Monday, November 21, 2011

Ultimate UAE Experience

   I know it has been a while since the last post and I apologize. It gets crazy here!!

This past weekend I had the ultimate UAE experience since being here. This weekend was the Gayathi Beautiful Camel Festival. The town of Gayathi is in the Western Region and is known for its labor camps and desert filled with camel farms. It is not uncommon for many students to be absent due to selling of their camels.. which can sell for up to 6 million dirhams which is about 2million dollars...

Emiratis come from all over the country to showcase their camels. They dress their camels up in sparkly shawls and necklaces and drapings.

A group of friends and I showed up on Friday evening around 430pm only to find that the show was done for the day. Disappointed and ready to go home, an Emirati gentleman named Mohammed came over to us and invited us into a tent behind the bleachers to have tea. We met the head of the media and many pictures were taken. We were then told to get into SUVs and we were taken out into the desert beyond the stadium and to a family's tent. We were welcomed with open arms and smiling children! We were invited for coffee, tea and dates and conversation. They were thrilled to have Westerners be a part of such an important aspect of their heritage. We were then brought to see their camels and got to take pictures and interact with them. The men were so hospitable and welcoming it was amazing! Even the children were excited to see us and show off their English skills!

The next day, Saturday, we returned to the festival to witness the actual showing of the beautiful camels. When we arrived our friend Mohammed found us and brought us into the main ring in front of the audience. We got to walk around, meet many of the camel owners, and see the camels all dressed up up close and personal!! It was amazing! No other spectators are allowed in the gates!! We were told that they allowed Westerners because they want us to learn and experience their culture and traditions that are so important to them. We were the only Westerners and the only women!!!

This was an amazing experience both days. Words will not be able to describe the weekend!! Pictures help a little bit!

My name in Arabic: شانون

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Holy Moly I'm Really in the Desert!!

So I know most of you are thinking that "Duh Shannon, obviously you are in the desert.... " but its really hard to believe!!!

I am still living in the hotel so my view from my bedroom is always the beautiful beach and the clear blue waters of the Arabian Gulf... but on the other side.. not so much....

Here are some pictures of what surrounds us... and what we drive through everyday...

First Month in Ruwais KG

It has been a while- and I'm sorry!!

The past month has been a whirl wind and has flown by. I cannot believe that we are just wrapping up our 4th week in school! It seems like we just started!!

School is different than the sates.. but similar at the same time.. Everything here is shway-shway meaning slowly.... and since the New School Model is new, everything is trial and error so is always subject to change... and there has to be a meeting for every decision made....

                                                                          My Classroom!

KG2-A Bulletin Board- we got so many compliments on this!!!!

Numeral-Quantitiy Activity

Al Jinan!
(yes that's a boat)


School Gate

All of the Arabic staff are great ladies and I absolutely love teaching at Al Jinan Kindergarten! I feel at home...  almost... things do get very frustrating at times, but there is always someone there who can help work things out..

I am teaching side by side with an Arabic teacher which helps  A LOT!! These kids have no idea what I am saying 95% of the time!! Her and I make a great team and I feel very comfortable teaching with her.

There are 14 children in my class- 6 girls and 8 boys. It can get pretty wild and crazy in KG2-A let me tell you!! The Arabic teachers say the naughty kids are just "active".... active alright.... I love my students, but they drive me up he wall sometimes.. but isn;t it like that everywhere ?!! There's always at least one.. I have 3 or 4... sometimes 5-6.... !!!!!

This teaching experience is one of a lifetime. I am learning so much about myself  as a teacher. I have been told that my teaching is just what my kids need and that I am a perfect fir for the needs of my students.. but sometimes I feel my teaching methods seem not good enough because it seems I am not reaching the students... but I always have to remind myself that if something isn't working I can always change it. I am working with 4 and 5 year olds who cannot understand me!! I have to encourage myself to keep trying because they will start to understand me!! Always think outside the box!

 I'm also working on how to co-teach with 2 languages.. I used to teach in 2 languages.. but I was the only one teaching.. now there are 2 of us and I don't understand the 2nd language..

I'm loving it.. even though things can get real crazy and overwhelming!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Next Step

I have been a little behind on my updates. I am now in a new hotel and I am teaching! What has happened between the last blog and now? Here's a run down!

The last time I wrote I was at the Fairmont waiting.. just waiting. Waiting for money, waiting for notice of location and school, housing etc..

Sunday the 4th all of the LTs assigned to Abu Dhabi City and Al Gharbia(the west) received the names of the schools where we were placed. I was placed in Al Jinan Kindergarten in Ruwais. We were to call our principals to check in and the Abu dhabi teachers needed to report to their schools. I called my principal Fawkia, and she asked me to come the next day by 8am. I said ok and that I was looking forward to meeting her. On the inside I was not a happy camper- Ruwais is almost 3 hours away from Abu dhabi City and I had no way to get there! I had a mini freakout .. but I pulled myself together, went to the Fairmont Hotel concierge and rented a car. That next morning at 445am three of us were on the road to Ruwais. They dropped me off and went to their schools 90mins away to Madinat Zayed.

Ruwais is a small town in the shape of a circle. There are stores and 2 rec centers in the middle then from there are villas and apartment buildings. There are also a few mosques thrown in here and there. It is owned by ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company).

Al Jinan Kindergarten is on the outskirts of the town right neat the Skeikh's palace. When I walked in I was greeted by a security guard and cleaning staff as well as the Head of Faculty Debi! I was then introduced to another LT from USA and the art teacher who is Emirate! They were very welcoming! A few more Arabic teachers arrived and I was warmly greeted with hugs and kisses and handshakes. The music teacher was so excited to see me she ran in and gave me a HUGE hug!  I also met the Fawkia who was very excited to meet me as well! I instantly fell in love! That day I got a tour from Debi, sat and talked with the Arabic teachers, met with Debi and Fawkia, walked and talked with the American LT who filled me in on the dynamics, and sat around some more eating cookies and drinking tea with everyone. I also saw my classroom and organized it a little bit with my Arabic co-teacher!

That Monday was the only day I could make it there due to the distance. Tuesday ADEC held a welcoming ceremony for all of the teachers employed throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It was called the Bedaya Celebration. There were many people who spoke and showed power points... which were helpful because everything was in Arabic! They gave us headphones and receivers that were supposed to pick up signal so we could hear the English translation, but they never worked consistently.. so we missed most of it! They also had a huge, delicious buffet.

Thursday they packed us up and shipped us out. We were scheduled to leave Thursday morning from the Fairmont to go to a different hotel - out West. That Wednesday evening, amidst all the rushing and packing, I rented a car- signed a 2 year lease. So I packed the car and I packed the truck that was taking out luggage out here. That morning I picked up Louisa, my potential roommate and friend, and we headed out. We were met at the Danat Hotel and Resort by my HoF Debi and the American LT.
We checked- in, brought our luggage up to out rooms, had a quick bite, and went to a meeting in the lobby for all the LTs staying at the hotel. There are people staying here who are assigned to Ruwais, Gayathi, Sila, and Delma Island. These are all areas/towns in the western most region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday we all enjoyed the beach, the pool, the food and each other's company.. and prepared for Sunday- The First Day of School!!!

Crazy and different things in the UAE

There are many things here I have seen and witnessed that are crazy and so very different than what I am used to! And I use the term crazy very loosely because I do respect every aspect of this culture and country.
Some crazy things I've seen/experienced:
            -camels just walking freely around the desert- we were able to get so close to touch them, and when                
                they would walk they didn't care if you were standing right in front of them!
            -goats on the back of a pick up truck on the highway! the bed of the truck was cage-like and
                covered and their heads were sticking out the back and sides just taking in the view!
            -there are no street numbers here- directions are given by landmarks!
            -there was a man jet skiing in the canal by the hotel who was wearing a kandoora and the head
                piece (traditional Arab dress) this man was in the water with the clothes on!
            - there was a woman floating in the Arabian Gulf on a banana looking-chair with her full abaya
                 on- her husband was holding on to the chair. Now there are burkinis which is a bathing suit
                 that covers head to toe... but she was wearing the abaya!
            - a lot of little boys here just swim in their underwear!
            -everything is on Abu Dhabi time, except when driving! Everyone is always in a rush to get
                 somewhere! SPEEDING!!!! They drive like maniacs here! There are so many accidents  
                                     I will be adding more as I see it- Which I am sure I will!!!

I am loving it here! But it is definitely a whole new cultural adventure filled with so many interesting and unexpected experiences!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Week 2

     Its hard to believe that it has been exactly 2 weeks since I started the journey to the UAE! ... The days seem to blur together... for a while we had no ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) obligations so we were going to breakfast.. working out and spending the day by the pool.. followed by Iftar at a local restaurant or even a mall food court... Iftar means breaking of the fast in Arabic and since it is Ramadan Iftar is the meal after sunset.

     The end of last week we went on a desert safari which was one of the coolest, most fun experiences I've ever had. It started with "dune bashing"- driving through the desert in a SUV flying up and over the enormous sand dunes! Then we took a short break at a little camel camp where we were able to touch and get up close to the camels! Then it was back in the truck for more bashing! After the thrill we stopped at an other camp where we could ride camels, sand board down sand dunes, and ride 4 wheelers. I climbed to the top of a tall dune and the view was breath taking- I could see dunes for miles! ... There was also a little compound where they have seats and a stage for belly dancing(not during Ramadan)... and they served Iftar here.. we had an amazing buffet. After the sun set and dinner was over they set out hookahs where anyone could come and have some Shisha (Arabic tobacco). They also shut the lights off for some star "grazing" as the man said! It was amazing to be in the middle of the desert gazing at the stars!    This was my favorite Abu Dhabi activity so far!!

       This week people who are placed in Al Gharbia (meaning the West) found out in what towns we are living and teaching as well as the grade! I will be teaching KG (KG1 preschool and KG2 kindergarten) but I'm not sure as to which level.. and I will be in Ruwais.

      Ramadan ends this Saturday and the Eid al Fitr festival starts.. which is like a celebration after Ramadan.. so next week the Government is on vacation so we get a nice vacation week here in the hotel.. We need to report to the ADEC office Sept 4th to get our school assignments.. and then we have a back to school feast the 6th .. then the students return the 11th. Somewhere in between we will be leaving the hotel and going to our apartments in our respective regions..

      I have made the greatest friends while staying here ... Im so thankful that I have this great support system!! And thank you all for following!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Week

   As the first week in Abu Dhabi is coming to a close, I am finally starting to adjust.
I started my journey at 4pm on Thursday August 11 from Boston, MA to JFK to Doha, Qatar and finally to Abu Dhabi, UAE.

   We were greeted and brought into a part of the airport where they handed us our visas and then proceeded to customs to get out eyes scanned and our passports checked... as we got our bags there were men from the travel agency there to welcome us and bring us to the busses and put our luggage on a truck. Everything was so organized. When we arrived at the hotel it was about 130am Sat. morning.. and there were about 40 men waiting for us to take our bags off the truck and we were escorted into the hotel where there were many more hotel staff there to greet us. They gave us our room keys, welcomed us in and our bags were delivered.

    So far, our obligations have consisted of an administrative orientation, medical testing, and a police check. Other than that I have been spending time making friends, exploring the city, shopping, eating, and lounging by the pool. There are so many great people here. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat- (coming to a foreign country by themselves not knowing anyone or anything...) I have made three really great friends- we are each other's family here. Its great to have this support system so far from home!

   The city is amazing! And the hotel isn't too shabby either! 5 star... Its like a vacation .. for now...

   The #1 store here, I think, is CarreFour- its a French store- like Wal-Mart but on steroids! There is a full grocery store with the largest produce department I think I have ever seen, a spice market, electronics, clothes, shoes, appliances... anything you could ever need! I probably could have come over with just a backpack and I would have been fine with this store around!

   There is so much to do here: the Marina Mall- which is an enormous mall with high end stores like Gucci and Louis Vitton and tons of cafe's and restaurants and a skating rink!.. the Abu Dhabi Mall- which has more affordable stores, is a bit smaller and is in the heart of the city. The cliental is more modern Arabic/Muslim where as the Marina Mall the cliental is many wealthy Arabs with the Abayas(women's dress) and Kandooras(men's dress). The Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen- to tour it women must wear abayas and completely cover their bodies and heads. The tour was great- I learned a lot about the Mosque itself as well as the Muslim religion. We did paddle boarding and kayaking.. and a desert safari is on the agenda.. as is Farari World!

  I just wanted to give a rundown of my first 5 days in Abu Dhabi... Im sorry if there weren't tons of details! If you would like details on anything- don't hesitate to ask!!

Abu Dhabi Airport

The view from my hotel room! #619

The Grand Mosque 
(from the side)

Downtown Abu Dhabi

The Fairmont Bab al Bahar hotel

In our outfits at the Grand Mosque