Monthly Archives: August 2009

Picture Time!

nighttime on my street

nighttime on my street

At the request of several friends, I have found a way to add photos to the blog!

My neighborhood here is kinda cool.  It  will be fun to explore once it’s, you know, under 100 degrees outside.  There is a huge parking problem, which makes me glad I don’t have a car; the area is very walkable and there are lots of little shops and restaurants.  There’s also a large mall, Khalidiya Mall, about a 3-minute walk around the corner.
This is certainly not what you might call a “posh” area, although rents are horrifyingly high (I’m told my place would rent for the equivalent of US$4000 a month!)  The streets are pretty dirty and dusty–there usually isn’t trash around though, at least–and you can sort of tell that not much care is taken to maintain the streets and buildings.  What I like about it though is that it’s not all westerners; there are some, like us, and also many other nationalities all packed into these few blocks.
out my bedroom window

out my bedroom window

My apartment itself could be nicer; I mean, it’s all right, but a lot of things don’t seem to work properly, and the floors are ugly linoleum, and none of my school-provided furniture matches.  That said, I have a 7th floor 2-bedroom 2-bath with an elevator and a little balcony, and that’s really pretty darn okay!
The good news, also, is that I haven’t been home all that much because there is so much to do around here!  Mainly I’ve been going shopping and going out to eat/drink at various restaurants and bars, and just overall doing a lot more socializing than I ever did back in Georgia.  The apartment building I’m in is almost entirely AISA teachers, so it feels like a college dorm a lot of times, with plenty of people to hang out with close by, all in one building.  I missed that sense of community, which I never felt at my apartment in Gwinnett.  Of course I am also anxious about whether people are going to like me and whether I will fit in, but that’s pretty typical stuff for me, and I am sure it will all work out.
my very small classroom

my very small classroom

One thing I’m not at all sure about is how I am ever going to teach 20 4th graders in this very, very small classroom I have been given.  It is seriously 1/3 the size of my old classroom at Rock Springs.  Also, I keep asking for a whiteboard (which I don’t have; no chalkboard either) and a teacher’s rolling chair, which everyone else has but is mysteriously absent from my room.  As of yet, I have gotten nowhere with these requests, despite asking many times.  It is rather frustrating, since it’s hard to finalize the arrangement of my furniture when I don’t know where the “front” of the room will be!  However, in the last few days I have made a lot of progress on decorating the room and obtaining supplies, so hopefully, somehow, it will all come together in time for the first day of school on Monday.  I usually wind up feeling very anxious and irritated, which is really not at all the ideal attitude.
the books from the school reading series

the books from the school reading series

Know what’s funny though?  I traveled halfway around the world, I’m in a totally different country and culture, and yet, the books at right are part of the Scott Foresman Reading series.  Yeah that’s right.  We use the SAME reading series–same stories, same lessons, same everything–as we used in Gwinnett County, Georgia.  I suppose it’s nice to have something familiar around, right?
Rather than complain some more I’m going to sign off for now.   I actually really like it here a lot; I’m just having trouble keeping the little things from getting to me.  I’m going to concentrate on trying to be optimistic and positive, and if I do that, maybe better things will start to happen!

I’m here!

I made it!  I am now writing to you from my apartment in Abu Dhabi!

It’s been an interesting few days, as you might imagine, but (knock on wood) no major problems have arisen so far.  The flight was long and boring, and Delta/Northwest has absolutely horrid international service.  Compared to other long-haul flights I’ve taken on Lufthansa, Emirates, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, and Korean Airlines, it was just substandard all around; poor food, service, and entertainment options.  KLM from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi was somewhat better, but not particularly good either.

I went through immigration and customs without issue, even though I don’t have a work visa yet and had to enter on a tourist visa.  The only problem I had in this section of the journey was that one of my big duffel bags was going around the carousel with the zipper open and one of my bras hanging out!  Fortunately nothing seemed to be missing, although those duffel bags were certainly cheap for a reason–I doubt I will be able to use them again after just this one trip.

One of the high school assistant principals was there to pick us up at the airport–me and two other Americans who will teach at AISA, Chandra and Wes, arrived on the same flight from Amsterdam (their blog, if you want to read about it from their perspective, is http://thepikespublished.blogspot.com).  We all walked out together into the oven-like heat; it was around 8pm but probably 95 degrees and very humid.  Then we drove off to the apartments.

I was given an envelope containing, among other things, a key to my apartment and my 2000 Dhs (around $500) settling-in allowance.  They helped me with all my stuff up to the apartment, which is definitely nothing fancy.  I posted photos on Facebook at http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2070959&id=5902305&l=a9a60ac522 so you can see for yourself.  On my bed there was a large bag containing one small towel, a set of sheets, a blanket, some hand soap, and a few snacks and drinks.

I do have a flatmate, Bronwyn, but she was out of town when I arrived.  It’s good though that I have one and that she has been here several years, because except for my room and bathroom everything was already set up, including internet access, which of course was one of the first things I used.  My room and bathroom were filthy (mostly just dust, and lots of it, because they hadn’t been used for some time) but the rest of the place is fine but by no means luxurious.  There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living/dining area, plus a small balcony which has the washing machine (which doesn’t work very well).

Since then I have met Bronwyn (aka Bronny) and she seems great, I think we are going to get along very well.  She is from New Zealand and has been teaching here for 3 years.  Other things I have accomplished in the last couple of days are locating the Khalidiya Mall, which is literally a 2-minute walk from my place and has almost every store you could want; buying a SIM card so that I can make and receive cell phone calls here; purchasing a shower curtain and some pretty, dark red towels which I later realized are going to need several runs through the wash before I can be confident they won’t get red dye all over me after a shower; getting Skype working on my computer and calling home on it (much to my mom’s surprise); and finding a couple of stores that actually seem to carry clothing in my size!  I am pleased about that because it is often difficult to find plus sizes outside the US, and I’m relieved that I will not be stuck with just the clothes I brought for the next year.

School doesn’t start until August 31, and new teachers’ orientation doesn’t begin until Tuesday the 18th.  I’m glad I asked to arrive a few days early, because this way I’ve had a little time to recover from jet lag and get my bearings before plunging into the organized activities.

By the way, they have Diet Coke here, and it’s cheaper than at home at a little over $3 for a dozen roughly 12-ounce cans.  I think Abu Dhabi and I are going to get along just fine!

almost time to go!

So, I never finished my blog entries about the roadtrip, but the short story is I drove through the Northeast mostly on interstates and finally arrived in Framingham after 5000 miles on the road.  Since then I have sold my car; spent a week in California helping my grandma get ready for her move to San Diego and attending my friend Debby’s wedding in Oakland; and have packed and/or acquired hopefully everything I will need for my big trip!

Packing has been a bit of a challenge but I have it down to 2 duffel bags of exactly 50 lbs (the airline limit), a carryon exactly 25 lbs, and my laptop messenger bag. My mom is coming to the airport with me so if I have to take some stuff out to get under any limits or whatever she will be able to take it home with her.  I have my tickets printed out, seats selected (aisles on both flights, and so far no one next to me on either of them, just how I like it!) and have even checked in for the BOS-AMS portion.  Of course, “check-in” doesn’t seem to do any good for international flights when you have to check bags, since you still have to go to the counter when you get there, show your passport and give them your bags, and have them print out your boarding pass for you; so, online check-in is kind of a waste of time!  It will be about 7 hours to Amsterdam, two hours in the Amsterdam airport and then 6.5 or so hours to Abu Dhabi; I should get there 6:45pm local time on Thursday the 13th.  I still don’t have a work visa yet, and my school director assures me this is not a problem and can be straightened out when I arrive.  I sure hope he’s right, because there isn’t much I can do about it at this point!

For those who may be wondering, I wound up packing mainly just clothes, a couple of pairs of shoes (you can’t get clothes there in my size easily, but shoes won’t be a problem), a few teaching books, a set of nice sheets (having been informed that those are expensive in the UAE, plus it’s nice to have my own familiar ones), a few toiletry things I might not be able to get there, some DVD’s, and my laptop.  That’s really it, or at least that’s the major stuff.  I really tried to avoid bringing anything I am fairly certain I’ll be able to get when I arrive there without too much expense.

I got an email from my flatmate; she has actually been there for 3 years and she is from New Zealand.  She seems really nice and hopefully we get along well.  She told me that our place is right behind a large mall called Khalidiya Mall, and from what I can gather about the neighborhood it seems like it will be pretty convenient since it’s right in the center of the downtown area.

Having been so wrapped up in the packing and moving, I have thought little about my actual job, which is kind of silly since it’s what I’ll mainly be doing there!  I suppose since I have already taught before, that doesn’t worry me as much; on the other hand, I’ve never lived in Abu Dhabi before. Guess that’s about to change in the next couple of days!