First 100 Days

There’s nothing like reflection. As I’ve grown older, I try to spend a great deal of my time reflecting on life. Reflecting on things that went well, things that are not going well, and things that I want to go well in the future. Much like personal reflection, the first 100 days of presidency is also something that many people analyze and scrutinize for the US president. They talk about what he has accomplished during that period, how he has shook up things during that period, and how he plans to move forward. Disclaimer: I will not use my platform to discuss Mr. Trump (insert eye roll). Nevertheless, the first 100 days seem to have significance to many, so I chose to analyze my first 100 days abroad.

During this period, I have completed the following:

1. Moved across the world to the UAE

2. Secured housing at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain

3. Formed a solid village to help me through this new life

4. Paid off four (4) credit cards

5. Watched my credit score jump nearly 50 points

6. Began teaching 10th grade girls

7. Semi furnished my apartment (flat)

8. Mastered the art of using context clues to understand Arabic

9. Learned my way around my city without the use of GPS

10. Lived abroad 100 days, and survived to tell the story!

This journey has not been a fairy tale. There have been many days where I delighted in my decision to take this journey, and also other days where I wondered why I made this life decision. But, no matter how difficult things have gotten, I’ve survived. I’m excited about this journey. Here’s to 100 more days, and many more beyond that.

Thursday: The New Friday

At home in the States, there are few things more rewarding than walking out of work on a Friday evening. You sprint to your car, fasten your seatbelt, turn up the Friday evening mix on the radio, and prepare to get into whatever that weekend has in store. Here in the UAE on Fridays, it is virtually a ghost town. Why? Because Friday is the Holy Day here (much like our Sunday at home). Most of the locals spend time with their family, head to the mosque for prayer, and generally keep a low profile until the evening. Most of the expat community use Friday morning to head to church, to the grocery stores, and to get some much needed rest. Friday morning is the primetime to take care of errands and avoid the crowds that typically linger in the stores, since the locals are not usually out. Since Friday is much like our Sunday at home, many businesses and all government agencies are closed.

So, since Friday is like Sunday, Thursday becomes the new Friday. Thursday nights are beyond lively in the UAE. Folks leave work on Thursday much like we would leave work on Fridays at home. The streets are paved with shoppers, the happy hours are rocking, and folks are excited to start the weekend. I now have a new appreciate for Thursday.

And Then There Were Two

When I decided to take this journey, many people had an opinion. Many said that I was crazy, while others told me to jump headfirst into this opportunity. My husband, Jonathan, was not overjoyed with the thought of us leaving Texas (the only home he’s ever known), but the more we talked about, the more optimistic he became. We discussed how this decision to move abroad could be the catalyst to propel us into our destiny; catapult us into our new season. When I got my ticket to leave in July, though we were expecting it, there was still much that needed to be done in Texas before we could be together again. We had to finish packing up our rental home, move things into storage, and secure living arrangements for my stepdaughter (who was moving back with her mom). I did as much as I could before I left in July, and Jonathan was responsible for doing the rest.

When the time finally came for us to be reunited, it was October. All of the paperwork had been completed for him to arrive, and things stateside had been taken care of. An all new journey was about to begin for each of us; he would be arriving to his new home, and I would be helping to acclimate him to what had become my new home. Being away from Jonathan had been a bittersweet; I had had some much needed ‘me time’ not having to cook, clean, or see to another person, but I had also missed having Jonathan with me. When he arrived on October 13th, I knew that there would be an adjustment for the both of us, but that we would have each other to lean on.

Whole Different Beast

I’ve taught in some rough schools and had some rough classes before, but nothing could have prepared me for teaching abroad. It is a totally different beast! Not only are there cultural differences that one must contend with, but also the language barrier. Imagine teaching a class where there are students that literally have no earthly idea what you are saying. Like no idea. Like not an idea. For many expat teachers, we are seen as lesser than the local teachers, and oftentimes do not receive the same respect as the local teachers. Also, the students see other classes as more important like physics, Arabic, Islamic Studies, and even math as more worthy of their attention than learning about nouns, pronouns, and subject-verb agreement. This makes for difficulties inside and outside of the classroom. In the States, I prided myself with being a proficient, well-versed teacher with strong classroom management, great rapport with students, and as an effective teacher. Here I found myself sitting in the offices of the Academic Vice Principal (AVP) and principal being told that my classroom management leaves much to be desired, and that major changes needed to be made in order for me to be successful at the school.

My school here abroad is an all-girls school with a great reputation and high performance. Many of the students come from affluent backgrounds with multiple nannies in the home, stylists, drivers, and many other service people to make their day-to-day lives easier. They sometimes lack the work ethic of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and because of their way of life, don’t see the importance of working in class, especially English class. This makes for much difficulty in teaching them. Not to mention one of the major tenets of the culture (socializing), which is on a scale that I have never experienced ever in life before coming here. I thought kids in the US talked a lot in class. They have nothing on a classroom of all girls who thrive on socializing with their friends. If I ask the girls to be quiet fifty times per class (not a hyperbole), that is a good day. Like I literally have to tell them to be quiet all class period. All. Class. Period. Like. All. Class. Period. Every. Single. Day. All. Day. Long.

So, needless to say, this will take some getting used to. Y’all pray for me.