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Friday, September 12, 2014

Abu Dhabi is Different

1. You can have any type of food delivered. Seriously, I saw a delivery guy from McDonald's in our elevator yesterday.
2. "Helping a friend move" means you help him carry a couch from the apartment across the street, to his own apartment. This involves a 36 floor elevator down, a walk across the street in 113 degree heat, an elevator ride up to the 15th floor, and then maneuvering/shoving the couch through a too small of apartment door.
3. There are no driving rules EXCEPT don't speed in front of the speed cameras and don't run red lights. Anything else goes.
4. Lining or queuing (as our UK friends will say) isn't much of a thing here. People cut in front of you. And that brings us to number 5.
5. You have to be (almost) rude to get anything done, anywhere. Like I said it number 4, people will cut in front of you, they will interrupt your conversations with sales clerks, bank tellers, etc. You have to demand attention from people if you want any attention in a timely manner. It has been one of the hardest things to get used to here.
6. Nothing is quick. Not traffic. Not figuring out online banking. Not getting a repair man to come fix your washer. Not figuring out what school you will be working at. Nothing.
7. I take one part of number 6 back. Traffic is still not quick, however, drivers on the freeway, while they are passing your on the shoulder going 75 mph, they are quite quick. Scary quick.
8. Abu Dhabi is the desert. And the humidity is unbearable. Dry and humid at the same time.
9. The holidays feel weird. Labor Day? Hot. Halloween? Hot. Thanksgiving? Hot. Christmas? Warm to hot. New Years? Warm to hot. Valentine's? Hot. You get the point.

To be continued.

Update - 9/12/2014

This week went by fast. Like, crazy fast. Crazy, exhausting fast.

As most of you know, we work Sunday-Thursday over here and by the time our Thursday, therefore our work week, is over, people back home are just starting their Wednesday mornings. So, it kinda feels like we are getting done a day early! But then we go back to work on Sundays and, even after a year, it feels like our weekends come to an early and abrupt end. 

School hasn't been nearly as stressful this year, for either of us. Other teachers will more than understand this, but, for everyone else out there, being in school, in your classroom, from day 1, makes all the difference in the world when it comes to establishing procedures and rapport with your students.

I'm feeling very blessed at my new school. I'm enjoying teaching grade seven  WAY, WAY, WAY more than grade 6. I'm lucky to be in a new school and enjoy the perks that come with a brand new building: new computers and projectors, a copy machine that works, AND a printer in my room (for all my teacher friends out there - you know how awesome this is!).  I'm working with some awesome EMTs (western teachers) and some fabulous Arabic and Emirate staff. It is just a much better fit than last year for me. And for that, I am truly thankful!

Rob is still at the same school as last year and started the year teaching grade six. On Thursday, however, he got his schedule changed and is now teaching grade seven (for now). There are pros and cons to this. He does know most of the kids and his class load will be slightly lighter by teaching grade seven. On the flip side, he was excited to get a new batch of kids and teach the same grade level so his planning would be the same as last year. He was not super excited about the schedule change, but he is a team player and him moving up with his kids ended up being the best thing for the school and his department, so he did it. Isn't he just the best?

As far as our weekends go, we've been hermits. It's so freaking hot here. We spend most of the time indoors. With a heat index of 109-115 and no relief from the heat at night, our air conditioned lives are pretty boring. But, sometimes boring is good. Sometimes, boring is necessary. And after our fabulously busy summer, whew...it's kinda nice to be boring. 

-F


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Debt Reduction and Staying Positive

We have officially paid off one of our student loans. We have three more to go and the end is in sight!

Even though it was difficult to leave family and friends and come back to Abu Dhabi, we had friends waiting for us here AND we are achieving our financial goals.

It is a good reminder as to why we are here and when people back home ask, "Why? Why would you put yourselves through one more year of being away?" we can't convey how enjoyable, how relieving, it is to be making progress on our debt reduction goals.

It is a good feeling. And it keeps us staying positive while surviving the desert!

-F

Friday, August 29, 2014

School Update - Yay and Boo

Rob is still teaching at the same school. I got a transfer (yay!) on the last day (boo!) of our teacher work week to a middle school (yay!).

So my classroom isn't really ready to go (boo!). I don't quite have a handle on my new school (boo!), BUT I'm teaching grade 7 (yay!) English (yay!) at a middle school for girls (yay!) to girls AND I'll be working for an American principal (yay!).

More updates to come!

-F

Our (Last) First Week Back

We had a rough start to our (last) first week back in Abu Dhabi.

With the combination of a delayed and prolonged travel itinerary, we arrived back in Abu Dhabi on the morning that we were supposed to go back to work. This is what it took to get us back to the good ol' Dhabs:

Original 26 hour travel itinerary: Detroit > Chicago > Dublin > Abu Dhabi. And yes, 26 hours to get from the US to AD is phenomenal!

On our first day of travel, we were delayed leaving Detroit because Chicago shut down for weather. By the time our Detroit > Chicago flight was cleared to leave, our Chicago > Dublin flight had already left Chicago.

So we went back to Rob's parents' house for an extra night (yay!), to leave the following day. This time: Flint (closer to Perry then Detroit) > Chicago > Dublin > Abu Dhabi.

We arrived in Chicago with no issues, boarded our Chicago > Dublin flight, but then sat on the plane for an extra hour and half because of "mechanical issues." So we missed our Dublin > Abu Dhabi flight (by about 20 minutes).

Grrrrrrrrrrr.

While in Dublin, the airline was nice enough to get us a hotel room for the day, so we had somewhere to go while we waited 12 hours for the next departing flight. We were able to take a nap, take a shower, and then take in the sights: dinner and a Guinness at a local pub.





And can you tell us what's wrong with these pictures?



Pretty crazy for drivers and cars to be on the opposite side of the road than what you are used to - especially when your brain is fuzzy with jet lag.

Even though we were exhausted, there are worse places to have a long layover and it was fabulous to have a place to drop our luggage and our weary heads for a few hours.

We did end up getting to AD eventually. We took a cab straight from the airport to our schools, checked in with our principals (who were very understanding) and headed back to our apartment to begin the recovery process. We unpacked, went grocery shopping for five items, (bread, turkey, cheese, cereal, and milk), and went to bed at 1:30pm to take a nap. We woke up for work at 6:00am.

True, we are still a bit jet-lagged and the week back to work was stressful to say the least, but our (last) first week in Abu Dhabi is over. It's our (last) first weekend and we haven't left the apartment and, actually, if I'm being totally honest, we haven't actually left the couch for anything more than the bathroom or food.

-F


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to the desert

We forgot how hot it is here.

It is a slap in the face "Welcome back!" to have to sweat profusely every moment that you are out of doors - a sweaty slap, but a slap just the same.

We are settling back into our normal, school year routine. Still a bit jet-lagged, but we are slowly getting over it (Rob's asleep on the couch while I type this and he's been sleeping since 7pm).

Kids are supposed to show up to school on Sunday and Rob is still at the same school, planning on teaching grade math. We shall see what changes between now and Sunday. I'm still at the same school I was last year, but will not be teaching grade six English as it will no longer be housed at that school. I'm waiting on hearing back about a transfer to a middle school where I will hopefully get to teach grade 7 English.

Other than that, life resumes it relatively slow pace of a school year. After a full and hectic, but marvelous summer of family and friends, I have to admit it is nice to sit on the couch and watch tv in our own apartment. 

Even if that apartment is in Abu Dhabi. 

-F

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

The World Cup, Abu Dhabi-style

Soccer...er, excuse me, futbol...is not one of our household's favorite sports. Sure, we have been to games where we know the high school girls that are playing. Sure, we like supporting our coaching friends (shout out to Jamie and Leah), but overall, give us basketball or actual football over soccer any day of the week.

Now, because we are educated sports fans, with a semi-decent overall intellect, we know and recognize that the rest of the world LOVES soccer. And, as we all know, are quite passionate about their teams, especially when it is World Cup time. But, there is a difference between knowing and experiencing it and goodness, it has been awesome to experience it.

When you put a bunch of soccer-loving, western ex-pats in a country where it is way too hot to go during the day and all the World Cup games are being played at night, you get an excellent chance to have a good time cheering for your home country's team. Almost every hotel has carved out a little extra space for World Cup game viewing. And by extra space, I mean, extra space via HUGE, air conditioned tents, with multiple screens for your viewing pleasure. And when I say that they have added extra seating, it is extra seating in the way of couches, bean bag chairs, and beach loungers.






And unlike the colors in my photos - IT IS AWESOME!

-F

PS
And really, soccer fans? I'm supposed to get excited about a tie? Or even worse, a loss? I just don't get it. Sorry.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Catch Up - Working, Living, and Blogging

I told you from the start that I am a terrible blogger. I forget to post for weeks (okay, okay...months) at a time. Life just got really busy (in a good way) the last two months and I haven't really made time for blogging.

So, here is a quick update:

Our first school year with students is officially over. WE MADE IT! And now, we have two more weeks without students to complete end of the year teacher duties. We never thought we would say this, but we almost prefer it when kids are at school - the days are going by a lot slower now that we just have teacher meetings and end of year cleanup tasks. DON'T GET ME WRONG: it is easy and painless at school these days, but the hours tick by slowly. I think that may also have something to do with the fact that we are on a two week countdown and CAN'T wait to get home!


Even though these last few weeks are crawling by, the last two months have flown. With the school year ending, our work weeks vanished five days at a time. And between World Cup games and water parks, chilling by the pool and hanging out with new friends, our weekends disappeared even more quickly than our weeks.

Here's to the next two weeks (fingers crossed) flying by! 

-F



Friday, May 9, 2014

What We Like the Most

As we are rolling into the last part of our school year, we are reflecting on the positives from our first year in Abu Dhabi:

Here they are in no particular order (with the exception of the first one):
1. We have each other.
2. We are making money. More than we ever thought possible as teachers.
3. We have two, resort-style pools in our apartment complex.
4. We are living on the 13th floor of a huge apartment complex. Again, as teachers in Idaho, we never would've experienced high-rise living. And it's fun not having to mow the lawn. 
5. We walk across the street to the grocery store.
6. I walk across the street to get my nails and hair done.
7. We've been able to see a part of the world that, if truth be told, we could barely comprehend existed.
8. We've met some nice people from all over the world AND we can now place someone in their home country by their accent. We also have open invitations to visit Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, England, Ireland, and Canada.
9. We traveled to Italy, Germany, and France over spring break and didn't have to put it on a credit card. AWESOME!
10. The winter here is BEAUTIFUL: 70* and sunny. Every. Single. Day. 
Granted: we miss the snow and boots/sweater weather, but we are enjoying the sun while we can! 
11. Debt elimination. There is no greater feeling than paying off debt.


To be continued.

-F&R

What We Miss the Most

Besides our families and friends and little dogs, of course!

In no particular order (except for the first one):
1. Taco Bell
2. Moxie Java
3. Being able to wear shorts and tank-tops in public (Faith)
4. Cheap golf
5. Being able to go for a run outside
6. Cool summer nights
7. Unloading groceries in the garage, straight from the car into the kitchen
8. Live sports
9. Cold tap water
10. A regular sized kitchen fridge and freezer
11. Our cars
12. An oven that isn't in Celsius. 
13. A weekend that is Saturday and Sunday.


To be continued.

-F & R

Roll With It

It's no secret that Rob and I have been a bit homesick since moving, across the world, to a GCC country (where I have to go into a back room to purchase things like bacon, ham, and pepperoni - not illegal, by the way, just a secret-ish back room where you have to press a button to gain access through the frosted glass doors. Actually, it kinda makes grocery shopping feel like a spy movie).

Lately, I've been trying to curb some of the homesickness by trying out good old fashioned recipes: mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade biscuits and gravy, really anything with gravy. On that note, do you have any good gravy recipes? I'd love to try them!

And I've come to this realization: my kitchen furnishings are greatly lacking. I haven't bought a cookie sheet yet, so everything gets baked in a 9x9 baking pan or a muffin tin. And I'm missing things like my cute red blender and mini-food processor from back home. You don't realize how much more time-consuming it is to make the breading for pretzel and honey mustard chicken fingers when you have to mash the the pretzels by hand!

So, I'm making this promise to myself, even though we aren't here for the long-term: I'm going to more fully furnish my kitchen. Especially since I refuse to buy wall art or decorations, I'm going to go crazy and buy a mini-food processor, a baking sheet, and maybe even a rolling pin (gasp!).



-F

PS
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Apartment Living

A confession: I'm really good at starting blog posts and then never, EVER, finishing them.

This is one of those posts.

We've been in our 13th floor apartment since about the second week of November...and it is now officially May (side note: woot, woot!).

So it takes me six months to post about where we live. Sorry, I'm not that sorry. But, better late than never, right?

* * * * * * * * * *

We live on the 13th floor of a relatively new apartment building, Gate Towers.

We live in Tower #1, the one of the far left.
Gate Towers is located on the artificial or man-made Reem Island.


The whole island is under construction we never know what road we'll have to take to get to work or what detour we will have to wind through to get home. But, it's new, nice, and a lot of teachers live on Reem so it feels a bit more like home.

We've never lived in a sky scraper before, so there are some things that definitely take some getting used to. For instance, we've had to add "wait time" for the elevator to our morning commute (anywhere from 3-6 precious AM minutes). And our view would be much nicer if our windows would open and I could clean the outside.


But, who can complain about tennis courts and two pools? I mean, really, we got pretty lucky.

The inside of our apartment is pretty sterile and cold - all tile flooring and concrete walls. But again, because we are a married couple, we got a bigger apartment than the single teachers (theirs are quite a bit smaller).

Now for the tour.

Our first stop, the living room. Brought to you by IKEA.

Two people can sleep very comfortably on our couch -
that's a HINT, HINT for traveling friends.
Next stop, the bedroom (also brought to you by IKEA).


Side-note: we splurged on a king size bed and we are never going back. EVER.

This next view is still in the bedroom and yes, that is our dryer in the upper, right-hand corner. You would think that having the dryer in the bedroom would make it easier for us to get clothes put away. It doesn't. 


I had to buy a vanity table because, as you can see in the next picture, our bathroom literally has no counter space and no wall sockets to plug in a hair dryer, straightener, or curling iron. But, as one of my UK friends pointed out when I was complaining about it, "Well...we in the UK always thought water and electricity didn't mix." I guess they have a point.



Walk-in shower that had to be redone AFTER we
moved in because the water ran towards the door, not
the drain. 

Don't mind the suits - and yes,
we added the tension rod.
Sorry about not putting down the lid!

As far as toilets are concerned, there are two things that are hard to get used to:
1. The toilet seats are plastic and there is only a little bit of water in the bowl, so it feels like you are using an RV toilet.
2. There is a hand-held bidet next to EVERY toilet: in our apartment, in the mall, at school, EVERYWHERE.

So, that's enough about toilets.

Look at our cute dining room table and chairs!


Again, brought to you by IKEA and, as long as I'm being honest, the seat covers will probably get stuffed in my suitcase and come back to the ol' USA when we come home for good.

The last picture is of our very, small kitchen. And yes, there are dishes in the sink. Almost daily, Rob comments about how stupid it is to have a one-sided sink and I have to agree with him. It's obnoxious and stupid. Which is why we bought a dishwasher...and yet there are still dishes in the sink...


And that's basically it. 

I think one of the reasons that I waited so long to post pictures is because part of me wants to make our apartment feel and look more like a home, like it's actually being lived in by humans. But we aren't here for the long-term and it feels silly to spend money on pictures or other wall-hangings that we will just end of selling when we leave. 

We have some pretty huge financial goals to achieve while we are here in Abu Dhabi, so coming home to bare walls is a sacrifice that we are very willing to make.

Besides, as cheesy as it is:


So for now, our 13th bare-bones apartment is our castle for now!
-F












Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Books, books, and (hopefully) more books

One of my goals this year is to read more.

In order to help me reach this very specific goal of "more," I'm going to keep a list of all the books that I've finished recently, along with a quick comment stating "Yay!" or "Eh!"

Do you have any suggestions for me?

-F

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty - LOVED IT!
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - So sweet. So innocent. Great YA read!
Paper Town by John Green - Not one of my favorites, but I love John Green.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple - Hilarious. A bit crass and a bit long towards the end, but laugh out loud funny!
Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - They are no P&P or S&S, but I can't believe I hadn't read them.
Looking for Alaska by John Green - Much better than Paper Town; I think I'd like to teach it to high school kids - but parents would probably freak out.





Monday, April 28, 2014

Appendix No More

I had my appendix removed, Abu Dhabi-style, on Thursday. 

And while I wish this was a result of the surgery...

...the only true result I'm feeling is less pain where my appendix used to be. But, I'm at home, slowly recovering (who knew three little holes through your abdomen could raise such a painful ruckus?) and enjoying my week off from school.

The Full Story:
After three days of lower right stomach pain, I finally went to the ER at 7pm on Tuesday night. After an ultra-sound, two CT scans, and three different doctors' consultations, they decided that yes, my appendix was inflamed, but no, they wouldn't admit me to the hospital because I hadn't vomited and didn't have a fever.  Finally at 5am, they sent me home, with directions to call the hospital at 8am to schedule a surgery consult.

We went home, slept, then called and made an appointment for 2pm on Wednesday. The surgeon took one look at my abdomen, pressed down on my appendix, and said, "No doubt. Surgery. Not today. Tomorrow." 

And that was that. I got to sleep in my bed that night and had surgery Thursday morning at 7:30am.

My surgeon was fabulous: straight to the point, methodical, yet caring. The nurses were attentive and seemed to genuinely care about me.

The only hiccup throughout the day was when it came time to discharge. The surgeon had visited me at 4:30pm and said I could go home: discharge papers were complete and I was just to let the nurses know when I was ready. So, I took one more nap, ate some pretty decent hospital food, and then informed the nurses that I was ready to go home. 

The nurses then informed us that another doctor would have to come and discharge me and she wouldn't be available until after 9pm. At 10:45pm, we were finally allowed to leave the hospital after a doctor, that didn't do anything more than walk in the room, smile at me, and say, "Good?", said we could. 

So we got home a little later than we had hoped on the first day, but Rob had the weekend to recover before going back to school and I had the whole week off to recover (and I'm still dreading going back on Sunday, isn't that sad?).

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers! 
-F






Sunday, April 27, 2014

Abu Dhabi FYI

1. If you don't like the answer, ask someone else. If it doesn't feel right, if you have that feeling of, "Wait...what do you mean..."ask someone else.

There are a lot of factors for this one: labor is poorly paid, the language barrier, people don't seek out confrontation, and things aren't communicated well. All that being said, if you don't like the answer, ask someone else. 

First Example:
The first drug store I went to, I asked for ibuprofen. I was told, "No have" by a guy in a white lab coat. After a few months, our supply of ibuprofen from home ran out. Rob went to the pharmacy and asked for, "Ibuprofen? Advil?" and was handed a bottle of 100 tablets of 200mg of Advil. 

Second Example: 
When we purchased our prepaid cell phone plans (much cheaper than postpaid), we were told we needed to come into a store every month to reload our accounts. The last time we went in, the cell phone guy said, "You know you can pay this from your phone, right?" Before Rob's brain exploded (this stuff is rough on him), I said very calmly, "We've been in every month since October and this is the first time we've been given this information." Turns out, the cell phone guy was actually the manager, aka the one person at the branch not working on commission. So, it didn't benefit him for us to come in every month, so he told us we didn't have to. That's all it took.

2. Men will talk to other men. This one was hard for me. I pay the bills. I manage our accounts back home. I need to know how things work on the UAE end, and still, I need to have Rob sitting next to me, sometimes re-asking the question I just asked, to get a straight answer.

3. Everything takes 2-3 times as long as you think it will: visits to the bank, grocery shopping, paying a bill, searching for a specific clothing item, etc. 

4. No one is looking out for you besides you. Whether it's figuring out how to pay your bills or how to drive on the freeway, no one is looking out for you, but you. Double check to make sure you understand how to pay your bills online and double, no triple check, your blind spot.

5. When you find something you like at the grocery store, buy seven at a time. Shelves are not consistently stocked with the same items, so when you find it, buy it in bulk.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

HIMYM - Finale

****The below rant includes spoilers.****

I've spent the last however many years (not actually that many, thanks NETFLIX) anticipating meeting Ted's wife and finally, finally hearing the elusive words, "And kids, that's how I met your mother."

And the meeting under the yellow umbrella was cute, their first date was awkward and precious, and then BOOM, "She dies." And he ENDS UP CHASING ROBIN ALL OVER AGAIN! Are you kidding me?

My head was okay with the Barney and Robin split, that seemed almost inevitable. But in my heart, deep down, I wanted the wedding to actually never happen and for them to just be happy, being together...for as long as they both shall live (or at least until the end of the show).

It's true that friends come and go, that life is messy, that everyone doesn't always get a "happily ever after" their first try, so in that way, kuddos to the writers for trying to be real. 

But I was watching HIMYM for the cuteness, the lovey-doveness, and the fairy tale. And I was sorely disappointed. 

Thank goodness for Netflix, where (eventually, when I get over being mad), I'll be able to re-watch my favorite episodes like "Slapbet" and "Ducky Tie" and just pretend that the one weekend season 9 never happened.

-F



Friday, March 21, 2014

One Week

We have one week of school left before spring break.

That is all.

-F

An Address (Kinda)

We have an address (kinda).

Turns out there aren't any available PO boxes at the Emirates Post Office or any of the hundreds of PO box kiosks that seem to be on every Abu Dhabi street corner.



And where we live, we don't even have the option of home delivery. BUT Rob works with someone who does - hooray!

So, our address (kinda) is:
Michael Burke
PO 131885
Al Reef Villas
Arabian Village
Street 3 Villa 13 E4C525
Abu Dhabi, UAE
PH: 050 877 0431

Michael Burke and his wife our from Australia, so it'll be pretty obvious which letters and packages are for us!

Yes, it is the longest address in the world. Yes, you have to address things to Michael Burke. Yes, you must include his phone number. And yes, everything in Abu Dhabi is more complicated than it needs to be.

But we have an address (kinda) - hooray!

-F

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Little Bit Off

Our new life in Abu Dhabi always feels just a little bit off.

I'm currently sitting in our very new, very sterile 13th floor apartment on the still under construction Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi (population: 613, 368 and growing every day).


I'm sitting on my IKEA couch, streaming Netflix. My feet are propped up on our IKEA coffee table and my coffee is flavored with the same hazelnut creamer as I drink back home. There is a Michigan State basketball game waiting for us to watch on the DVR.  By all accounts and views, this is the exact same way I might spend a Saturday morning back home. 

But then, differences begin to appear, slowly and subtly at first. But differences all the same. It is these differences that contribute to the "offness" of life here.

The first one is that it's not actually a Saturday morning. It's Friday. But Friday is our Saturday and Saturday is our Sunday (because the Muslim holy day is Friday, our weekends are Friday/Saturday). I still haven't quite gotten used to it: at the end of the week, it feels like we should have to teach one more day and when my alarm goes off on Sunday at 5am, I think, "Aw, man.  I should have one more day to sleep in." 

In order to watch Netflix, access Twitter, or even add posts to this blog, we have to use a VPN (basically, a service that tells the internet that we are in the USA), due to the very...uh...limited internet accessibility over here in good ol' Abu Dhabi.

When I go to the grocery store, I can't wear my go-to shopping outfit: running shoes, shorts, and a tank top (because if I'm in workout clothes, people think, "Oh, she just got done working out" not "Uh, look at that lazy, lazy, woman...but I digress). But let me explain: all malls (which is where all the grocery stores are) have dress code rules, largely influenced by the Muslim community, which state: please cover your shoulders and knees. So...I can't go grocery shopping in Abu Dhabi in workout clothes. 

But, in all honesty, when I say "can't", that might be a bit of an overstatement. There are some westerners that parade around into what is deemed "next to nothing" and they get dirty looks, side-stepped in the mall hallways, and sometimes, get asked to leave the premises by security. So, I guess I could wear whatever I wanted to the stores, but out of respect for the country in which I am an expatriate (and can be deported), I try to play nice and respectfully follow the rules. 

And that is the world we live in: Friday is Saturday, Netflix is blocked, and I have to wear real clothes to grocery shop. 

Again, it just makes life feel just a bit off.

-F








Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring Break, Take 2

It's been long week. I say that a lot, don't I? This week felt extra long.

We discovered that we booked plane tickets and a bus tour of Italy FOR THE WRONG WEEK of spring break. Like I said, it's been a long week.

How it happened is a long story, so I won't go into it (Rob looked at the school calendar wrong and I didn't double-check it) BUT we were able to change our plane tickets and recoup most of our money from the bus tour, and we are still going to Italy, Germany, and France.

Hooray.

Here's to hoping the next four weeks fly by! Europe - here we come!

-F


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Spring Break Plans, Part I

We just booked the first 9 days of our spring break: Italy, here we come!

For the second week, we plan on hitting Munich and Paris via train.

As Rob keeps saying, as we sit here on the couch, trying to recover from our work week, "I am so freaking excited!"

-F

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Long Way



Sometimes home feels a long ways a way. This weekend is one of those times. We are both sick, our work weeks were long and tough, and airplane tickets are freaking expensive.

Thank goodness for FaceTime, Skype, and other internet-based means of communication.

We miss you, friends and family, back home. We miss you a lot.

-F

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

PB&CC

Rob has Parent/Teacher Conferences tonight (he had one day's notice), so I have the apartment all to myself.

I should be doing one or all of the following:
1. Picking up the apartment. There are six pairs of shoes in our living room. 'Nuff said.
2. Making and eating a good, healthy dinner.
3. Cleaning the bathroom. Trust me: it needs it.
4. Planning for school.

Instead, this is what my afternoon (and let's face it, probably my night) will look like:
1. (Re)Watching New Girl - Season 1.
2. Eating peanut butter and chocolate chips.
3. Not cleaning the bathroom.
4. Definitely not even thinking about school.

It's been a rough week.

-F

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Emirates Park Zoo

Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo. - Paul Simon



It sure was happening at the Emirates Park Zoo. This was just not any zoo - feeding and petting the animals is not only allowed, it's encouraged!

Here are just a few pictures from our day:




                          




                           

                                




                                                                           

Just in case you couldn't tell: the giraffes were my favorite.



  










Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's Elementary

Today at my school, we got the news that one of the grade 4 EMTs (English Medium Teachers) is out on medical leave...indefinitely. And we will not be getting a replacement.

Currently, I teach two or three grade 6 English classes a day and the rest of my day is intervention/small-group work.

As of tomorrow, however, I am the new grade 4 English teacher.

And I thought sixth graders were tiny and needy.

-F

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Today in Abu Dhabi

Today in Abu Dhabi:

28 February - Nails and sunbathing -- today was a good day! And how is tomorrow March 1?

27 February - It is our "Friday" - woot, woot!

26 February - This week cannot be over soon enough.

25 February - PAYDAY!

24 February - Denise, from Koler Expo, emailed us. More to come on that at a later date.

23 February - I'm still teaching grade 4 and a grade 6. Rob is still more referee than teacher. But, whatever. It's almost payday.

22 February - Happy birthday to my mom! Wish we were there to celebrate with you!

21 February - Our weekends are the best.

20 February - FREE DAY at school. No teaching required and there were blow-up slides at my school.

18/19 February - Nothing like food poisoning to ruin your week. Nothing like getting two days off from school. Woot, woot!

17 February - Happy birthday, sweet Isla Younger! We miss you!

16 February - Nothing much to report from today. We survived to fight...I mean, teach...another day.

15 February - We have to go back to school tomorrow. We've never had jobs that we dreaded so badly.

14 February - Happy Valentine's Day!

13 February - We booked the first part of our spring break trip to Europe - Italy, here we come!

12 February - Today was a rough day. School is tough, we are missing home, so we threw ourselves a bit of a pity party: complete with comfort food as we watched the Olympics.

11 February - We bought Apple TV. It is awesome.

10 February - I cooked dinner tonight. Winning!

9 February - FaceTime is such a spectacular thing. Nothing quells the feeling of homesickness quite like being able to talk screen-to-screen with our moms. I mean, getting to visit home would be GREAT, but until summer, FaceTime will have to do. School Note: Rob is still learning the names of his new classes (three to be exact) and I'm still adjusting to being a grade 6 and a grade 4 teacher. I just do not know how you elementary teachers out there do it!

Also, I cleaned the apartment today for the first time since Christmas break. Please don't be too judgy.

8 February - Some time by the pool and I think we are ready to tackle the week. Rob isn't all the way sick...yet.

7 February - I didn't get out of my PJs today. Neither did Rob. It was a good day of lounging on the couch.

6 February - Still sick. Still tired. And now Rob is getting sick.

5 February - It's my littlest sister's 21st birthday. Goodness, that makes me feel old.

4 February - Please refer to my "PB&CC" post. It's been a rough day.

3 February - We cheered for Peyton Manning during our DVR'd copy of the Super Bowl. What a terrible football game, but at least the commercials were decent.

2 February - I've been sick since January 5. Today, I took a sick day. And in order to take a sick day, I had to do the following: call in sick, go to the doctor, convince the doctor that I was indeed sick (not just wanting the day off), wait in line for an hour for my prescription to be filled, and pay $27 for the doctor's visit and 4 prescriptions. I think I'll just go to school tomorrow.

1 February - Rob's writing a book. I got my nails done. It was a good day.

31 January - Dubai's Omega Classic: Rory, Tiger, Fred, and my boy(friend), Miguel Angel Jiminez.

30 January - Dubai for the weekend: a night exploring old Dubai's Heritage Village, a professional golf event tomorrow, and a sincere appreciation of living in Abu Dhabi, rather than Dubai (a post to come explaining that viewpoint).

29 January - It's been a rough week at school for both of us. We went to bed at 9:23pm. And that was the highlight of our day.

28 January - We paid off two credit cards today: it was a LEGEN - wait for it - DARY.  We've also been watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother. 

27 January - A parent of one of my students gave a PD presentation to our staff on the difference between active and hyperactive children. It was all in Arabic and we viewed the PowerPoint in the "Edit" pane, not the "Show" view. It lasted an hour.

26 January - I'm officially a grade 4 teacher for the rest of the trimester. It's going to be okay, it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay.

25 January - Happy birthday, Dad! And hooray for Skype so we could (kind of) be there!

24 January - Drinks at a hotel that overlooks the Yacht Club and the Abu Dhabi Formula One Racetrack? Uh, yes, please!

The bar is in the upper left hand corner, right under the open roof of lights.

23 January - Thursday is our Friday (and thank goodness for that).

22 January - I survived my first Abu Dhabi-style P/T conferences tonight. No one screamed at me in Arabic, no one (aka me) cried. Really, the only thing that could have made today better would have been a "post conference" at the Firehouse.

21 January - We stopped on our way home from school to get information on leasing a car from the local Chevy dealership. It was 3:03pm. They are open from 8:00-1:00 and 4:30-8:30. We left, defeated by the silliness of what is deemed "working hours." 

20 January - A fourth grade student asked me, "Miss, you have rubber?"I stammered, "Um...I'm not sure what you mean." She replied, "Miss, you know..." then pointed to the top of her pencil, turned it over, and acted like she was erasing her writing. Rubber = eraser in Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

So, you're thinking about moving to Abu Dhabi?

A Note and Disclaimer: This is an on-going post. I'll continue to add as Rob and I continue to trek our way through our first year in Abu Dhabi.

The following is what worked for us and what we experienced in our move to Abu Dhabi. 

You will find that everyone's experience is just a little bit different. But that's the norm here in the UAE.


* * *

First, a piece of advice: do your research.

Before you interview, before you accept the job, before you touch down in Abu Dhabi, do your research.

This is what worked for us:

Cell Phones:

First and foremost, Rob and I are iPhone people and we wanted to remain iPhone people while in Abu Dhabi.  Now, I don't claim to be an expert on how cell phones work, but I did my research and guess what? Our phones work over here!

This is what we did:
  • We no longer have US numbers or pay for a plan back home. We looked into keeping our numbers, but it was what we considered an unnecessary expense. You'll have to make that decision for yourself. We were lucky enough to be at he end of our contract with Verizon, so it worked out well for us.
  • We purchased factory unlocked iPhones (an AT&T 4 and 4s) at a local retailer shop in Boise.  It is important to note that we bought UNLOCKED AT&T phones. Unlocked AT&T (along with T-Mobile) phones take and use SIM cards and because the carriers here in the UAE use the same type of SIM cards, they will work over here.
    • A note: Back home, we both used a Verizon iPhone 4. Yes, Verizon would have unlocked the phone when we paid off our contract, but a Verizon iPhone 4 doesn't use a SIM card, so even unlocked, they wouldn't work over here. 
  • Since we brought our phones from home, we use a prepaid system here in Abu Dhabi. We pay $25.00 a month for data and have together have purchased about $60 in minutes since October (I'm currently typing this the middle of January).
  • One cell phone option that is available here is a one-year contract, that includes a new phone (iPhone 5c or 5s, Samsung, etc). Those plans run anywhere from $60-$100 a month.  We know quite a few people who ended up going with that option for convenience. The prepaid option (what we do) is less-expensive.

Other Technology:
  • We brought the following Apple gadgets with us to Abu Dhabi:
    • Two (2) iPhones
    • MacBook
    • iPad
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) - A VPN is technology that protects your online identity and your data as it is en route to your computer. The question everyone asks is, "Do I really need one?"

    The answer for us was simple: yes. Yes, we needed one.

    Basically, a VPN lets you access things like Netflix, ESPN.com, FaceTime, HuluPlus, etc. which are blocked in the UAE. And just to be clear, it is not illegal to have a VPN in the UAE.

    We currently use Astrill.com and couldn't be happier (and I'm not being paid to say that).
  • Buffalo Router - This is the router we purchased and brought with us to the UAE. You can buy one through the Teacher Tech Shop (Amazon powered store which is ran by a tech support guy here in AD and again, I'm not being paid to say that!) and it was worth it. The Astrill VPN can be loaded directly onto the Buffalo Router, therefore, every device that connects through the router is using the VPN (aka, I can be watching New Girl on the iPad while my husband streams Sons of Anarchy on the laptop).
  • SlingBox - This might be the best investment we made before moving to Abu Dhabi. SlingBox is a small box that you hook up to someone's US cable or satellite box. SlingBox uses the internet to allow you to access any recording as well as watch live TV, using the cable or satellite from back home. This allows us to record and watch any sporting event (mainly BSU and MSU basketball and football games) and allows us to keep up on all of our current TV series.
  • We don't subscribe to any local cable channels. We connect our iPad to our TV and rely on Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon Prime Streaming, and Slingbox. We've been really happy with that decision. But please note, you can only access these things if you have a VPN.
Outlets/Voltage:
  • All of the gadgets we bought with us can handle to voltage used in outlets in the UAE, but the actual plugs won't fit. We purchased adapters through the Teacher Tech Shop (see the link above). We brought three adapters with us (one for each of our phones, plus and extra) and we have purchased two more here (you can find them at any store here for CHEAP). 
Hair Stuff (for the Ladies):
  • I'm sorry to say it, ladies, but I didn't bring my curling iron, hair dryer, or straightener with me to Abu Dhabi. I bought one of everything here. Here's why: 
    1. Most US hair appliances can't handle the voltage here aka they will short/fry out.
    2. The plugs won't fit the outlets.
    3. I didn't want to risk ruining my straightener, curling wand, etc from back home.
  • I also didn't bring full-size shampoo and conditioner with me. I used the room and weight in my baggage for an extra pair (or two) of shoes. You can find almost every major (grocery store) brand here in Abu Dhabi - I'm not super picky, Dove does the trick for me and I can find it at anywhere.
  • I've been very happy with my choice to buy hair stuff here, with the exception of hairspray. I've yet to find a hairspray that doesn't sting the back of my throat or smell like my grandma (and not the good smell). But, I haven't given up hope!

Teaching:
  • Schools are segregated: boys and girls. Therefore, if you are a man, you will teach boys. However, if you are a woman, you will be placed at one of two options: a girls school or a feminized boys school (one that is staffed completely with women).
    • Boys School Hours: 7:00am-1:00pm
    • Girls School Hours: 8:00am-2:00pm
  • Teaching in Abu Dhabi is unlike anything either of us have ever experienced back home. It's not bad, it's just different. If you have more specific questions regarding teaching in Abu Dhabi, email me at: faithalyssa@gmail.com and I'll be happy to reply.
Buying a Car:
  • We are currently in the process. I'll let you know how it goes.
Again, this is a post-in-progress. As we experience new things, I'll be sure to add them. And if you have any specific questions about life in Abu Dhabi, feel free to email me at: faithalyssa@gmail.com.


-F

Here are a few other links you might find helpful:
Ask Ali
Abu Dhabi Teacher Tech (You'll have to request to join the group and then my advice would be to check out the "Files" tab. Don't bother with reading all the posts from people; it can get very overwhelming.)


Want to help us get home?

If you're reading this blog, I'm assuming you care about the (Not So) Idaho Readers.

So, maybe, if you care, and if you get a chance, click on an ad and help us get home sooner than we planned?

Okay. Done pleading.

-F

Fake Out

Over Christmas, my sister and I exchanged this text conversations:

Her: Are you on your way home to surprise us?

Me: No. Why? :(

Her: One of your Facebook posts just said you were in Illinois. :(

Me: Oh. :( Sorry. It's our VPN.*

While Facebook may say that I am in Denver or Indiana or anywhere stateside, I'm sorry to say that yes, we are still in Abu Dhabi.

-F

*A VPN is way for us to access US internet sites and service, along with protecting our online identities. It's pretty awesome. If you have more questions about VPNs, see my post entitled "So, you're thinking about moving to Abu Dhabi?"

Abu Dhabi Time

Everything in Abu Dhabi takes longer than you expect. You can't drive anywhere in under a half hour. You can't run any errand in less than an hour. The line at the bank is horrifically long. The line to buy cell phone minutes and data wraps out of the store and into the mall hallway.

We have a standing joke when we leave the house, "So, we won't be back before dark, right?"

"Right."

-F




Sunday, January 12, 2014

Looking Back and Looking Forward

2013 was a year of ups and downs for the (Not So) Idaho Readers. 

We celebrated our third anniversary.



We welcomed three new, sweet nieces into the family.

Isabelle Grace

Campbell Rue

Violet Reece

Our friendship circle also expanded with the addition of seven new little ones to love and play with (and then give back to their parents when they cry!). 

Leslie, I stole this picture from your Facebook page - thanks!

In 2013, we also learned that our family plan was not going to go as planned. We decided to move halfway across the world, to a huge city, in the Middle East, in order to finance our now changed family plans.

The Grand Mosque - on my daily commute. 
And while our experience teaching over here has been, shall we say, less than ideal, there have been some highlights. Like, the pool area at our apartment:


Or the fact that we've already been to two professional sporting events:

World Tennis Championships - Abu Dhabi

DP World Tour Championships - Dubai

But even though our pool is awesome and we have gotten to do some very new and exciting things while in Abu Dhabi, it still isn't home. That being said, we are going to try and make the best of our time here.

My goals for 2014 are pretty simple:


&


And here's to hoping that 2014 is going to be full of new and happy adventures for the (Not So) Idaho Readers.

Happy 2014!

-F