bye. I do plan to grow my hair out. I just wanted to get used to Abu Dhabi's heat before I did.

I have two weeks left. Am I really ready for this? Why yes. Yes I am!

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And the saga continues...

 Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Contract is here. I'm nervous. What will it say? Better yet, how much will I make? I open the email and print out the contract - which, by the way is in both English and Arabic. That's how much I'll be making a month? SWEET! I mean, I'd more than likely be making the same amount here in the states, but unlike here, I wouldn't have taxes coming out...no medical either. Basically, what I see is what I'll get. Add to that the fact that ADEC pays for housing and utility bills are usually under $100 and I've got a pretty fat check every month. Niiice!

Gotta view a webinar tomorrow before signing cos they'll explain the contract in more detail.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Webinar over, now I'm ready. Or am I? I hesitate. This move is becoming more and more real. I'd be leaving my family. I'd be LEAVING MY FAMILY! Oh gosh! I don't think I can do it. My family is my rock. I've never, in my almost 35 years, been this far from them. Part of me wants to cling to them and scream, "No! I don't wanna go!" Yet, another part wants to let go so I can fly.

I don't have to sign the contract. I can tell ADEC thanks, but no thanks, then walk away. With Daddy's mild stroke a few weeks ago, maybe I should. It would hurt my heart dearly if I went overseas and God forbid, something were to happen to him. But even now as I think that another thought crosses my mind: my dad would not be happy if I passed up this opportunity. I mean he'd rather me be here in the states - in Houston - but he'd want me to follow my heart...and God.

So, what does my heart - more importantly, God - say?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Both God and my heart say go, so I'm going. I've signed and emailed my contract, so it's official. I'm feeling about a bazillion emotions, but surprisingly, fear isn't one of them. I say "surprisingly" cos I've let fear keep me from doing so many things in the past. Honestly, I let it hold me captive cos it was safe. If I didn't venture out I wouldn't get hurt. But I'm tired of allowing fear to control me. Makes for a boring life. Don't get me wrong, life has been pretty good to me, besides some bumps here or there. It's just been...blah.

Earlier this year, I asked God for an adventure in Him...an adventure that'll bring me closer to Him. And I think it's safe to say moving to Abu Dhabi will definitely be an adventure.

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How It All Began, Part 2

 Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I abhor interviews. I get so nervous sometimes that my mind goes blank. Ugh! I know I haven't been taking this seriously, but it hits me: I really want this job. By the time I arrive at the hotel, I'm good. I've talked to God and He's calmed my fears.

There are four other interviewees, one of which is interviewing with Ash, the recruiter. After Ash is finished, he comes over to talk to us before the next round of interviews. He tells us about the city of Abu Dhabi (used to be desert before discovering oil), the residents (only 20% of the residents were actually born in Abu Dhabi; the rest are from around the world), and the education reform (ADEC wants students to be able to compete globally, hence their hiring English-speaking teachers). He also discusses the challenges we'd face and lets us know that the average citizen is worth $17 million. $17 MILLION! Every natural-born citizen have benefited from the oil discovery. I wonder how much is the average US citizen worth...

My turn to interview. The butterflies are having a field day in my tummy, but I'm good. I speak with confidence, ask questions...I'm thinking I did well. Nothing left to do but wait...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

OMG! I did it! I'm moving on to the final step...the interview with ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council). Mama's already talking like I got the job. My family's already making plans to visit. This is crazy! This is madness! This is...AWESOME!

Friday, May 6, 2011

I have a week to go before my interview. Gotta get papers together. A thought crosses my mind: Even if I don't get this job, I'll be happy. I've experienced growth in this short amount of time. The old Rae would NEVER have even applied for a job out of city, let alone out of this country. But, here I am, getting ready for my final interview to work in a place on the other side of the world. Thank God for growth!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Interview day. It's dreary and rainy outside, but I refuse to let that deter me. I'm gonna ace this interview. Since I left my umbrella at home by accident, I'm all wet when I get to the room (they're interviewing at the Embassy Suites...niiiice), but I remain upbeat. It's my turn to interview. *breathe* I meet Fiona, from Down Under. She's so cool and friendly. It almost doesn't feel like an interview...just like I'm talking to a friend. She tells me I remind her so much of her friend who lives in Abu Dhabi (this is a good thing, perhaps?). I don't miss the fact that she says I'll have to meet her friend when, not if, I move to Abu Dhabi. Although I don't get an offer right there, I have a good feeling about this. This job is so mine!

Tuesday, May 16, 2011

I haven't heard a thing! They said in 2-3 days. Why haven't I heard a thing?!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I GOT THE JOB!

I listen to the voice mail Ash left saying the contracts are being held up, but I will be offered a position to teach in the UAE. I've listened to this voicemail over and over and over again. This moment is bittersweet. I'm leaving my family, my comfort zone, all that I know and love to venture to the other side of the world. I'm so gonna miss my fam. At the beginning of this year, God told me that 2011 is gonna be about change for me. This is definitely the biggest change I've had in my life so far. But I'm ready for it. God's about to do some major stuff in my life and I'm so excited. This is my moment. Bring it on!

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How It All Began, Part 1

 Monday, July 4, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I receive an email stating that the local news did a piece on the recruiting agency, Teach Away Inc, who's recruiting 1,000 teachers to teach in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It's for an education initiative they've been conducting for the past two years. My first thought is, "Abu Dhabi? Where in the world is that?" My second thought is, "Nah. This job's definitely not for me. It's too far away from home."

For the next hour or so, there's this annoying voice in my head that won't leave me alone. "Go for it," it keeps saying. I try to ignore it. I mean, come on. It's not even in this country! But the voice is so darn persistent. I settle for looking up Abu Dhabi. Oh my! The beaches are gorgeous!


Nevertheless, it's not in Houston, so I won't be applying. "Do it," the voice tells me. So, to shut the voice up, I apply. No harm, right? They'll probably end up saying no thanks anyway...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh. My. Gosh! Just got an email back from Teach Away. Should I open it? What does it say? Doesn't matter cos I'm not moving to Abu Dhabi. I won't.  Curiosity gets the best of me, so I open it.

"...we would like to consider your application..."

EEP! I'm moving on to stage 2 - fill out the full application. Wait a minute! What am I thinking. This isn't exciting. This is not even important. I. Am. Not. Going. To Abu Dhabi. "Do it!" There goes that pesky voice again. Knowing it won't leave me alone, I fill out the full app. This time, I'm sure they'll say no...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another email. What's this one gonna say? I open it.

"...Teach Away would like to invite you to the initial interview..."

Seriously? I can't believe it! Ok, breathe. I have two choices: Don't confirm my attendance for this interview and pretend none of this ever happened or confirm my attendance and see what happens. This time, I don't even need the voice to tell me. I confirm. Surely I won't get any further than this...

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About This Blog

This blog is all about my adventures while living in Abu Dhabi. Come along with me for what will be an awesome experience. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

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