The only constant is change …
With the commencement of a stay in any one place, a traditional ceremony involves friends, wine, laughter and well wishes. Some might call it self-medication – planning a new life abroad has its share of stressors – but either way, the last few weeks in the Bay were uber productive and full of sweet visits with friends. (Check out some of the Bay buddies, Judy n Larry, Lena and Marita photos here)
Gorgeous bottle, but not necessarily at the top of the recommendation list. Andrew Lane, on the other hand … now that’s a new discovery I’d love to share!
Glass of wine in hand, I packed away a good few boxes to store at Christi and Darren’s. What was left, not but three suitcases to last me a potential two year stint in the most mysterious place I’ve ventured to so far. And goddamn were those bags heavy!
There was just so much to think about on top of the new job and country: toiletries – would they have the toxin-free lines I’d begun using in hippy-ville California? Clothing – sure, I have to cover myself, but how much of myself? Books – how on earth would I live without those??
With all these considerations whirlwinding in my mind, it’s no wonder I left a drawer-full of “don’t forget me” items back in the good old US of A. Guess I’ll be swinging by Berkeley again when I go back next summer!
Christi saw me off at the airport, shared a sweet moment and took a few pictures of me in ‘travel gear’. Pregnant as she is with little baby Blasto <watch this space for the preggo updates!>, I was really grateful for the fond farewell. Nice one, doll!
Pool party farewell, not the airport scene ;o) Think Christi posted those on FB…
At the airport, I had a sweet little convo with a New Zealand couple and a dude going on an African safari. By the way, Lena, cheers for the Bloody Mary suggestion. It more than suited my departure vibe … I was especially grateful for the edge smudger when I walked on board the plane and realized … “Sweet lawd have mercay, I’m in the baby section!”
Not one, not two, but six babies within a two row radius! On top of that, no on-flight internet, as promised by the Emirates Airlines website – oddly, Air Alaska trumped Emirates on that one!
Approximately 42 temper tantrums (the babies, not me!), and 3 glasses of wine later, I nearly caught a few Z’s before landing in the UAE.
A welcome so warm, we might say snuggly …
Past the glittering columns in the baggage claim (no, literally, glittering), my HR representative, Hasna, gathered me and four other teachers for the last leg of the journey. They gave us up shortbread cookies to make us feel at home, and when we arrived at the hotel/abode, a fabulous South African woman welcomed us with such exuberance and motherly warmth, I damn near gave her a hug before bed time.
I AM IN ROOM 108 – OM MANE PADME OM!
SABIS: Organized, modern, candid, inspired …
All the things I so sorely craved whilst teaching at the high school last year, I found here with SABIS. Granted, it’s only day 5. All I know of the company are the welcomes and trainings, but so far, sooooooo good!
Our main presenter at the three day training was Dr. Lynn Spampinato, who not only commands respect, she diffuses conflict with grace, connects through comedy, expounds with engaging clarity, and set the stage for an inspired year of student-centered teaching. Truly, I was floored by her presence. If only she were staying for the year, I’d have thought I’ve found my mentor.
Dr. Lynn Spampinato – workin’ it.
But so it goes, and so went training, complete with a teacher’s toolbox (scissors, play dough, pencils, tape, pens, you name it!), Q&A sessions every day, power points, admin guides, cultural tips, and classroom survival stories. For any teacher nerds out there, we’re using pacing charts and a point (objective) system to keep things on task – test results are computerized so we know exactly where each students needs special attention, and how curriculum can be modified the following year to increase understanding. I feel ready to teach the world!
Orientation supplies included a butt load of background information on the company, curriculum elaboration, and the cherry on top? Post-it notes.
Home, sweet home …
So the job’s looking solid so far, but what about my living quarters?
View from my window :o)
For anyone who’d been chatting with me during the negotiation stages, this was a major point of contention. The recruiter had used some dubiously general language to talk about where and for how long I’d be living in any particular location. Before agreeing to anything I made sure to get – in black and white – “Joanne Kelly will be living in the Dhafra Beach hotel for the ENTIRE school year.” And boy was that a good idea!
Happiness is beachiness
There were some very disappointed mamas out here who were carted off to apartments out in the middle of nowhere, 40 minutes from our private beach, gym facilities and gourmet buffet action. And when I say gourmet, I mean it. We’re stocked with food from all corners of the world, including sushis, veggie curries, salad bar, middle eastern tapas, and a dessert section your waistline will cry over!
Our two restaurant options during Ramadan. We’ll have a few more choices, I believe, when the fasting is over.
Thankfully there’s also a gym available 7 days a week, just a five minute walk from my door, complete with elliptical machines with a view of the beach, the thigh master, free weights, squash room, ping pong table, TVs, steam, sauna, and as though that weren’t enough, the bathrooms are stocked with organic shampoo and conditioners. Yes please!
Speaking of which, in my actual room I’m loaded with bottles of L’Occitane Verbena Shampoo …
Staff clean my room and bathroom daily and I get four pieces of laundry done per day. Say whaaaa???
Well, this spoiling does come with a few unfortunate side effects. For one, a touch of the auld Catholic guilt – why are these people cleaning up after ME? (Quick answer: to send money home to their families). And on a much less philosophical scale, what’s up with the bathroom staff ruining my brand new yoga mat (of all things!)?? Argh. Lesson in patience, perhaps?
So, we’ve got organic products (check!) and loads of veggies (check check check!), but more importantly, what are my neighbors and colleagues like? As you might’ve predicted, the women drawn to this kind of adventure share a few things in common: open minds, strong hearts, broad perspectives, varied backgrounds and a magnetism for the joys in life, travel, friends, family, love, political analysis, exploration, and of course, teaching. It’s a brilliant mix of women, from the South African family women who left their older kids and husbands back home to go make bank, to us 20 and 30 somethings, experiencing, growing and finally stocking up a savings account!
Natalie, the Italian shoe goddess from Wisconsin! She’ll also be teaching at my school in Silah.
I stopped by the tiny clothing shop near our grocery store with Shauna, a fabulous chica from Georgia, via LA, via Korea who has a wit so sharp and a humor so contagious we’ve already waxed lyrical about hitting up Ireland at the end of next summer. Here we are in our new ‘abayas’, the traditional dress Muslim women wear in our neck of the hood …
Not to be confused with the berka, or the berkini
A few random surprises …
- Children from the richest of the Emirati families can hardly hold a pencil, their dexterity is so poor. Thanks to nannies, drivers and maids, the kids need not worry about feeding themselves or picking up toys. Mmmmm…mechanical dystrophy much?
- I have the BBC, CNN, Aljazeera, Star Movies, Show Movies, National Geo, the Travel Channel and MTV Arabia in my room, not to mention 55 other channels. I just may become a TV-watcher, afterall!
- Available in the local shop: Ecover organic house products and Himalaya brand cosmetics. <the hippy in me sings!>
- Receptionist at 5* gym asked me if I knew anyone who could teach yoga – they happen to need a teacher for the wives of all the corporates living on site! Um, why yes, yes I do!
- Every weekend, SABIS transports us out to Abu Dhabi or Dubai – for free! Aaahhhh yeeeeahhh….
- Common linguistic tid bits on the bus to training: Afrikaans, Korean, Southern accents, urban slang and the sweet little lilt of the UK. <cue incessant Disney song … iiiiiit’s a small world aaaaafterallll…>