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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.


Traci August 16, 2011 at 4:52 PM  

Wow! So fascinating. It's exciting to hear how things are going. Can't wait to hear more.

Cat,  August 16, 2011 at 5:01 PM  

Thanks Rae. I've never followed/subscribed to a blog before, but ill definitely have to follow u. PS...ur such a good writer.

Rae August 16, 2011 at 5:29 PM  

@ Traci, It is fascinating! I'm having so much fun. Glad to have you along for the ride. :)

@ Cat, You're so welcome! And thanks for the compliment.

Karen Strong August 17, 2011 at 10:01 AM  

Wow, I've learned so much from just this one post. I have faith that you will hang in there too.

Look forward to hearing more. :)

Kim August 17, 2011 at 12:28 PM  

A friend and her husband have just returned home after living a couple years in Dubai. Kind of similar, yes? We're getting together soon, and I can't wait to hear all about her experiences.

Rae August 17, 2011 at 1:12 PM  

Kim, Dubai is kinda similiar. It's about an hour away from Abu Dhabi. She'll probably have some awesome experiences to tell you. :)

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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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