Saturday, June 28, 2014

100th Post!

     Yeahhhhhh! This is my 100th post! Woot woot! First of all I just want to say thank you to everyone that reads and comments on this blog. I know that I have said this before but I really didn’t expect this blog to become what it has.  When I first started on this journey last year, I realized that there were not that many blogs out there that depicted the Abu Dhabi teaching experience, especially from a black female perspective.  The blogs that did exist were not kept up to date and when I started reading them I was often disappointed that the author didn't continue to write.  That is how Black Girl In Abu Dhabi was formed. I vowed to keep this blog as up to date as possible and give readers an insight into what it would be like to teach and live in the Middle East.  I am ecstatic with the direction the blog has taken.  I have had the opportunity to meet many readers and I am excited for the next year and what it will bring.

  In this post I am going to recap my year out in these UAE streets.

     I arrived in the UAE bright eyed and bushy tailed after spending a few hours in Paris and realizing my dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower.

     After staying in Abu Dhabi for about 9 days I was moved to Al Ain (about an hour and a half from Abu Dhabi) during my time in Abu Dhabi I went to the beach,  partied and was introduced to the UAE life.

  I started school. I am not going to lie I wasn't thrilled that my school was located 100 km south of Al Ain.  I was also not thrilled that I felt unwelcome and unwanted at my school. I was in for a bit of a culture shock when I was introduced to education in the UAE, constant schedule changes, lack of discipline and a certain nonchalantness about education in general was unexpected, but I guess that is what we are here for to help “modernize” the UAE’s education system.

    I received my apartment and I admit that I was not thrilled with the accommodations, nevertheless I have learned to love my space.  I have made it my own and I must admit that the idea of moving now seems foreign to me.

I made it to Dubai for the first time.  I was awed by the architecture and amazed by the “larger than life” feeling that the city gave me.

I went to a FIFA U-17 World Cup game here in Al Ain, as well as viewed the first horror movie filmed in the UAE at the Abu Dhabi film festival.

During Eid, since I still did not have my passport back, I went back to Abu Dhabi and spent the week there.  I went to the beach, shopped and pretty much lived the life.

Watched some F1 and saw Jay Z in concert in Abu Dhabi.

Experienced my first National Day in the UAE and realized that the Emirates have the most national pride of any country that I have seen.

I took my students to Abu Dhabi on a Science field trip and realized that school’s here do not take attendance on trips.

I also started planning my Christmas vacation which involved 4 counties in 21 days.

Celebrated National Days in Dubai: partied, ate out and had an amazing time.

Learned about fog in the UAE.  Instead of snow days, we have fog days.One day it took up to three hours to get to school because the fog is so thick.  Some schools even delay their start time to avoid the fog.  There have been numerous accidents because of the fog and even death.  When you are driving and you run into fog all you can do is pull over on the side of the highway and wait for the fog to subside.

Participated in the Color Run in Dubai.

Came back from the vacation of a life time! Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  Went to a Full Moon party, visited Halong Bay, explored Ankor Wat. Honestly one of the best vacations I have ever been on. I must admit that four countries in 21 days was way too much, I will not be doing that again, but it was a travel learning experience and one that I loved (even the 13 hour bus ride). There were days when we didn't know what country we were in or what money we were using.  It was kind of funny actually.

    People I know started to leave, like I have said in past posts teaching in the UAE is not for everyone.  Unfortunately one of my good friends left and I miss him dearly, nevertheless his reasons were more than valid.

Went to my first yacht party. My friend who was having a baby had a nice party on a yacht in Dubai.

Spent Valentine’s Day in Abu Dhabi at the swanky St-Regis hotel thanks to my friend whose husband is in Afghanistan and wanted to show his love from far away.

Went to a student’s house and got to see how the Emirates live.  The food was great and I am so happy that I went.

Took our students on a field trip to an amusement park.  We had a great time and the kids loved that I went on the rides with them.  Once again not a class list or permission slip ion sight…

Went to a Soca Boat Party in Dubai.  Who would have thought that there would be such a great West Indian community in the Middle East.  I am so impressed with the number of Soca and Reggae parties here in the UAE and I am convinced that they play more music from the West Indies in the clubs here than they do at home.

My friends from Canada came to visit and I could not have been happier to show them around the Middle East. I got to visit the Grand Mosque as well as go to Oman.

Enjoyed what the UAE had to offer during my staycation during Spring Break. 

Headed to the Kingdom of Bahrain for a fun filled weekend.  Also made it to Qatar during the long weekend in May.  Attended the formal event Night Of Elegence herein Al Ain.


Partied on the notorious Maya Island in Abu Dhabi

Wow! When I write it out like this I have had a fantastic 10 months in this crazy place that I now call home.

I wish everyone that is heading home a safe trip and enjoy your time with your family and friends at home because in a few months we will be back in this crazy place!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Al Maya Island

   School is driving me bananas! Thank God it is almost done. I need summer stat. I have made a few changes to my summer plans. No more Italy, boo. But, I will be spending 4 days in....Greece! Booya!!! Spinakopita here I come!

    Last Friday I went to Maya Island in Abu Dhabi. This fun filled Island is a 30 minute speed boat ride from the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. You pay about 30$ to get on the island and like the airport your bags are searched and you cannot bring any food or drinks (even water) onto the island.

The view when you get off the boat.

There is a dj, pool, hot tub, restaurant and of course the beach, as far as I know this island is man made.

Fun times! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Real Talk

  Happy Thursday!  Let the weekend begin (in a few hours at least).  I hope that this post finds everyone well.  I have been dealing with some bs at work and just wanted to tell all the potential teachers coming to be prepared to deal with some issues that you have never dealt with before.  Things are going to happen at you school that are going to make you angry, frustrated and make you question your decision to come here.  I have 5 suggestions on what to do when the caca hits the fan:

  1. Talk to your friends, because they will understand what you are going through.  That is what they are there for.  If they are good friends they will make you laugh and feel better and remind you that you are a great person and not to take the issue seriously.  They will remind you of all the good things that you have going for you and invite you out for a drink to get your mind off of school.  They will come over, even if they are tired because they just did an hour bootcamp class in 40 C heat and they will listen to you bitch and swear and make you feel better. 
  2. Reach out to your old students on Facebook.  I called out to my old students to tell me something good because I was having such a bad day.  They came through (along with some of my old co-workers, friends and high school friends) reminding me why I went into this profession in the first place. They recounted stories of when I taught them, things I said and told me of ways that I helped them, some of which I had no clue.  A few of them almost made me cry with the touching things they said.
  3. Do something fun that you like to do.  If you like to read, buy a new book.  Get a manicure or pedicure if that is your thing. Treat yourself to a nice dinner.
  4. Look at your payslip.  That is why I am here. next month I will be finish paying my student loans!  Yessssssssss!  In what world can you pay 10, 000$ of debt in 10 months, travel and still be fabulous? This one. That is why I put up with what I do.
  5. Look at all the great pics you have taken over the last few months.  Look at all the great places you have been.  Remind yourself that you are strong, you are able to do this.  Summer is around the corner and soon you will be with family and friends that love you so much and you will be able to tell them all the crazy stories from your year in the UAE and you will be a superstar.
  Many people think I am strong, brave and adventurous,.  But like everyone else I have my moments of weakness.  I am human,  I can only take so much.  Yet as Antoine Fisher said in his movie, "I am still standing, I am still strong."

Reader Questions Answered

     I always love to hear about what you want me to blog about. I will try and answer your questions to the beast of my ability. I have a few questions that readers have asked about so here are the answers.

1. How do you manage your hair? 

     The options for getting your hair done are pretty good. Actually, I was quit impressed when I arrived that there were so many affordable places to get black hair done.
     I get my hair braided every two months by lovely Ethiopian ladies in a salon here in Al Ain called Nail Corner (funny thing is I have never seen them do nails). They charge about 85$ including the hair and do not take very long. The 'fancy' updos that you see when I go out are done by me. They aren't as hard as they look and I like to wear my hair up when I'm out. 
    If you wear a weave I would suggest bringing weave hair with you because my friends tell me that the selection here is not plentiful and natural hair is rather expensive, yet not impossible to get. You will have no trouble getting someone to sew it in for you at a reasonable price. 
   A wash and blowout is also super cheap running at about 15$, I have friends that go every week.
    In terms of hair grease, oils, conditioners and those other types of potions. Bring them with you because they are few and far between here.

2. Tell me about the men, not only the Westerners but locals also.

      Ahhhh yes, the issue that is on so many women's minds. To be honest there are more Western men out here than I thought there would be. Granted many of them are married. The single ones are few and far between and for this reason they are like kids in a candy store. Men are men and the same issues that occur at home are out here also. 

   That being said, I have met a few nice guys out here, none of them were teachers though. They ranged the gamut from department store salesman to lawyer. If you are also open to date outside your race, that opens the doors even more. 
     I must admit that I do not think that Emirati men are interested in black women, but that is just my personal opinion/experience. There are also many men from other Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria ...) and they seem interested in dating outside of their race. 
    There are many opportunities to meet people, so make sure you take advantage of them because you never know, some people have met their future husband here. 

3. I want to know about the food! Costs, groceries, restaurants, interesting dishes you have tried. 

     The funny thing is there are more restaurants here than in Montreal! I have never had IHOP or Cheesecake Factory until I came to the UAE. Also restaurants like PF Chang's, Red Lobster and Olive Garden either don't exist in Canada or are few and far between. So if you think you are going to miss the restaurants from home, you won't. They are here in abundance.
    The cost I would say is comparible to home and in my opinion the groceries are cheaper. They have a nice selection of fruits and vegetables but certain things are extremely expensive (blueberries, raspberries) but other fruits are extremely cheap (watermelon). Unlike home where you just bring the fruits to the cash and they weight them and enter the code when you check out. The UAE is a little different, you have to weight them in the produce section BEFORE you get to the cash. 
     Most food items are not hard to find here, granted there are certain cereals and other treats that you may have to bring with you or have someone send.
     The UAE grocery stores are starting to have organize sections, so if you are into that you won't be completely out of luck. 

    There are pork stores for non Muslims where you can buy pork chops and bacon. 
    Since I grew up in Montreal, I am accustomed to things like falafel, hummus, baba ganoush and shish tawouk. They are all delicious and if you have never tried them I suggest you do when you come out here.

    I also like that they are big into fresh juices here and all malls have numerous juice stands with an assortment of flavors.

     There is a dessert that I really like called um ali; it is kind of like a bread pudding with nuts. It doesn't look very appetizing but it tastes so good.

Cardamon tea is also one of my favorites and only costs a dollar at the gas station.

Hope this helps! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pink Friday

      Welcome to new readers. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my little corner of the web. Remember I love to read comments, so feel free to drop me a line. 
     Last Friday I went to another party. I know that you think I party every weekend, well I do. The weekdays here are so hard and trying, that on the weekends you just want to let lose and enjoy life.  On top of that we are in the UAE so we as teachers tend to live life to the fullest.  So is the life of a teacher in the UAE. Don't feel too bad for me ;). I honestly live for the weekends. Especially when everyone comes out to the party, it really is a great time. If that is wrong I don't want to be right. 

     Pink Friday was hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority whose colors are pink and green.

You know I love me some shoes! Got these babies at Steve Madden when they had their buy two get one free sale.

Readers who are getting tired of all the selfies, the x is in the corner. Shukran. 

We have been getting off work super early (woop, woop) so I have been hitting the gym and the pool. Oh and of course watching the new season of Orange is The New Black. I am only watching one episode a day because I want to savor the episodes like a good meal. Because when it is done, it is done for another year or so until Season 3 comes out. 

    The school year is slowly coming to a close, I will have an end of year wrap up so look out for that. 

    My mother sent me this picture yesterday:

Awwwww. Parentals. They look so cute and happy. I miss them so much. I have a great relationship with my parents and I love them to pieces. They are supposed to come and visit in November/December so I am so excited to show them where I live.  When they came to Japan back in 2005 we had a fabulous time. I am sure that we will have a wonderful experience this time around. 

     I also got some fantastic news on Sunday. One of my best friends from home will be coming at the end of August for 8 days. I cannot wait. There is something about your friends from home coming over and getting a taste of what life is like here in the Middle East.  This makes me so happy. I always talk and write about life here, but until you actually come to the UAE and see it for yourself you cannot fully understand what life here is like.

P.s the heat out here is no joke! 

That is 117 F for all my American friends. I don't mind it because coming from a country that experiences -50 C in winter, the get is a welcomed change. What I am still baffled about is not the heat in the day but the fact that it is 40C at 11 pm , how is that even possible!? I guess that is the desert life.

Driving to Work

    I am sure when more of us drive to work there is traffic, horns blowing, trucks and more traffic. Well my friends, this is when I see on my drive to work...

Sand dunes and camels!

I had to stop today when I saw this caravan of camels.

I called one over and took a pic.

We even took a few selfies.

Honestly, it never gets old!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Night Of Elegance aka Teacher Prom

     Two weeks ago I went to a lovely formal even here in Al Ain called The Night of Elegence.  This event quickly became dubbed The Teacher Prom.This event was a buffet  dinner and dance held at the Danat hotel.  I didn't know what to expect but it was great. Everyone came out dressed to the nines and we had a great time.

     Hair and make up done by me! 
If you are coming to the UAE bring one formal outfit in case you have to attend a wedding or an event like this (trust me it happens more often than you think). I was so happy that I brought one formal-ish dress from home because so many of my friends didn't go because they didn't have anything to wear and didn't want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a dress. 

This was the ballroom where the event was held. Beautiful.

   If you are here next year you really should go. I had a great time. 

**I would post more pics of what people were wearing but I don't like to post pics on the blog without permission. So for now you will just have to settle for me. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Slight Celebrity Status...

When someone comes up to you in the club and says they read the blog. 

Thank you! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Day Trip to The Park

     Sometimes my students are bad. It got to the point that myself and the other EMTs had to do something. We started a behavior jar with each class. The goal was to get 25 beads in your class jar. When you behave well, you get beads in your jar. When you misbehave you get beads taken away. Simple. When you get 25 beads you get to go to the park one day for two classes.

All three classes got 25 beads so we took them to the park last week. Some classes took longer than others.

It was hot, about 41 C. But to these girls it didn't matter.

Fun times.