Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

2010? Seriously? How can a year go by so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time? And really, can the Y2K scare be from a whole decade ago? Crazy. I feel like this is an appropriate time to admit that I'm starting to feel old.


Back to 2009.
Every year on December 31st (give or take a day), my mom asks me the same two questions: What are your hightlights? What are your lowlights? Since I'll be out of touch for a few days and I won't be able to talk to her, hopefully the blog can keep the tradition alive. (I'll do the lowlights first. I kind of like saving the good news for the end.)

Lowlights: Walter's burn; Charlie's accident; saying good-bye to people I love; adjusting to life in the UAE: new routines, new ways of living, accepting a loss of certain freedoms; job drama (both in Bellingham and in Abu Dhabi). Bleck.



1. jan . jello slip & slide 2.feb . multnomah/camas/portland/vancouver trip 3.mar . walter's burn 4.apr . san juan spring break bike tour 5.may . childhood fantasy come true: tom sawyer raft! 6.jun . adventuress fieldtrip 7.july . charlie vs. the harrow 8.aug . off to new adventures! 9.sept . exploring my new home 10.oct . discovering the desert 11.nov . azerbaijan 12.dec . holiday silliness

(just a few) Highlights: having a job teaching internationally (it's been a dream for quite some time); Walter's recovery; supportive friends and family; the natural water slide in the Palouse River; snowshoeing on sunny days at Mt. Baker; when my mom helps me with random projects (like finding 30 walking sticks) and when she manages things while I'm away and when she lets me stay at her house when I'm sick; trips to see my grandparents in Camas and Blaine; biking the San Juan Islands over spring break with Robin; Jill & Molly photo shoots & adventures; spending the summer with my family/families in Colfax (!!); eating ice cream with Rose; Charlie's recovery; building a Tom Sawyer raft with the help of many friends; living in a charming house with irreplaceable roommates (April, Kelli, Rose, that's you!); comforting talks with my dad; the Jell-O Slip & Slide; the people and the scenery at Youth Dynamic Adventures; yoga; the "Year in Mexico" dinner ritual; being able to bike to work; the fire pit in the backyard; having an open door, 'just drop in' policy at Cousens' house; being abroad with Jill; Camp Skeeter and the last few months of school with my fourth graders; building and deepening relationships; audio books; good health

2009 was a year with a lot of big changes. I agree with Saul Alinsky when he says that "Change means movement. Movement means friction." There was a decent amount of friction in my life-- enough to make me wish for smoother sailing in 2010. At the same time, I feel kind of guilty wanting life to be easier--compared to most people, I already have it good. Really, really good. You, dear family and friends, are a big part of all the good in my life. Thank you.

2009: Much to reflect on; much to be be thankful for; much to appreicate.
-m.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Birthday Wishes for Galen *updated*

Happy Birthday!!!

Here's just a few (of the many, many, many) reasons I'm glad you were born:

You have a great talent for making people laugh.
I mean, how many brothers were put in charge of potty-training their little sister by tap-dancing?

You are a good listener.
9 times out of 10, you'll be there to listen when I call you with a problem. Car drama, boy drama, work drama, Momma drama--you've heard it all. Not sure if I've told you this, but I don't think I've ever appreciated your willingness to listen more than during the summer of 2007.



You are generous.
I have seen the way you enjoy giving gifts and sharing what you have--even if it's not very much. Back in the day when I didn't think you had hardly any good qualities (like in 3rd grade or something) I remember realizing you were pretty cool to give me so much of your Halloween candy. Guess I found your generosity impressive then and I still find it impressive now.

You are a good driver.
Yes, you heard me--I am actually admitting it. Being an Abu Dhabi commuter for 4 months has convinced me that I should remain a pedestrian/passenger. You would do a much better job behind the wheel than I would.

You are fun.
Duh. Just look at this picture of us jumping on the bed.


(By the way, I love how you not only convinced mom to let us jump on her bed, you also got her to take the photos.)

You are up for adventure.
My top Molly-Galen Adventures include seeing how scared we could get when we turned off all of the lights in the basement, climbing as high as we could in the pine tree by the bus stop, building forts in the barn, playing "chase" with the rooster, sledding & making 'mostly-finished' snow caves, and exploring the collapsed railroad tunnel at the end of the Palouse River Trail.



You take life in stride and don't make a big deal about the little things.
Getting your head cut open by a dirt clod---No big deal. Setting the barn (and the fence and the field) on fire--No big deal. Almost driving the tractor off of the hill and into the road--No big deal. Me: Well, I'm just a bit more dramatic about everything. I like how you usually remain calm, even when I panic. (Remember the time I thought there were burglars in the basement? Case in point.)

You are a dreamer.
I love how you always have new schemes and plans. It's fun and refreshing to hear about your ideas. I also admire how you are usually a blue-sky thinker--even when the circumstances are less than ideal.



Wishing you many dreams come true this year! So glad to be able to celebrate who you are today!
-m.


*Sorry--I only had time to post the one picture this morning before I had to go!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

fal la la la la la la la la

deck the halls with boughs of holly . . .
although i didn't deck the halls of my school with holly, i was singing christmas songs (sans lyrics) all day. working on christmas eve was a first for me, but i guess it's just one of those things that comes with the territory. thankfully, christmas fell on a weekend--otherwise, it would have been just another normal day at the office.


tis' the season to be jolly!
i wasn't sure how i was going to handle being away from home, but thanks to supportive friends here and thoughtful family back home, i'm happy to report that it was a pretty good day.


we're not just pretending to smile: making our video helped me get in the jolly ol' christmas spirit.

don we now our gay appearal . . .
jill and i agree that christmas morning pictures are usually pretty hideous. so for obvious reasons, i'm only including one picture. and it's of jill--not me. here she is opening her packages from home. (the tv screen in the background just happens to be of our video that took all night to upload to YouTube.)



see the blazing yule before us
strike the harp and join the chorus . . .
after opening presents, we went to my apartment building where we joined our friends, jen and hannah, for a special breakfast. we had quite the spread, complete with cinnamon rolls, pancakes, fruit, eggs, and even bacon(!).

follow me in merry measure . . .
we followed highway E22 out to al gharbia to enjoy christmas dinner with frances and several of her friends from madinet zayed. while we were there, we ate, talked, celebrated, and a few folks got very, very merry.


this is a view of my salad on the table. there was really so much food, it was ridiculous. i brought 2 salads: a green salad with homemade dressing and homemade croutons and then a festive looking tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad.

while i tell of yuletide treasures . . .
getting to skype with practically everyone from my family and tell them all that has been going on lately was a highlight of the evening. thanks to frances and her kicking internet, i could actually hear and see them! (this isn't always the case--the connection in my apartment leaves much to be desired.) while we were talking, my dad, wendy, and the boys were willing to put on their new christmas outfits for me. i love it.




don't these two boys look cute in their baby kanduras?

fast away the old year passes,
hail the new ye lads and lasses.
fa la la la la la la la la.

sending you lots of hearty "la"s and even more wishes for your christmases to be happy and special and merry. i hope they are the perfect ending to your year.
-m.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Greetings 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Oh how I wish I could be there with you all! Since that can't quite happen this year, please consider this my Christmas card, my homemade Christmas gift, and my Christmas presence---all wrapped into one fantastically dazzling music video.

For a better viewing experience, you might try watching Christmas in the Mid East on YouTube. The size is a little funny on the blog.



Special thanks to Jill for all of the editing!

Merry Christmas everyone. I LOVE YOU!!!
-m.

P.S. Sorry for the singing. Jill and I may not know where we're headed after Abu Dhabi, but we agree that Broadway isn't likely. The track that actually made it on the video was the best take. Guaranteed. You don't even want to know how many times we attempted to sing it. Also, FYI (just in case you couldn't tell) the last line of the chorus is "Christmas in the Mid East is a gift God wrapped in beige."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

must . must . must

without a doubt, this must . must . must be the sweetest blog post i have ever read.

for me, the hardest part of being away from home is that i don't get to share life with most of the people i love. i miss these little kiddos so much that it makes my heart hurt.

thankfully, skype helps me feel a bit closer. this is what i get to see from my side of the world. it's not the greatest picture, but it's an amazingly wonderful view.



love you.
-m.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back from Baku


It would be good to let some of you know that I made it back to my sunny little Emirate
. . . safe
. . . in one piece (though not entirely healthy--I've got a decent head cold hanging around)
. . . thankful for the little experiences & the great relationships that made it worthwhile
. . . appreciative of the country I call home
and
. . . already planning my next trip.

After five days of travelating, I most definitely have a lot of blogging to do. However, don't expect too much. Well, at least don't expect too many 'original' ideas and photos:
My camera died the first day of our trip. It turns on and off just fine, but that's about it. Anything else you want to do with it--like actually take a picture or change the setting or zoom out? Nada. I'm trying not to be too upset--after all, it's just a camera, right? Hmmmm . . . Easier said than done.

Now, I recognize that I'm not always the most careful or attentive person, but the 'accident' really didn't seem to be that traumatic. Seriously, how could such a little tumble cause so much damage?
One moment it was sitting on my daypack -- the next moment it was lying on the marble floor of an abandoned and decaying Soviet ballroom. At least this time it was in its case! Maybe a few of the 'other times' when it wasn't in its case have contributed to the current problem? I'm not sure. All I know is that I will probably need to buy a new camera. Any [not too expensive] suggestions?

Back to Baku: To read about our arrival and first morning, you can go here and here or here. I've requested copies of photos from Jill and Frances; I'm sure they'll come soon. In the meantime, my goal is to use this little waiting period as an opportunity to finish [hopefully at least a few] of my many abandoned posts.

-m.

Caption: During Frances' Ultimate Frisbee game, I wandered through the grounds of a run-down university. I hadn't poked around too long before I spotted an old, ramshackle, flat-tired car. After seeing nothing but fancy cars on these slick Abu Dhabian streets for three months,
I was quite happy to see an actual 'junker.' It was a refreshing sight and consequently seemed quite picture worthy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

$$$$

Guess what FORTUNE magazine had to say about my new home:

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, is the richest city in the world. The emirate's 420,000 citizens, who sit on one-tenth of the planet's oil and have almost $1 trillion invested abroad, are worth about $17 million apiece.

I know kids are priceless, but it's a little funny to think that each day at work am responsible for teaching and helping and loving $850 million USD.

I've linked up to the archives in case you'd like to read more of the article.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Travelating!



I'm off to Azerbaijan for a few days. I'm going to be travelating with these 2 gals. Be back soon!
-m.


P.S. Sorry I'm so delinquent when it comes to blogging. I'm really good at starting blog posts, but not so good at finishing them and getting them online. I will work on that . . .

P.P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!! I'm so thankful I was able to talk to my family today. Love you! xoxoxoxo

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Heart the Desert

This is me.
This is me in the desert.
This is me in the desert feeling quite content.

The best part is that I get to go back tomorrow. This time, it's for a proper camping trip. Yippee!!

Happy weekend!
-m.

P.S. More to come about the last desert trip. I'm going to post about the upcoming one as well. Eventually . . . ;-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Discovering Tampico

I could not believe my eyes when I saw this beverage of florescent loveliness on aisle 24 in the CarreFour. TAMPICO! WOOHOO!!


Before you put me in the category of die-hard Tampico fan, I need to tell you the important reasons why I am actually not qualified to be excited about Tampico:

1. I have never purchased it.
2. I have only sampled it once or twice.

3. When I did sample it, it was because I didn't have any other options.
4. It tastes kind of gross.


However, it's still quite significant to my life. What the sugary juice lacks in taste, it completely makes up for in meaning.

Tampico = Paul Faraca.

Paul, a good friend and former {kinda} housemate from the Elephant, always had a supply of this drink on hand. To him, a trip to Haggen would not be complete without buying a little Tampico. If there was ever a community meal or birthday celebration or picnic in the park, you could count on Paul to bring Tampico. I would not have been the least bit surprised if Paul and his gorgeously dear wife, Kellie, had drank to years of unlimited happiness and bliss from champagne flutes filled with Tampico at their wedding. (Just for the record, they didn't.) After their honeymoon, on my first visit to their new home, what did the couple offer me to drink? None other than the Tampico.


So, Paul, I would like to dedicate this little discovery to you and Kell. It was fun to stand in the aisle and think of the many good times we've all been able to share. Cheers to the Tampico that was nearly always present; a witness to it all. I miss you two!

-m.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

'It's Still Summer Here' Salad

As I browse the web, I keep seeing posts of delicious looking fall foods. Comforting soups and stews, roasted vegetables, and sweet treats of apple and pumpkin must be appealing on those cold, blustery nights or on bright, crisp mornings. Here are some of my favorites:

3-P Soup (Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Peanut) by 3191 (Love the color and I think it would taste like the African Peanut Soup from the delectable Colophon Cafe.)
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds by Almota Roses (I'm always in a snacking mood.)
Swedish Cinnamon Roles by Peonies & Polaroids (Both beautiful and delicious. Wow.)
Applesauce by PillieBee (Even though this is from last year, it still counts!)
Apple Pie by Almota Roses (I may be a little biased when it comes to this blog.)

Yes, the calendar says it's November. Yes, the temperatures have dropped a little bit. Yes, the sun is coming up later and setting sooner. But does that make it fall? No siree! Not in my book! For all intents and purposes, it's still summer over here.

So, while you dear folks in Washington come in from the cold, gather together around full tables, and enjoy warm, home-cooked meals, I am still sitting down to simple summer fare. This recipe, which I have personalized just a tiny bit, is referred to as the 'It's Still Summer Here' Salad. All credit must go to the original creator: The Barefoot Contessa. She originally named it "Avocado Salad." These two details should be all you need to know that this recipe is a winner. (Fact: You can't go wrong with Ina. Opinion: Anything with avocados is going to be tasty.) I hope you enjoy!
-m.

It's Still Summer Salad


Mix in this order:

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 yellow pepper, seeded and ½-inch diced
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup small-diced red onion
2 tablespoons minced jalapeno peppers, seeded (2 peppers)
½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, (2 limes)
¼ cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and ½-inch diced


Note: I do realize that by posting this recipe at the onset of North American winter dramatically reduces the chances of anyone actually making it. However, it really is pretty terrific. I'd say it's even good enough to go through the hassle of storing the recipe in a safe place for the next 7 months just so you can make it next summer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Country Bumpkin

My former principal liked to tease me about being from Colfax. Having grown up in the DC area, he thought my upbringing was, for lack of a better word, amusing. Whenever I did anything that could even be faintly traced back to my Eastern Washington roots, he'd have to comment. His usual quip was, "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl."

Despite acting annoyed and displeased, I kind of became the resident country bumpkin. In this new setting, however, I doubt anyone would peg me as a hick. Here, I lock my doors. I've been stuck in an hour long traffic jam. I take taxis and worry less about hitting deer and more about being hit. (I've been on the sidewalk right outside my house and have watched 2 accidents happen in front of my eyes. Yikes!) Instead of shopping at Excel or the Grange, I shop at the mall. When I want to go out to eat, I have more options than just Eddy's or Sol Vallarta. As was customary, I stopped, smiled, and made small talk with each person I passed on the main street in Colfax. In Abu Dhabi, it's practically the opposite: DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. If I don't say so myself, I'm doing a decent job of blending into this urban scene. I think I could probably pass for a city slicker any day. Well, almost any day.

A few weeks ago, for example, I happened to be walking to the grocery from Jill's hotel when I spotted one little unpopulated patch of land. It wasn't really much of a 'wide open space' -- just the quiet, palm lined median of 7th street -- but that's all it took. Boom. Off went the shoes. Off went the socks. Out came the bare feet. Then, those bare feet kind of started jumping and running and shamelessly liking the grass below them. Never mind that I was in a public place. Never mind that people were staring and horns were honking. Never mind that if I'd been seen by the wrong people, I might have been instantly ostracized from 80% of the Western expat social circles in this shiny and synthetic city. In that moment, I didn't really care. It was a warm day, the sun was shining, the grass was green, and in my imagination, I was back in Eastern Washington enjoying a nearly perfect slice of Colfaxian summer. Mmmm.

I must confess that sometimes, this debonair, faux-dhabian persona is too hard for me to maintain. And do I really want to do so? Honestly?

I should probably give Mr. H a little more credit. He might have actually known what he was talking about . . .
-m.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ABC, Easy As 123




In my last little update about teaching, I was having a bit of a rough time. I know it's all relative (AS IN I AM SO VERY THANKFUL I AM NOT TEACHING IN A BOYS SCHOOL!!!!) but the crazy scheduling, bewildered kiddos, interruptions, and lack of supervision was challenging. I normally love to go to work. However, for the first few weeks, just thinking about work made me want to run out into the middle of rush hour traffic and throw myself in front of one of the many giant SUVs that go rip roaring through the streets around here. (I know, I'm probably using just a bit too much "dramatic license.")

Somehow, though, agonizing seconds stretched into minutes, then hours, then days, then weeks. Before I knew it, a whole month had come and gone.



And in that month, good things happened.


Maybe I still feel like it's the Twilight Zone at least once a day. Maybe there are still unsupervised kids and crazy schedules, incessant interruptions and constant change. Maybe my little girls are still a bit wild. And talkativ
e. And testy. Maybe 99% of what I say is still lost in translation. But . . . maybe, just maybe, things are coming together. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Maybe, just maybe, it's becoming ABC, easy as 123.


Monday, October 12, 2009

corners.vi

most of my bed and pillows, too





sheets, duvet, pillowcases by my hotel apartment
embroidered pillow by ikea

thanks for joining me for the little tour. feel free to add your decorating ideas and suggestions or send me links to your favorite home design/decor blogs.
-m.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

corners.v

my 'office' nook in the kitchen/laundry combo room
a bit cramped (my legs fall asleep all too often), a bit hazardous to the forehead (ouch! you darned cupboard corner!!), but a bit cozy, too.


red stool by ikea
hot/cold cups by ikea
computer by mac

and my favorite 'office nook' artwork: the FRIDGE COLLAGE

by a hodge-podge of wonderful folks in my life

Saturday, October 10, 2009

corners.iv

a favorite little section of the living room

as most of you know, i like lanterns. the thing about lanterns is that they radiate this soft, shifting, flickering light which adds depth, movement, and imagination to a place. these lamps have a bit of that same feel.


lamps by ikea

textured pillows

pillows by ikea and homecenter

Friday, October 9, 2009

corners.iii

my rainbow picture wall

since i didn't take before/after pics, here's the textual version:

big white kitchen wall
with a jumbo sized fire extinguisher smack dab in the middle
becomes
big color crazy kitchen
still with a jumbo sized fire extinguisher holder smack dab in the middle
but so much better because of the endearing people and places i see instead


by jill a cox, wendy mcgraw, molly mcgraw, and a few other lovely people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time

Thursday, October 8, 2009

corners.ii

my dresser


candle votive by zara home ramadan sales table


books by marcus borg & brennan manning
cutest little siblings ever by dad & wendy


seashells by the public beach in the arabian gulf [see the 3rd bullet down]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

corners.i:

As far as apartments go, did I mention how lucky I am? I am one of the fortunate few to be placed in a long-term hotel apartment. (And a nice one at that!) There are probably 150 other teachers, including two of my co-teachers, who are still staying in hotels and living out of suitcases. At first, it must have been fun: 5 star luxury, refreshing swimming pools, extravagant continental breakfasts, free gym service. By now, though, I'm sure the novelty has worn off and they'd like to be settled.

From what I'm discovering, however, being "settled" and having a set of keys in your hand are not synonymous. Despite the fact that I've been in my own apartment from day one, I still sorta feel like a guest. Makes me wonder if eBay ever auctions off one-size-fits-all, cozy, welcoming, just-relax-and-BE housewarming packages. Maybe even just a can of aerosol "home-sweet-home" spray would do the trick. One squirt and it would instantly make a place feel like your whole family was right there sitting around a fire on Christmas Eve.

If I did find such an all inclusive package or this insta-aura stuff, I highly doubt it would be "just right." I think I'm looking for something that isn't really reproducible here-- like fresh tomatoes from the garden, mail in the basket, window boxes with blooming flowers, half-eaten little kid cheese sandwiches on the counter, kitty paw prints on the wood floor, lamps turned on for late night returnees, shoes on the mat, one of a kind artwork, leftover dinner party dishes, and other little tell-tale signs of life lived in community. I miss them. I miss them because really, they are just my kind of lovely in that space I fondly refer to as "home".


So, if making a cheese sandwich and leaving it on the counter isn't quite doing it for me, what is my game plan for tackling this non-homey home? I'm not sure. I've tried candles on the coffee table, plants in the window, and cookies in the oven. They're helping add some familiar, cozy charm, but they're no replica for family or for roommates who become like family. They just don't say, "you belong in this place" as well as I would like.

I guess my only tactic is to just keep making baby steps towards (cheaply and temporarily) personalizing the place. Maybe, eventually, "home" will arrive. Until then, I'll have to be satisfied with the little tiny pockets of my apartment that are starting to feel like me. I find them every so often. Usually by surprise. They're not always in the same place. They're not always there at the same time. They're not always affecting me in the same way. But, nonetheless, they are there.

Courtesy of pre-scheduled posts, I'm going to be delivering a short but [hopefully] sweet series on my apartment. I'm looking forward to sharing a few of my favorite little corners with you.
-m.

baking center

flour -- salt (lots of it for playdoh) -- brown sugar -- white sugar
p.s. i'm pretty sure i have marble counters!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Little Discoveries


This is my find of the week:






Thank you, Spinneys. Hopefully my digestive troubles will be solved.
Right. ;-)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Survival



I had such good intentions of posting about my week. However, by the time the weekend actually rolled around, I was much too tired. And sick. (Digestive troubles all week and now a bad cold.) Think I am a little stressed?!

Last night at Bible study I was asked to use one word to describe my work. I couldn't decide between "adventurous," "wild," "Twilight Zone," or "survival." This morning, it's definitely survival.
  • Surviving a lack of order and schedule (The schedule changes every blessed day! We haven't started or finished school at the 'correct' time yet.)
  • Surviving having no materials (Umm...they want us to buy everything from pencils and paper to soap and papertowels for the bathroom. There is NOTHING but furniture in my school.)
  • Surviving without curriculum. (How exactly am I supposed to teach kids to read without books? I know it's been done in the past, but I am not so sure I know how to do it that way. A sequence in math and a few units for science would be nice, too.)
  • Surviving without an interpreter. (Getting little kids who have never been to school before and who don't know a lick of English to understand, listen, and follow directions is h-a-r-d.)
  • Surviving without a class list I can understand. (Ok, so I do have a class list. However, it's all in Arabic. I don't really know who is supposed to be in my class -- let alone how to spell or pronounce their names. I did a little translation myself. Fatima. Easy. Mariam. No problem. Whore? Hoor? Whoor? Problem!! Poor kiddo. I had to stop there--not so sure on that one!)
  • Surviving without any accountability and supervision. (Absent teachers + no subs = classrooms and classrooms of kids left to their own devises. No supervision during recess is also a bit problematic for me to watch. However, I keep telling myself, "When in Rome . . .")

Complain, complain, complain. Sorry. It has just been a really rough week. As Dave pointed out, "Well, what were you expecting?". Good question. I don't know what I was expecting, but I guess I was not really expecting it to feel so much like survival. Pure, raw, messy fight-to-keep-your-head-above-water survival. It certainly can't be the best for these little 5 & 6 year old babies. It doesn't feel so good for me, either.

Keeping on, keeping on.
-m.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What a day . . .



Today was my first day with students. I only had 8 to 10 of them at a time (they kind of roved in and out) but 8 was way more than I could manage. Let's just say that hands down, it was the craziest day of my teaching career. Wild, wild, wild. So many things went wrong that there's really too much to write. Chatting on the phone about the events, blow by blow, would just be so much easier. I'd consider it a 8.4 day in terms of phone-call worthiness. However, since that most likely won't happen, consider this a brief vignette in our phone conversation that never was:

Why yes, now that you mention it, I do see that there is a faucet missing in the bathroom. And no, you don't say!! A poor little baby kindergartner pulled it out of the wall while she was just trying to wash her hands!?!? You mean she was really really drenched to the point where she looked like she'd been hit be the type of super soaker that would be so strong it would be illegal? What happened next? Wait--then the water just kept gushing from that pipe in the wall? Like for a really long time? What did you do? So, you're telling me that you went to another teacher for help, but after she took off to notify the office, no one from the office actually came to help? What were they all doing? You don't know?! Then the bathroom flooded because there was so much water? Wow. Well, yes, I can imagine that it did make quite a mess. What about the poor girl? Oh -- no -- way. You finally had to take her to the office once things calmed down? How did you get the water off? A parent heard screaming? Well, at least someone took pity on you! But yes--I see what you mean--that probably didn't help you make a very good impression. What happened when you finally took the horrified little girl to the office? Seriously. They made her stand outside in the hot sun because they couldn't find her mother's mobile number? I see. Did she actually dry off? Did she ever get a change of clothes? Huh. Must have been a hot one. And it wasn't even 10:30 yet? Goodness. Yes, you're right. It guess it does sound like it was a decently interesting start to the school year . . .

No joke.
-m.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

First Day of School!

Well, Wednesday was my first day of school!!
. . . And not a single student came!

Considering that everything was [still is!] a bit uncertain right down to the last minute, I think this was actually a good thing. Not to mention the fact that it would have been hard to teach kids in my room as it was still kind of a mess:



Isn't it beautiful? I love the green and all of the natural light!

If I didn't get any kids, at least the first day of school was a day for getting some answers. Here's what I know about the upcoming year:
  • Teacher: Miss Molly (Students address teachers by their first names, not last names.)
  • Grade: 1
  • Sections: 3 & 4; Section 3 in the morning and Section 4 in the afternoon
  • Start of school day: 7:45 am We will be meeting in the auditorium at the beginning of each day for a patriotic-themed assembly.
  • End of the school day: 1:20 pm
  • Number of students: 20 in the morning, 20 in the afternoon
  • Subjects: English, Math, Science
  • School: We have a new school that is being reopened this year. It's just 5 minutes or so from the old school we were at last week.


-m.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I don't want to forget . . .


I don't want to forget the breeze today. It made me feel like this:





-m.




{picture taken by Bloom, Grow, Love.}

Monday, September 21, 2009

Little Discoveries: Yogi Tea

during one of my hottest, sweatiest, i-hate-transportation-in-this-town afternoons, i ducked into the marks & spencer building to cool off for a moment. when a moment wasn't enough, i ended up wandering around in the air conditioned space to prolong the inevitable return to the street heat. then, lucky me(!), my procrastination brought me to a little organic store and cafe!

i easily spent a good twenty minutes, walking up and down the aisles multiple times. as stupid as it sounds, it is honestly reassuring to see a few familiar brand names and labels. if you had been watching me, you would have most definitely seen my face light up when i spotted this on the shelf:



i first tasted egyptian licorice yogi tea in the sky bridge at wwu. it was love at first sip. pretty much each night after that, i'd tote a giant nalgene of this stuff with me to the library. it was supposed to help me power through evening study sessions, but i really should have picked something with caffeine . . .


'Spring Jamboree' (2007) // 'Mediterranean Madness' (2009)

a chilled cup of this goodness is also my beverage of choice for muggy AND modest birthday saunas. i know rosie might disagree, but it's sweet yet still deliciously light and refreshing--perfect for our party purposes.

anyway, it was an exciting little discovery. a piece of home. a role in an old routine. a toast to good times. mmmm . . . it makes me happy. next time you come over, i'd love to make you a cup.

-m.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

WORK (Week 4)

Week 4--Training from the staff room.
Enter employer #3. (Well, actually I don't know my principal yet . . . I hopefully will soon, though!) Last Sunday, all local teachers and LTs (licensed teachers from the 'West') were supposed to report for duty. It was finally time to visit our school!

Now, as you probably know, the beginning of the school year back in the States is a whirlwind of activity. Teachers are cleaning, rearranging, moving, decorating, planning, and doing all that they can to make sure everything is ready for when the students come. The work room is always busy -- from the perspective of the copy machine, it must feel like boot camp after a lazy summer. The school seems to pulse with this anxious, stressed-out type of energy that drives everyone to work in hyper mode. The week before school starts in the USA could be titled 'school scurry'. The week before school starts in the UAE could be titled 'school social'. The approach is COMPLETELY different.

In the UAE, the teachers show up at 9 o'clock and usually leave around 12 o'clock. Then, the time they do spend at school is solely for catching up on all that's happened over the summer. As a shy observer in the corner, I was trained in the new way of gearing up for the school year: hugging, bising (faire la bise), listening, talking, laughing. "Getting ready," as I know it, is not on the agenda. The whole idea of having everything perfectly set up for the students is not part of what happens here.

For example . . .

Classrooms are still sandy and dirty.
Desks are still in huge piles in the center of the rooms.
Walls are bare.
Class lists are blank.
Schedules (class periods, the daily start and end times, specialists, daily assembly agenda, etc.) have yet to be created.
Plans are unmade; the scope and sequence for the year are undetermined. This is partly due to the fact that . . .
Grades and teachers are not assigned yet.

The academic calendar is still being finalized.


I'm sure you get the picture. Please, I'm not trying to pass judgement--I'm just trying to make sense of it all. Exploring the contrast between what I'm accustomed to and what I'm try to adapt to helps me process. From what I've heard from all of the other LTs (licensed teachers from the 'West'), their schools are just like this too.


However, unlike some of the other educators, I think I have a few more puzzle pieces missing: We just found out a few days ago that the school we've been going to for most of the week really isn't "our" school; it's splitting from a grade 1-9 school into 2 schools. There will be a 1-3 school and a 4-9 school. The older kids will be staying in the current building and the younger kids will be going to a new building.

So, let me start with what we know: We know that it's going to be a 1-3 school. We know that it's in another building at a different location. We know that the official start date is Sept. 23rd. Moving on to what we don't know: We still don't know where the school is or if it's even been built. We don't know the staff. This includes the principal, the secretary, the social worker, and most of the other teachers. We don't know the number of students attending. As a result, we don't know classroom assignments, the number of teachers needed for each grade level, etc. Basically we don't know too much!


Trying to plan for who knows what!

Back to training from the staff room: I'm definitely being schooled by these teachers! They are so calm and positive and happy to be back with each other. They truly seem to care about one another and are sincere in their affections. They also don't seem flustered at all by the lack of information.

Their unspoken teaching point is that you either roll with all of the unknowns or you let the unknowns drive you crazy. Some of the other North American teachers I'm working with are
really having a hard time. Not knowing any of the basic details (academic calendar, grade level, classroom, student list, etc.) is pushing them to the verge of mental instability. I should probably do some online research about panic attacks so I can play "medic" if things don't get figured out soon . . . I'm serious.

To be honest, a part of me is freaked out; however, another part of me actually likes it. It is almost amusing. Picture this: Right now it's the weekend. Then the next 3 days are a national holiday. Then we start next week, the day right after the holiday! There's not much time left before I'm going to be staring into the little faces of my kiddos! From what I can piece together, the most likely scenario is that I'll be trying to cope with a couple of other teachers in a gym with all of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. This might last for the first week or so (or longer?!) until everything is sorted out and settled. It's just so wild to start the school year with so many of the building blocks a bit out of place!!! It's so unreal -- so absolutely different from all of the calculated, policy-governed, pre-planned procedures orchestrated by my school district. The procrastinator in me feels right at home. The perfectionist in me feels like the disorganization on my main employer's part takes the pressure off a bit.

I guess I can sum up my training from the staff room in 2 words: shwayer, shwayer or slowly, slowly. If they're not stressed about the start of the school year, why should I be? It will all get done, it will all fall into place, it will all come together, it will all work out. But above all, it will happen shwayer shwayer!



Happy teacher working on going with the flow.

-m.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

WORK (Week 3)

Week 3--Training from my PPP.
Enter employer #2. In addition to my main pay-check-writing, hiring-firing employer, I am also responsible to my PPP. Since most of you have not even taken Abu Dhabi Educational Acronyms 101, I'll go easy on you and give you this one: Public Private Partnership. Basically, the government hires an outside educational company to come in and implement all of the changes my main employer is trying to put in place. The public school partners with a private organization to make progress in all academic aspects. The 8 different PPPs working/competing with each other in Abu Dhabi are supposed to improve the standards in 147 different schools throughout the emirate. They have several KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to meet. These KPIs range from higher academic scores to more efficient health and safety procedures to increased attendance.

My role last week was to collaborate with my PPP and assist in producing APs (Action Plans) to help all of the schools meet these already mentioned KPIs. The work wasn't super relevant, but I was getting paid for it, so I am not complaining.

Thanks to a ride from a coworker, I was able to get to the PPP office from the city fairly easily. However, transportation to my school is still a worry. (Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.) Doing a long term lease on a car or hiring a taxi to pick me up and take me to school each day are my two most feasible options. They both have pros and cons. With a little help from Picnik, here's our route to my PPP office:



Rolling, rolling, rolling,
-m.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Reason . . . WORK! (Week 1 & 2)

Well, another reason I've been a little slow on the updates: work. I've realized that in the past 3 weeks, I haven't said a peep about it -- even though it's the reason I'm here, right? Here's a week-by-week run-down on what I've been doing.

Week 1 & 2--Training from my main employer.
We listened to lectures about the business of life: housing, visas, health insurance, car rental, banking, etc. We were also privy to learn about Gulf customs & culture from local celebrity, Ali Alsaloom; see slide shows about the new hi-tech, eco-friendly Abu Dhabi suburb, Masdar city; and enjoy countless hours on riveting subjects such as educational history in the UAE(aka school reform in the past), school reform in the present (which is literally being changed each day!), and school initiatives to come (aka school reform in the more distant future, meaning 5 years instead of 5 days).

By now, I've probably passed Abu Dhabi Educational Acronyms 511 (which is really a conglomerate of educational mumbo-jumbo from all around the world) and should get some credits for it. Get ready for the update from week 3--it's a little more acronym heavy.

Additionally, I have been a bit frightened into conservatively towing the line for my employer and am rather paranoid about making cultural and academic mistakes.
My sessions in the "break out groups" and straightforward words of warning from my employers have convinced me to keep my nose uber clean. From what I've been gathering, it's a bit of a high stakes teaching environment. [Hint: There are no acronyms for job security -- this is due to the fact that job security doesn't really exist. If it did, I'm sure they would come up with an acronym for it!]


I'm sure you know this acronym: TGIF! (Here, the weekend starts on Thursday--I guess I should say TGIT instead.)

-m.