How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Countdown to Abu Dhabi: Forty-Four Days (give or take a week or two)...

I want my e ticket. I want to know when I will be leaving for Abu Dhabi. I want, I want, I want.. I am a true American. We were told to be prepared to leave anywhere from August 8-12, maybe a few days earlier or later. The e ticket could be sent any time between now and August 8.  I probably won't schedule a root canal after August 1.

I will not get my e ticket when I want it because ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) does things on their schedule and right now it is Ramadan, which slows things down to a snail’s pace. I will be packed and ready to leave by August 1st  though . I have heard stories of previous teachers receiving twenty-four hour's notice for a flight to Abu Dhabi. Hopefully that won’t happen to me.  Hopefully I will have at least two weeks’ notice, but one never knows. I am trying to do away with my Western mind set and adapt to a more relaxed attitude. If I can succeed, it might be good for my blood pressure. 

I have been religiously, almost fanatically, weighing my luggage because we are allowed two bags at 50 lbs each. I am taking a third and paying the extra price, which I have heard is anywhere from $135.00 to $200.00. Found a cheap luggage scale at Target for around $12.00 and it works well.

I have three bags halfway packed and stacked out in the depot where they won't clutter my house:

The plastic bins behind the luggage is where I am tossing teaching supplies that I am deciding day-by-day that I won't need in Abu Dhabi. Believe it or not, not one of the bags weighs over 35 pounds at this point, and one even weighs 30 lbs.

One bag contains nothing but teaching supplies:
 There will probably be a lot less in the teaching bag by the time I get ready to leave. Everyday I go out into the depot, look in the bag, and take one or two items OUT (the plastic bins!).

One bag, of course, holds my clothes and shoes, and the third holds personal household and must have items in Teri's World:
 Yep, those are grits. There is also a mini flashlight, a tape measure, corn bread mix, a fluffy white towel, one box of hair color, seven softcover books, and a battery operated very TINY small hand mixer. And somewhere in there, packed tight, is a partridge in a pear tree.

 One small inner luggage bag holds my over the counter meds, hair products, sunscreen, lotion, and an unopened bottle of Chanel #5:

 Another inner luggage bag holds my UAE voltage flat iron and hair dryer. 
 And just for the record, I do not plan on disposing of a body in Abu Dhabi by tossing it hogtied into the Gulf. The rope is so I can make a makeshift clothesline in the hotel. I also have clothes pins.. I'll be staying in a 5 star hotel,for at least a month, but I don't have a 5 star income to pay for hotel laundry service. 

Miscellaneous items I have not packed away yet include a book light, a 2012-2013 agenda, a new journal (for those mad scribbling moments), phonics flash cards, a rainbow of Sharpies, fine point black Pilot pens (my favorite), Bose earphones, and a pink bowl holder that is perfect for those hot microwave dishes that cause third degree burns.
Oh! And cute shoes! How could I have forgotten about them?? Saving these for work only.But they're cute, huh??

that's all folks.....Now, how about that magical Georgia sunset this evening?

Post Script: An American teacher who is currently in Abu Dhabi read this entry and made a few suggestions to my packed items:
Highlighters and other markers (besides Sharpies) are plentiful here. There are Daiso shops in the malls that will have rope and clothespins (if the hotel doesn't have one built in and most do) for a low price (kinda like a Dollar General store). Bring a box or two of Corn Muffin mix, but that can be found here sometimes too. The grits were a great idea, I know people haven't been able to find them here. 
Thanks, Cindy, for the suggestions.. means I can pack more books!!

Time: An Essay of Realization

Time is wicked. Slow as syrup when we are young, tricking us into believing this is the way it will always be.  We will have time to love, laugh, fuck up, recreate, and explore. We will have time to redefine and reinvent ourselves. We waste our minutes, our  weeks. We don’t notice how it slips away. And then one day, suddenly, there isn’t enough time for anything. 

The minutes go by much too quickly, the hours even faster. One year bleeds into another until they all melt together like the colors in a Pollack painting.  Not enough time. 

Not enough time to take back the regrets or find a new love. Not enough time to say I’m sorry or to visit the Nile. Not enough time to think a simple pleasing thought or enjoy how the breeze bends the tips of the trees. And we mourn and we try to tell the young, “Don’t waste your time. It’s not enough. It will go by quickly. Don’t squander it”. But we don’t relate the news with urgency. We don’t try to make them see the emergency of the slippage of time. We tell them in a whisper and then we shrug as they walk away, and we watch with envy as they dance, sing, love. 

We sadly smile with a secret knowing when we see the glint in their eye turn into a dark shard of desperation. We note the exact moment that the realization hits them about the true nature of time. The catalyst might be illness, a late middle age birthday, the death of a spouse, retirement, but when it hits you can see the force of it. It takes their breath away.  We wait and watch for that moment, and then we hold out our arms and welcome these newly initiated "time aware" into our Club of Commiseration.  The commiseration over the devilish way that time shifts from a soft cotton comfort into a metal treadmill set way too fast.  And we talk about it over tea, a cigarette, and coffee. We dissect the years. We unravel them like tangled yarn: the touch of a mother’s fingers on our cheek, much loved dolls now long gone, first dates, new jobs, marriages, births, lovers, children growing up and leaving, the decline of physical abilities, new grandchildren. We marvel over how we changed from scabbed kneed children into gray haired people who don’t recognize our own faces in the once shallow mirrors. Yet, inside we feel the same. We still feel the pull of the rope swing on a summer day, the joy that the ice cream truck chimes bring, the excitement over newly arrived summer lightening bugs.

How fast the time went.  How fast the rest of it will go. How I will fight it. I know now. I know what a trickster time is. I do not take one second for granted. I no longer walk past a spring sunset and not stop in my tracks and notice. I do not rush the words of a child. I do not leave the flowers unpicked. I do not worry if the grass if cut or not.   I no longer put off my life for a tomorrow which might not arrive. 

Now give me back my time that I wasted, Universe. Give it all back and I will not utter one word of despair or regret or longing.  I will not wish the years away. I will not look at the clock when I am kissed or made love to for the first time. I will not wish my time away. I will merely experience and be in the moment of time, simply and beautifully. The way I was meant to be.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Conversations About Chicken Poop

I spent this summer evening conversing with my four year old granddaughter, Miley. She found a pile of old  family photos I have been scanning and she took it as her mission to study each and every one and ask questions. She came upon one photo of my cousin, Randy, and my brother, Mike, The photo was taken at my Aunt Ruby’s house on the Mill Village in Hawkinsville, GA in 1968 while my dad was in Vietnam.  Aunt Ruby used to babysit my brother and my three cousins while our mothers worked at the local hospital.

Aunt Ruby was a huge woman, soft and round as dough. She wore scuffed down shoes and cotton house dresses, and she dipped prodigious amounts of C&C snuff. Every afternoon Aunt Ruby would switch the black and white television set on and wait while it hummed to life so she could watch her afternoon “stories”, including Dark Shadows. The opening strains of the music to Dark Shadows would crackle out of the old television set and I would run and hide behind Aunt Ruby, peeking out only long enough to a catch a glimpse of Barnabas Collins’s bared fangs. Aunt Ruby would shoo us children out into the backyard where she kept the chickens. The white, mottled chickens and a large, slow tortoise had the full run of the backyard.  We tried to ride the tortoise, unsuccessfully, and  to avoid the chicken shit that covered the dirt yard like a carpet, also unsuccessfully.

Anyway, Miley saw the photo of Mike and Randy and wanted to know who was in the photo and what they were doing.  I explained to Miley that it was my brother and my cousin and that they were in Aunt Ruby’s back yard playing in chicken poop. She wrinkled her nose and said, Ewwww..”. 

She then asked, “Can we go there?”
“It’s all gone now. The house was torn down years ago.”
“Where did the chickens go?”
“Aunt Ruby ate them.”
“All of them?”
Yep, all of them. She wrung their necks until their necks flopped over, then she cut their heads off, plucked their feathers and fried them up for dinner.”
“But they were poopy chickens!”
“Yes, they were. We’ll go to the Mill Village and see where the house stood tomorrow if you want.”
Miley studied the photograph again and declared, “We can go, but I don’t want to play in chicken poop.”

There is not another person on the entire planet that I could have a conversation like this with. 

The next conversation was held in whispered tones while Miley tried to figure out the logistics of  how her Gigi (me) was once married to Papa Rick  and is now married to Granddaddy,  but Gigi's boyfriend lives next door...(that's what I tell her Scott, one of my BFF's, is).

 I wrote this entire entry while Miley chattered away incessantly about kittys, babydolls, why it doesn't snow in summer, if men can wear dresses, and why she has curly hair....

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Six Weeks to Abu Dhabi: Things Accomplished, Webinar, BOBs, Facebook, and Twister....

About six weeks left on the Abu Dhabi countdown clock. I have managed to get the following tasks completed this past week in preparation for my transplantation:

*Downloaded all my music onto my jump drive from my desktop and put it ALL on my laptop

* I bought a long navy blue skirt with a tunic style long sleeved shirt for my first day in the classroom (if I am not told to wear an abaya). I love Old Navy! 

Disclaimer: I’m not crazy.. I plan my first day back to school outfits EVERY year! It is an activity that helps me get excited about a new school year.

*Also weeded out some more clothes I was going to take to Abu Dhabi and then decided against (more room for books!).

Not much accomplished, I know. Time is getting short and I have got to stop procrastinating. I’ll do it tomorrow.

But a little bit of kudos to me! I finally purchased my VPN service (astrill) so I can bypass UAE censored internet when I get to Abu Dhabi.  I like to watch Netflix movies from time to time.. I still haven’t decided if I want to buy a Magic Jack Plus for a phone. Might be a good idea to go to Abu Dhabi, scout things out a bit, and then when I come home Christmas buy a Magic Jack , if I feel a need for it. I loaded Skype on Mom’s computer. My granddaughter, oldest son, brother, and husband also have Skype, as do a lot of my friends, so I won’t be starved for back home conversation.

I participated in a pre-departure webinar today via Teach Away (the company that ADEC uses to scout for teachers). Some of the topics covered were:
The incoming teachers will be booked on Etihad Airlines into Abu Dhabi. Nirvana is the travel agency who handles our e tickets (only contact them with REAL problems- not because you don't like a flight date/time) and we all should take Nirvana's phone number  with us in our carry on luggage in case we miss a flight or need to contact Nirvana during the trip; the phases of culture shock( honeymoon, rejection, adjustment, acceptance, reverse culture shock); possible challenges we might face and suggestions for handling each (classroom management, lack of resources, location and school placement, housing, lack of support); work dress and outside dress; etiquette (no eating with left hand, do not cross legs or expose soles of shoes; appropriate discussion topics (family, food, travel) and inappropriate discussion topics ( sex, spouses, religion, politics); go to to learn some common Arabic phrases; make plans for up to six weeks with no pay (better safe than sorry); bring authenticated documents (hard copies) and originals of teaching certificate and degrees, as well as electronic copies; and we were given info to look on a website for earning our TEFL while in AD (all online at 100 hours $995.00 USD.
Also, teachers who are single parents or couples who have children under 3 years old will be allowed to bring families with them when they arrive in August instead of families following on a later flight after orientation.  
That’s about all I remember. I was eating Mandarin Orange chicken while I tried to pay attention. 

Tomorrow I will get online and order the router I need for the VPN.  I have also been looking at hand scanners ..  Electronics and computer type products are more expensive in the UAE, so I may as well buy before I go.  And really, who wants to have to go shopping immediately upon arrival with a bad case of jet lag riding their ass? Not me.  In fact at this very minute, packed securely in my luggage, are a UAE voltage compatible hair dryer and hair straightener.  Brand new. I may have already mentioned that tidbit in an earlier entry, but I am so proud of myself for thinking ahead, so humor me.

BOBs (sssssshhhhhh! Taboo...)
Some of the women on one of the Facebook sites for teachers going to Abu Dhabi revived an old posting from the 2011 teachers who were awaiting departure. The posting brought up a very valid question about ladies bringing their BOBs (Battery Operated Boyfriends) to Abu Dhabi in their luggage.. The responses were informative, as well as hilarious. 

I think everyone is starting to get a little punchy and wound tight as a Slinky from all the waiting (wait to interview, wait to hear if we’re hired or not, wait for authenticated papers, wait for e-tickets…). New Facebook pages for Abu Dhabi teachers keep splintering off, forming new pages, deleting members, etc. It’s, as one teacher put it, like being in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.  I think we all just need a good drink and then we need to play a rousing game of Twister. Twister solves just about everything. You can’t stay mad playing Twister, especially if you’ve had a drink or two.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Steel Guitar Picking Dad....

My dad started playing guitar when he was about eight years old. I have several photos of him as a young boy holding on tightly to his guitar; a lopsided smile on his face; his skinny frame posed in a predetermined, probably practiced, manner.  Jimmy Alton Coley. 

 A very young Jimmy A Coley circa 1951

Dad was named for Jimmie Rogers, one of the first true country music stars. Jimmie Rogers died in 1933, but still carries the title “The Father of Country Music”.  My dad’s middle name is in honor of Alton Delmore, half of the performing duo of Alton and Rabon Delmore,  poor tenant farm brothers from Alabama who perfected arrangements for Bluegrass music. Music was bred into my dad’s soul (his father taught him to play him guitar at a young age) and then heightened by the names by grandfather bestowed upon him at his birth. So, I guess my dad was doubly cursed, or blessed, however you want to look at it..

Just after we returned to San Antonio in 1972 from a two year assignment in Iraklion, Crete, my dad decided he wanted to play steel guitar.  Being the type A personality that he was, and is, there was never any doubt in my mind about him succeeding. He bought an old lap steel at a pawn shop and started sequestering himself in the garage with the tired looking instrument every day. And I do mean EVERY DAY. He practiced from the moment he came home from work until it was bedtime, then all day Saturday and Sunday.  He soon gained enough confidence and a carefully practiced catalog of songs to purchase a single neck stand up electric steel  and amp.  He would pack up that steel and amp on Friday and Saturday nights and hit the local Texas honky tonks in the hope that he could persuade a country band to allow him sit in for a song or two. 

A steel guitar is not an easy instrument to master. Both hands and both feet are used simultaneously. A heavy steel bar in one hand, picks on almost every finger on the other, one foot to work the pedal, and the other knee to work a knee bar. That’s a helluva lot of coordination. More than I have.

 Dad with his first double neck steel. 1974.

It wasn’t long before dad became pretty proficient on the steel and was in demand on the honky tonk circuit in San Antonio and the surrounding hill country. His skill increased and he gained a reputation as a professional, dedicated  musician. Every weekend he was booked to pick:  Randy’s Rodeo,  Floore’s Country Store, The Crystal Chandelier, and Riley’s Tavern.  He picked his steel in China Grove, Bandera, Castroville, Kerrville. I tagged along and learned to do the Cotton Eyed Joe, Four Corners, and The Texas Two Step, long before John Travolta heard of Urban Cowboy. 

In 1974 Dad started playing steel for the very young and unknown Clifton Jansky. Today Clifton is a highly successful Christian Country singer in Texas who has won awards for the 2001 CCMA New Artist of the year, 2022 CCMA Male vocalist of the Year, 2002 CCMA Male Vocalist of the Year, the 2004 Christian Country Entertainer of the Year, and 2005 CCMA Songwriter of the Year.  But, back then, in 1974, Clifton was just a seventeen-year-old gangly kid who had a voice that didn't quite match his youth, belting out songs like Silver Wings, Your Mama Don't Dance, Behind Closed Doors, and Mama's Hungry Eyes.The band received a following of fans and Clifton even recorded his own version of Mama's Hungry Eyes. I remember once or twice manning the table to help sell the 45s at some of the gigs.

 Clifton Jansky and the Drifters August 1974. Floore's Country Store
l to r: Jimmy Coley (steel), Jerry Thompkins (bass), Clifton Jansky (singer), Dave ? (lead guitar), Glenn Drewitt (drums)

In all those Texas venues my dad was the man sitting quietly on stage behind the singer, making that steel sing notes that pulsed deep into the bones and the soles of the feet. The band somehow talked my dad into adding singing to his repertoire and assigned him one song that dad sang every gig during the second set. That song was White Lightening, and wherever I was, whatever I was doing, when I heard the opening chords of that song, my attention would divert and I would get as close to the stage as I could. Dad's singing voice is a deep baritone and when he uttered the words, "Whshhhoooh . . . white lightnin'" the bass of his voice would thump against my chest.

To hear George Jones sing this classic click: 

 And during all this "Pickin' and Grinnin'", my dad wrote songs. A lot of songs. Recently, I stumbled upon an old worn manila folder at my mom and dad's house. It was crammed full of dad’s songs. There they were after all these years: Frank and Caroline, Sweet Red Wine, When We All Sing Dixie, Little Piece of Ground....Some in his handwriting, some carefully transposed on a typewriter. They date from 1973 to 1990. 

Here’s one dad wrote July 9, 1985

A Big Singin’ Star
He stands on the stage-
and it’s really not far-
from the first row of tables
In this Honky Tonk bar-
From nine until closing his memory unwinds,
and he’s carried back.
 Twenty years in time.
‘cause he’s a big Singin’ Star,
A Singer of yesterday’s songs.
Some say a little crazy,
he’s been on the road much too long.
He’s a Big Singin’ Star,
and  fans still come around,
to see a real live legend
and hear honky tonk sounds.

He holds his guitar
and he looks at the band-
the first note he sings
and the people all stand,
he quiets ‘em down with
a one word of “thanks”.
A song of his own
Then one of ole Hank’s.


Well, it’s getting late
and it’s almost time
To close up the bar.
He’s had a really great time,
he can still hold his whiskey
and sing a good song.
But a Big Singin’ Star
has gotta keep moving on..

© 1985 Jimmy A Coley

Dad still has the music inside. I can see it when a Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard song aching with steel chords is played on the radio. Dad smiles, leans his head back, and his fingers tap out the beat in perfect time. Some things just stay in a heart and soul forever.

Happy Father's Day, my Steel Picking Dad.... I love you.


Seven Weeks and Counting: Abu Dhabi Checklist


Buy a VPN                                     $55.00
Buy a Buffalo router                        $66.00
Buy a Magic Jack Plus                    $78.00
Save for extra bag on plane             $180.00
Rob a bank……                             Priceless

TOTAL                                         $379.00 or felony charges

Going to have to pimp the ole husband out if I keep running into expenses for this job.. It’ll take my entire first paycheck to just break even.


Have teeth cleaned (Monday!)

Visit my General Practitioner GREAT doctor: get shingles vaccine RX, have cholesterol levels checked, have thyroid levels checked, get letter for my medications, get copies of RXs. (June 19).

Make an appointment with chiropractor for back adjustment (ahhhhhhh….)

Visit Rheumatologist and get letter for medications, have liver enzymes checked, and get copies of RXs
 (July 21)

Place an order for my FedEX delivered ENBREL medication. 3 months worth (July 23)

Scan grammar and writing books I will use in classroom

Go to North Georgia mountains with husband for some quality one-on-one time…..

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Don't it Make my Blue Eyes Brown (Did You Hear Crystal Gayle's Voice When You Read That?)?

It occurred to me tonight that very soon I will be boarding a plane for a country where almost all the inhabitants have dark hair and dark eyes. I have blue, blue, eyes and blonde hair (okay, so it was blonde when I was young and now it’s Miss Clairol, but it’s still blonde, damn it). Is this going to be like when I was a child living in Japan and Crete? Are people going to continually touch my hair and make comments about my eyes?  I don’t like people horning in on my personal space and touching me, unless they are swatting a wasp away from me . Do I need to buy brown contact lenses and change over to Miss Clairol brunette? Are my hair and eyes going to be a hindrance and distraction when I arrive in Abu Dhabi? Will I be able to blend in and "people watch" at the mall the way I do now?  I love to people watch, but it has to be done discreetly and I can't people watch if people are watching ME.

I am driving myself crazy over the little things.

Will they have vanilla wafers? Will the desalinated water make my hair coarse and dry? Will I be able to find a good bookstore for Saturday browsing? Will I ever figure out the dirham currency exchange rate? Will I be able to converse with my students’ parents or will I be reduced to just standing there and smiling stupidly? Will I be able to get all my current medications (very important at my age)? Will I suddenly develop a craving for pork BBQ and Brunswick stew (I haven’t eaten pork in over two years..)?  Will I be able to stop uttering “fuck” under my breath every so often (bad, bad habit)?  Will I find out who shot J.R..... wait that was in 1980. Never mind. I think the Miss Clairol is getting to my brain.

 The People Watching eyes.....

Friday, June 15, 2012

Emergency Room Fun, The Cost of Going to Abu Dhabi, and Webinars...

TWENTY HOURS IN MEDICAL CENTER EMERGENCY ROOM: Dad was rushed by ambulance to the Medical Center in Macon on Monday night. He was complaining of his stomach hurting, but then his BP started dropping, his heart rate went down, and he became very cold and grey looking. He was totally incoherent.  Mom and I tried to walk him to the car so we could take him to the emergency room, but it become clear that it was a situation we couldn’t handle. Mom phoned for an ambulance and we got dad back into the house. I sang to him and talked to him while we waited for assistance. At one point, Dad started  talked about tiny lights all around, but his eyes were closed and he refused to open them. He kept saying “I can’t see” and when I would tell him his eyes were closed, he would deny it. At one point I heard him praying. I couldn’t understand the words, but the rhythm and the tone was one of prayer. I sang "Luckenbach, Texas" to him and he haltingly hummed along.

It couldn’t have been any more than fifteen minutes before the ambulance arrived, but it felt like hours. Mom rode in the ambulance with dad, and I took my six-year-old nephew to my house (he had been visiting at mom and dad's) and arranged for him to stay with neighbors (thank you from the bottom of my heart, Erin and Daniel!). Jim copied dad's medical directive and then we left for Macon. When I arrived, Dad was surrounded by a team of medical personnel. It looked like a pit stop at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and dad was the "car".  They stabilized him, mom and dad's preacher and his wife arrived, and dad became halfway quiet and seemed to be resting. Around 4:30 a.m the doctor ordered haldol and ativan. Dad went to sleep, and Jim and I left around 5:15 a.m. I got to bed around 6:00 a.m. slept until 8:30, took a shower, gathered my belongings for an indefinite hospital stay,, went and collected mom's necessary items at her house, and headed back to Macon. 

When I arrived, I found out that dad had came half way awake and had become very agitated just after Jim and I had left, and hadn't gone back to sleep at all. Mom had battled with him by herself to just keep him on the stretcher (they didn't wheel a bed in until I started yelling about it later that day). Mom was beyond exhausted, so I battled to keep my dad in the bed for the next thirteen hours.

Dad stayed in the ER for over eighteen hours before I got fed up and started raising hell about getting him into a room. The hospital was full to capacity, and I understood that, but the E.R was so noisy that we couldn’t get dad calmed down. And eighteen hours? I mean, really? They didn't find him a room until I told them they had until 8 p.m to get him a room and that if they didn't have him one by then, I'd transfer him to another hospital. By 8 p.m Dad had a room. In all, he was in the ER for twenty hours.

Like I said, Dad kept trying to get out of bed the entire time, so much so that one of us had to stand by his side every minute just to keep him safe. He was talking nonsense and grabbing at the air. His hands were almost constantly moving, doing tasks that only he could see.  Several times I actually climbed into the bed with him to try and keep him there, but he still managed to pull out his I.V, even with me that close to him. The doctors could find nothing ‘wrong” and released him yesterday afternoon. We still have no answers for what happened to him Monday night. Will it happen again? When? We have no way of knowing.

 Dad remembers none of it. He doesn’t even remember coming home yesterday. But he did know enough in the hospital to try and comfort me when I started crying Tuesday night. We were in his room on the sixth floor and I was curled up beside him in the hospital bed, where I had crawled in an effort to keep him from trying to get up.  The room was dark, the only light coming from the small adjoining bathroom.  Mom was finally asleep in the next bed.  I placed my face into his neck and I just started crying. I felt his hand inch onto my shoulder and he started to slowly pat me on the back.  He said, “Shhhhh”. It took everything I had inside of me to stop crying. I didn’t want to upset him. I said, “I love you” .   He very clearly said, “I love you too”. The clearest words I had heard him say in two days.

My mom is exhausted and scared. We all are.

THANK GOODNESS FOR LITTLE MIRACLES: Miley, my four year old granddaughter, is here.  I am trying to spend time with her because I know I won’t see her again until I fly back home for Christmas. She’s my best little buddy. I can’t even put into words how much joy and love she brings into my life. Especially with all that has been going on with dad.

FINANCIAL COST OF ABU DHABI: Jim and I figured out today that so far my job in Abu Dhabi has cost us about $2300.00.  Some of that has been money that I probably didn't have to spend on new luggage, clothes, shoes etc, but what is done is done. $2300.00 is no small sum when you consider that I haven’t had a paycheck since late April. My next paycheck could be as early as late August (mainly furnishing allowance of $5000.00) or late September.  Going to have to really tighten up massively in July. I foresee a lot of cheap meals and staying close to home until I leave.

EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL COST Of EVERYTHING:  Eight weeks to go before I leave for Abu Dhabi.  Because of dad’s condition I am having to live moment to moment. I never know what is going to happen. I feel like my entire body and brain are on alert 24/7. Every time the phone rings I jump. My body is starting to react to the stress. I can’t go to sleep, but when I do I don’t want to wake up. My arthritis is flaring up, and my neck is tight and sore all the time. It’s no one’s fault. It just “is”. Shit happens and you handle it the best way you can. Planning for  Abu Dhabi amid all this emotional and mental turmoil is so surreal.

TEACH AWAY WEBINAR: Teach Away, the recruitment agency I went through to get the Abu Dhabi position, emailed information about pre-departure webinars. I can either sign up for June 22 or June 29. I also received the ADEC Pre-Departure FAQ. Contents listed are: Departure Time Line, Document Reminders, Preparation, Don’t Forget, Travel Concerns, Departure Questions, Visas, Traveling with Families, Money, Working Hours, Health Coverage, Possible Concerns, Understanding the Culture, Dress, Social Etiquette, Understanding Day to Day Interactions, Controlled Substances, Pets, and Resources. I will print the information and put it in my Abu Dhabi notebook, although most of the information about the country I have already learned from books I have bought (Culture Smart, Diamonds in the Desert), reading the UAE newspapers (The National and Gulf ), and picking the brains, via Facebook, of teachers already in the sandbox. More like bugging the shit out of them really..

Eight weeks….. and counting.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Incoming Abu Dhabi Teachers Vs. Veteran Abu Dhabi Teachers

Much speculation by the incoming Abu Dhabi teachers is being made on the Abu Dhabi Facebook pages.  The current teachers in Abu Dhabi share their stories and experiences openly and generously on these Facebook pages for those of us getting ready to leave in August. Not all of the stories are warm and fuzzy.  Stories of teachers being hit and spit on by some of the students, stories of out and out blatant academic cheating by the students to which parents and administration turn a blind eye, lack of teaching materials, substandard living quarters for teachers, and no real clear cut method of decimating information to teachers (if an email is sent, it is often sent in Arabic and then Western teachers have to locate an Arabic speaking teacher to translate) are all prevalent.   Obstacles. That’s all they are; obstacles. 

However, when I compare those obstacles to the conditions and situations in which I have taught in Georgia, it becomes glaringly clear to me that I am just trading one set of issues for another set. And there are issues no matter what road in education we teachers choose to travel.  There are no perfect teaching scenarios. I have taught in classrooms with broken air conditioners in 95 plus degree heat for weeks and no one seemed in a big rush to rectify the situation. I have taught using twelve year old literature books that came to my classroom stamped USED and falling apart at the seams. I have taught with law enforcement personnel marching in unannounced to conduct weapon searches (and found them).  I have taught while incarcerated teen boys were pulled out of my classroom so they could meet with their probation officers.  I have taught classes that were filled with 37 students, of which 10 were special education, 6 were gifted, and the rest ran the gamut between the two extremes, and I did it without a state mandated special education co-teacher. I have taught and graded work for two other teachers, in conjunction with my own classes, because both teachers developed health issues that kept them out of work for two months. I have had administrators instruct me to change class grades so the passing scores looked better, and paid the price when I refused.

Yes, it’s been a ride. And the field of education will always be a ride because there are too many variables: revolving door administrators, federal mandates and state policies, ever changing state education standards, overly concerned and not concerned enough parents, and poverty and/or abuse in the homes of some students.  This is only a partial list; a complete list could fill this entire blog.

But there have been students who made it all worthwhile. Students I will remember to my dying day. Students who taught me as much as I taught them. That’s why I stay in teaching.  That, and the fact that  I am only about 50% sane…

So, now I am getting ready to fling myself off into the unknown regions of Abu Dhabi. I read what the teachers who are already there write, but I have to take those writings and points of view for what they are: their experiences.  Just as you can’t relate what made-from-scratch-fifteen-layer chocolate cake tastes like to someone who has never tasted chocolate, the teachers in Abu Dhabi cannot make us, the incoming teachers, understand what they are experiencing. They can sketch out the details, but the actual coloring in and shading will come from what we, the new teachers, experience once we arrive.  What the veteran Abu Dhabi teachers can do is help us green horns navigate technology issues, procure a driver’s license, show us where and how to get utility services, how to obtain internet service, steer us towards the best grocery stores, assist us in understanding Emirate culture and mores, share information on the most affordable airlines on which to fly home for summer visits, point us in the direction of the nearest laundry, reach out to us as friends, as well as co-workers (so many of us are going over without family), and remind us over and over again to drink copious amounts of water and show us how to sneak a gulp of water in a bathroom stall or a dressing room during Ramadan.

There are a lot of us new teachers going over. Around 650 the last time I checked. We all won’t see eye to eye or even like one another. That’s okay. There are 6.8 billion people on this planet. I don’t like or agree with the few out of that 6.8 million people I do know. Many of the new teachers are not going to like or agree with me either. Statistically, out of the new teachers going, I will probably only like about five of them. I’ll be lucky if even one likes me. The minute I turned 50 I morphed into a take-no-shit bitch who finally realized that being “nice” all those years only allowed people to take advantage of me. I am social, I am kind, I am helpful, but not to the point of allowing people to use me or walk all over me.  Gee, I’m probably going to have to pay someone to be my friend in Abu Dhabi...

The teachers who are already in Abu Dhabi cannot hand over their own experiences and assure the new teachers that those experiences will be their own. They simply can’t, and for any of us to expect them to do so is not only unrealistic, but borders on delusion.  Everyone approaches new experiences based on their own points of view that were developed by religion, social structure, family, education, language, and culture.  

Am I scared about leaving my safe and secure home in August for a country over 6000 miles away?  You bet your ass I am. If I weren’t scared, nervous, and apprehensive I would be a fool. This is new territory for me. A new country. New schools. New students. New friends. New weather. New dominating religion. New food. New sounds. New everything. Everything different from what I am accustomed to.  Even I will be different.  There will be homesickness. There will be periods when I miss my husband so deeply that I will ache. There will be periods of confusion. And there will be culture shock.  Massive doses of culture shock.  I grew up traveling with my dad as a military brat, so I hope those past experiences help me deal better with my new adventure. 

A promise to myself: I will stay grounded and realistic, and not allow my head to float into the clouds. I will reign myself in so that I become neither overly negative nor positive, but keep my feet solidly within the borders of reality. I will teach and learn.  

In need of female BFF in the UAE. Must like hard rock and roll and agree that AC/DC was never the same after Bon Scott passed away. Must also believe that all 99% of all Democrats and Republicans are pretty much clueless, that NCLB is and was an unmitigated educational disaster, that Coke is better than Pepsi, and that there is a time and place for the insertion of the word “fuck” into the conversation. Must also be willing to trade books with me (and not romance novels, Twilight, or those new Gray something books), and most importantly, be the type of woman who can unashamedly give in to a good old fashioned  belly laugh over all the absurdities that may come our way.
Services required from mid-August 2012- forever

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nine Weeks to Abu Dhabi.....

My new duffel bag arrived today. That will make three bags and one carry on that I am taking with me to the UAE. I will have to pay extra for the third bag, but it is difficult for me to find shoes (US ladies size 5) so almost all my shoes are making the journey, as well as things I just can’t live without: a few good DVDs; my Willow Tree Healing angel; six scarves; seven books;  fully locked and loaded kindle; camera; Emily and Edgar; Superman cap; metal spoons, knives, and forks for the month or so I'll be living  in an Abu Dhabi hotel room; and a partridge in a pear tree.. okay, everything but the partridge.

I am getting stressed about departure day.  Zero hour is sneaking up on me, and there’s not a lot of time to tie up loose ends. I have been so busy trying to help my parents navigate the Alzheimer’s world (and I don’t regret helping for one minute;  it’s my duty as a daughter and an extreme honor to give back to them just a little for all they have done for me my entire life) that I haven’t had time to pay attention to tasks still left to do like: purchase a VPN so I can access all internet sites once I am in Abu Dhabi, shovel out my study, have my teeth cleaned, get a few of my medications adjusted, and a hundred other little details..

My four-year-old granddaughter arrives this Saturday from Florida to stay until mid-July, there is a three day family reunion to attend the latter part of this month, and I would like to go away somewhere with my dear husband for a few days before I leave.  Yes, time is slipping away from me and I’ll be kissing everyone goodbye before I know it and singing slightly off key, “I’m leaving on a jet plane…..”.

Must calm down. Must find my Zen. Must go to my happy place..

Movies, movies, I have movies:

Emily and Edgar go where I go:


Just three of the seven books (real books vs electronic) that I am taking:

P. S One can NEVER read Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" too often. I have read it six times..... :)