Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all...

...and to all a good night!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Book Effect

There is something about a bookstore that quells homesickness, even if it's just for a bit. 

Starbucks' Toffee Nut Latte also helps. 

Thanks, books!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

And where are you guys from?

Over the past two months, one of the most common questions Rob and I have been asked is, "And where are you guys from?" The answer to this question was simple at first, "The US." But then people ask, "Okay. Where in the US?" 

This is where it gets tricky. I say, "Idaho" and Rob says, "Michigan...but we live in Idaho." 

The response is normally, "Oh! Idaho? That's near the Great Lakes, right?" 

I think most people get Idaho and Iowa/Ohio confused, like Idaho is a hybrid of the two. I have started saying, "No, Idaho is in the Pacific Northwest" and when I still get the deer in the headlights look, I resort to saying, "It's near Seattle?" and most of the time, by this time, they nod like, "Oh, yeah...I know where that is."

As we've gotten to know people better, they've been more honest with the fact that they can't place us in the US, based on our accents. I think most UK-ers think that Americans all talk like they are from Kentucky or Louisiana.  Our good friend, Dawn (a Scot) says things like, "Hiiiiiii. I'mmmmm Ameeerrriiiiicaaaaannnn" in a long, drawling, southern accent, and it crack us up.

But it got me to thinking, do Rob and I really speak that differently? I mean, I make fun of the way he says, "Cahllege" instead of "College" and "Mawm" instead of "Mom," but honestly, how different could we really sound?

Turns out, quite differently. You may have seen this NY Times link floating around Facebook: "How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk" so it was perfect timing to test it out.

This is a pictorial representation of my results. Pretty spot on, if you ask me!
Faith's Results

But the "most similar" area on my map is quite large. Granted, I was born outside of Portland, used to live in California, and have spent most of my life in Boise (pretty cool that Boise was one of the three cities that popped up!). But, I thought, okay, it's just one of those tests that gives everyone a very generic result.

So, here was the real test: what would Rob get? His results are below and my mind is officially blown. Look at his "most similar" area - holy moly! Grand Rapids? Toledo? Detroit? Are you kidding me? 

Rob's Results

Best. Test. Ever.

And not to get all teacher-ish, because it's break and my brain is pretty wiped out from the last two months of teaching, but can you imagine being an ELL in a system that has English Medium Teachers from all over the world? Ireland, Scotland, England, US, South Africa, Australia. I make fun of my friend Dawn for saying things like "Mum" and spelling "favourite", can you imagine trying to learn English from a Pacific Northwesterner one year, a Scot the next, and then, oh, I don't know, a Kiwi the next? Makes it a little difficult for me to hold misspelled words against my current students.

Happy Christmas to Us!

We made it. We made it to Christmas Break and it is AWESOME: three weeks of no school, no students, and most importantly no waking up to an alarm clock!

Although we are bummed to be here for Christmas, rather than home with our friends and family, we are trying to make the best of it.

We celebrated the first few days with mini-vacation/road trip to one of the northern Emirates, Ras al Khaimah (RAK).  It's within driving distance of Abu Dhabi City (243 km or about 2 1/2 hours).

Driving through the desert is not what you would call pretty, although we did get to see free-range camels... 


...and I'm pretty sure we found R2D2's original home. 

A last minute Expeida booking landed us at a five-star resort, the Cove Rotana, for dirt cheap and it was fabulous. From a couples beach massage to charging meals to our room (firsts for both of us), it was three days of nothing but lounging by the beach and pool, simply enjoying being together, and NOT being at school.

Since it is "winter" here, there wasn't a ton of traffic by the pool. But for us crazy Americans, 82 degrees is plenty warm for sunbathing. 

 All you can eat buffets, the beach, and very little else equaled the perfect mini-vacation to begin our Christmas vacation.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

National Day

On Monday, the UAE celebrated their 42nd year of being just that: the United Arab Emirates.

Everything from cars to hotels, from bikes to faces were adorned with the country's colors (black, red, green, and white) and also sported the face of the late Sheikh Zayed, Father of the UAE.

It's quite incredible to see how far this small country has come in 42 years and it is a genuine love that its people have exhibited the last few weeks leading up to National Day.

Here are a few quick looks in the UAE's National Day (further proof I need to buy a nice camera, Rob):

Every building in the downtown area had some type of National Day
decorations, including Al Burjeel Hospital.

Window sticker on a BMW - no big deal.

Spirit of the Union - On the side of Mushrif Mall. 

Giant flags were everywhere - two stories high!

The 7 presidents of the 7 Emirates

Happy National Day!

Even the fruit and veggies got involved!

Lights on every light pole

Fireworks at the end of the night - the end to a beautiful day!

More soon,

Monday, December 2, 2013

December Photo Challenge

Thank you, Pinterest, for a December (how is it December already?) Photo Challenge.

Day 1: 8 o'clock

I am so very thankful for a husband who says, "I'll put it (an IKEA dresser that has no-word directions) together for 8 o'clock...on a Sunday night."

Day 2: Peace

Peace is a classroom before students (and other staff members) arrive. 

Day 3: Something You Held

Starbucks and Sanpellegrino helped me hold my tongue while grading (or as all my UK colleagues say, "marking") sixth grade autobiographies. 

Day 3: Black and White

This is one of the scavenger cats in our appartment complex. Poor thing - cat food just got added to my grocery list.

Day 5: Looking Up

Our apartment building is humongous. 

Day 6: From Where I Live

At a school assembly, my sixth grade class performed a traditional dance. They were embarrassed because "Miss, we danced like babies. Not good." Even though they did mess up a couple of times, nothing can take away from the excitement, color, and life that they exhibited. 

Day 7: Stars

You can't see the stars in Abu Dhabi City. It's one of the things that I miss the most about Idaho.

Day 8: Someone You Love

This guy. Nuff said.

Day 9: Out and About

I miss my girlfriends from back home and our "nail dates" - thank goodness, though, for a little bit of out and about pampering.

Day 10: Under

Yas Island Tunnel - One of our favorite spots in Abu Dhabi.

Day 11: Sweet

Chocolates from National Day - delicious!

Day 12: Hat

I actually didn't take this picture. But I miss our little dogs and all their accessories! 

Day 13: Lights

Christmas decorations - Abu Dhabi style.

Day 14: Something Green 

Christmas tree lighting at Yas Marina - hooray for a real, green tree.

Day 15: Outdoors

Are we in a Star Wars film? Seriously, where do we live?

Day 16: Something You Made

For Thanksgiving, I made two pumpkin pies for the first time. Since then, I haven't made a single thing. Unless you count sandwiches for lunch. I'm really good at that...not really, Rob normally makes our lunches. 

Day 17: On the Floor

Yeah...I got nothing. The only thing on my floor is clothes. Because I need to do laundry. 

But it is Christmas break and I don't do laundry over Christmas break, or at least I haven't yet. 

Day 18: Makes You Feel Merry

Day 19: Something Beginning with an "S"

Day 20: Weather

Day 21: Tree

Day 22: Decoration

Some swag from our trip to Dubai. 

Day 23: Joy is (fill in the blank)

Day 24: Tradition

Day 25: Lunchtime

Day 26: Mess

Day 27: How You Relax

Day 28: Cold

Day 29: Hot

Day 30: Something that made me smile this year

Day 31: Self-portrait

So, I didn't get a picture for every day. Maybe completing one of these Photo Challenges will be my New Year's Resolution? Nah, probably not. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rain, rain, stay all day

Today it rained in the desert. Not just a sprinkle, mind you, legitimate, Oregon-style rain. 

Imagine a snow day at home: the excitement, the kids peering out the windows, the feigning of "We should probably let school out early. You know, for safety reasons," the waiting around for the email or call saying "Go home!" It is the same here, except instead of fluffy, white snow, it's normal rain. And the kids were bananas!

We got to go home early from school because of it. 

And the crazy Abu Dhabi drivers? They turn into hazards flashing, window shield peering, blind grandma drivers who go 10 kilometers under the speed limit. Pansies.

Happy (rainy) weekend to us!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Whirlwind of Whirlwinds (and then some)

I use the word "whirlwind" a lot (probably too much) in my posts, but it is the most perfect word to describe our new life in Abu Dhabi. So I'm going to continue to use it. Also, I officially suck at this whole blogging thing. I had about four posts started, but never got around to publishing them before tonight, so sorry for the randomness in the post order.

So much has happened over the last two weeks that it is all pretty much a blur, and I should have been writing every night, to make sure I wouldn't forget anything, but goodness it has been one of the hardest starts to a school year that Rob and I have ever experienced. We are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

There are no words to describe the overhaul that is happening to the educational system in Abu Dhabi. It's not bad, it's just a baby of a country (42 years old on December 2) and the reforms that they are trying to achieve are simply staggering.

That being said, we've been asked to teach like we would back home without the resources and support systems of back home. Couple that with the fact that we didn't get to start the school year with our classes and half the staff speaks a different language, it is like being a new teacher, but in a foreign country, all over again.

Basically, school is hard and, more so for Rob than for me, not very rewarding. But we are trying to stay positive and we are hoping that it is just not very rewarding...yet.

During this "back to school" phase, we also had 4 days to move out of the hotel and into our new apartment. After we were "evicted" from our hotel, we spent the first night on a couch because IKEA couldn't deliver our furniture until the next day.

As of today, we have most of our furniture and appliances, no oven (or as all of our new UK friends say "cooker"), but who needs a cooker, when you can pick up chicken shwarma for 4 Dirhams ($1.00)?

We are slowly getting used to our new life, but it has definitely had it's challenges: everything moves slowly in Abu Dhabi except, of course, the drivers (that is a whole other blog post waiting to be written), so it takes forever to get anything done.

This week we both experienced some homesick-ness, but we are thankful to have each other. There are quite a few teachers who left spouses and kids back home and I don't know how they are surviving.

I'll post pictures of our most recent happenings eventually, but now, I'm going to bed to prepare for our last work day of the week. Our work week is Sunday-Thursday...yet another thing we are slowly adjusting to.

Love and miss you all.

The Last Two Weeks

The last two weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind. With school starting, Rob arriving, apartment and housing being finalized, I'm surprised we are still functioning.

Here's a quick recap of the last few weeks and I promise to write more once things get settled, more specifically once we get settled into our new home.

Teaching in Abu Dhabi is unlike anything back home. There are no procedures, no norms, no real schedules, nothing. One example of this: my school (along with every other building in Abu Dhabi) doesn't have an address. Take just a second and let that one sink in...there are NO addresses for ANYTHING. So how did I find my school on the first day? GPS coordinates (thank goodness for Google Maps).

Now that I've driven (scratch that: ridden) to school a few times, I pretty much have it down. As you can see from my notes, it's not exactly straightforward:

Did I mention that I teach at an all girls school? And, yes, everything is pink. The hallways, my classroom, the students' uniforms, their roller backpacks - yup, it's all pink. I actually am extremely blessed to be teaching in an all girls school. Because we were so delayed in getting here, most of the other female teachers in my group ended up at all boys schools. The boys are much harder to manage and not nearly as cute and nice as my little ones, so I count myself extremely lucky to have landed my spot at Al Lulu's School for Girls.

* * *
Extra Tidbit: Rob had his first day of school today at an all boys school and he doesn't even have the words to describe how wild it was. One example, fistfights happen constantly. So much so that it happens in classrooms, on a daily basis, with no repercussions or consequences for the young men. It will be an interesting year for him to say the least. But more to come on that from his perspective later.
                                                                             * * *

Here are a few other pictures of my new school. I haven't taken any pictures of my (shared) classroom, but when I get time to catch my breath, I'll hopefully get that somewhat organized. I walked into a mess of a classroom, so I'm choosing to avoid/ignore it for now!

The courtyard of Al Lulu
Even with school starting, we've still managed to get in some fun. We've met some wonderful people over here, which has made all this "moving away from home" stuff a bit easier. I'm actually watching this little Scottish guy, Charlie, tonight while his mum and dad shop for apartment furnishings.

Dawn and Ryan are Charlie's parents and they are delightful. Like I said before, it's been so great to have met people who are at a similar life stage and are going through the same things as us.

More to come once we get settled!