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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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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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