How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ready, Set, Go to the UAE.

Since I am apparently going to be packing away a few sparse belongings in brand spanking new suitcases, boarding an airplane for a fourteen hour flight, and settling into a new life in another country soon, I thought I would share what little I have learned about what will be my new home for the next two years.  

Abu Dhabi is one of seven emirates within the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  It is bordered on one side by the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, Saudi Arabia to another, and Oman on yet another. The capitol of the UAE is Abu Dhabi city, a thriving metropolis running alongside a sparkling blue watered coastline. Shopping is the number one pastime, and camels, especially in the desert regions, are as common as gnats in Georgia.  The UAE has only been a country for forty years, which means I’m older.  Like that’s a comfort. I remember how na├»ve I could still be when I was only forty.

Back to the lesson, class:

The emirate of Abu Dhabi contains 89% of UAE land mass, and 70% of this is desert. Average temperatures range from 54 to 88 degrees in the months of October to February, and in March to September anywhere from 79 to 113 degrees (yes, 113.. that is not a typo). In summer, along the coast, it can be quite humid, but the rest of the country is arid and dry. Rainfall is rare; average of about 5 inches a year. This is why I am moving. Arthur (my dear and close companion, sometimes called by his formal name, Arthritis), hates rain. Arthur makes me feel like shit when it rains. If I never see rain again it will be too soon. I am moving halfway around the world to escape rain. And that stupid ass No Child Left Behind crap, which in fact DOES leave a lot of kids behind. But that’s another entry altogether.

I will be teaching 10-12 grade Emirati girls (or so I’ve been told.. this could change once I am “in the sandbox”, I’ve heard). The high schools are segregated by gender to the extent that only male teachers teach male students and only female teachers teach female students. I signed a two year contract which guarantees me a lovely (did I say it was LOVELY?) tax free salary, health insurance plan (of which I do not pay one penny except low co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions) , a spacious apartment, funds for furnishings, an end of contract bonus, and all the dates I can eat. Okay, I am exaggerating about the dates, but only just a little.  I will not know where I will be assigned in Abu Dhabi until I arrive. I could be placed smack in the middle of Abu Dhabi city with its frenzied nightlife, glittering skyscrapers, immense shopping malls, and the largest indoor amusement park in the world, or I could be placed in the Wild Wild West (the extreme Western zone in the emirate of Abu Dhabi comprised of sand, sand, and more sand). OR I could be placed in Al Ain (which literally translates into The Oasis) where a multitude of expat families live and thrive a stones throw from the Oman border. Or I could be placed anywhere in between these locales.

So, not only am I moving halfway around the world, I have no idea where in this region of roughly 26,000 square miles (which by the way makes Abu Dhabi roughly the size of West Virginia) I will eventually settle.

Am I crazy? Maybe.  Am I harkening back to my military brat roots? Most certainly, but in my opinion, all military brats who experienced the constant moving; casting off of old friends in place of new ones; the inability to own a pet bigger than a turtle (The United States Military lifestyle is not pet friendly, or it wasn’t in the 60’s and 70’s  when I was growing up); hovering over a map of the world in order to locate the next assignment (where in the hell is Biloxi and how in the hell do you pronounce it?); a myriad of Christmases and Easter Sundays spent as a small family unit, routinely denied the joys of the dysfunction of extended family holiday gatherings; and learning to say “bitch” and “fuck” in three languages before the age of ten years is a bit crazy anyway. We had to be in order to survive.

So, off I go to the Middle East.  Fifty years old, my hormone replacement therapy in hand, a laptop loaded with classic rock. I am jumping off into an abyss. I have no idea what it will be like. I have no knowledge of the language or the people. I am in a frenzy reading everything I can get my hands on about the culture. I don’t want to make a social faux pas from which I might never be forgiven. I will be 6602 miles away from my home in Georgia. No syrupy sweet Southern accented, “Bless my heart” will cover my humiliation should a social faux pas occur due to my could-have-been-avoided ignorance. Ignorance be damned. I have ordered and read seven books about the United Arab Emirates. I am studying, reading, and memorizing like a whore before her good ole Southern dunking baptism.
I will not have to wear a head covering (called a hajb), but I will be expected to dress modestly. I can’t wear Daisy Dukes and red stretch tube tops. Not like I would wear them anyway, but I have been on and I am not oblivious to the fact that there are some truly fashion impaired individuals wandering around loose out there. When I am teaching I will be expected to wear long skirts to the floor and long sleeved loose shirts that cover my “bum” (the British are so charming!). Some schools ask that teachers wear a long robe-like covering called an abaya. But since I don’t know which school I will be assigned, I can only semi-prepare myself in the wardrobe department.  On my off time I can wear loose t-shirts and jeans/crop pants. I can even wear my Chuck Taylor. In fact, I bought a new pair last week.
There were over five hundred teachers hired from the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) for the 2012-2013 school year. I have no idea how many applicants there were, ] but I have heard that there were a couple thousand. The interview process was intense (I became so flustered that I informed the interviewers that my teaching philosophy was “If you can’t teach ‘em, confuse ‘em) . The load of paperwork that is mandatory to enter the country, as well as  proof of teaching experience and university degrees to ADEC, has been almost maddening enough to make me write a country music song (I did say “almost”). I am busy scanning teaching documents and books; making sure my wardrobe is appealing, but modest; copying music CDs to my computer like some kind of resurrected Wolfman Jack; shopping online for the best laptop I can find; downloading Kindle books so quickly that the device is going to self destruct; and buying and packing items like black pepper, Zatarain’s crab boil bags, grits, and other small comfort items that the rumor mill says are hard to find in the UAE. With my luck, on my first day in Abu Dhabi I will stumble upon a Zatarain’s Grits restaurant right next to a Black Pepper factory.

That’s all I know to tell right now. Oh, there’s more, but my brain can’t locate the information at this moment.  I will keep up with ACTION REPORTS, as my USMC husband calls them, on this blog site and try to fill in the holes and answer questions that pop up, right up until my leave date sometime in August. No set date, just, “Be ready to leave sometime in August. You may have two days notice or you may have two weeks”.  When I arrive in the UAE, I will begin another blog about those experiences. My head is becoming too crowded for all “The Voices in my Head”.  To hold onto what modicum of sanity I insist I still possess, I will have to keep my Abu Dhabi rantings/realizations/musings separate from my schizophrenic voices.

If you have a question about Abu Dhabi, please ask. It may be a question I haven’t thought of, and will assist me in avoiding that social faux pas of which I live in mortal terror of committing.


  1. Sound like an amazing upcoming adventure for you. You will keep us posted on your experiences, please?

  2. You have earned not only my awe and admiration, but that of my 30 yo daughter. I was reading your post aloud to her and she said how awesome it is when people move out of their comfort zone and try something new. You certainly are, and you're an inspiration to all of us!
    Have a grand adventure!

  3. Mike, you have not read the last of my preparations, both physically and mentally, for the impendng move to the UAE.

    Cyndia, comfort zones are nothing more than illusions of our own creation. Thank you so much for reading my musings!

    Damn, now that i have proof that people are actually reading portions of this blog, i might have to write more often. ;)

    Abu Dhabi or Bust (so cliche, but sometimes only cliches suffice):

    Rock on, Cyndia and Mike, and thank you for the encouragement