Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should auld acquaintance be forgot???

2010 rang in as the Evil One and I hopped out of the auto back from the church. I ran down the street to the guy selling heart shaped balloons and bought ten of them off him (a steal at $2 for the lot), with Evil trying to hurry me along so we could see the fireworks at the Taj next door from her balcony. When I bought the balloons I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them - what exactly do you do with a bunch of red, heart shaped balloons after the age of five??? - but in the elevator on the way up (let me tell you, ten balloons in an elevator is no small feat) I figured it out. We made wishes for the new year on them and released them off the balcony into the night.

Since I am NOT a math geek, I celebrated the beginning of the millenium at midnight 2000, which means that THIS is the beginning of a new decade for me. I gotta say, the last one was not bad - I spent the majority of it in relatively good shape, toured a lot of the world...okay, so it didn't have the fantastic music that the nineties can claim, and that decade also brought the Q girls into my life, although it was in the 00's that we came up with that title, and the 00's brought even more new and exciting friends into my life, so I can't complain too much.
I don't get too introspective on New Year's, and I don't want to start now. I don't make resolutions - not really. Personally, I find myself doing that around my birthday (and to a lesser extent, the anniversary of my baptism), and rather than resolutions, I make wishes, ones that I have a personal responsibility for bringing to pass. So my new year has already started - my new decades, my thirties, started five months back, and so far, I've gotta say they've been pretty great. I hope everyone else's goes the same way.

From General Bazaar back to Shilparamam

I didn't really feel like I was in India (in spite of the autos, crowds, saris, and public urination) until today. It really hit me that I was in another world on the way home from Shilparamam craft village in the auto (tuk-tuk). This was the first one I've been in that has a radio, and the driver turned it on and out squawked Indian music, bollywood tunes or something, you get the drift - and driving down the streets with the wind in my hair and the music blasting in my ears, and the occasional stoplight beggar tapping at my leg...now I felt I had arrived, that this was India. Can't explain why, but the music just unlocked something.

So.
Hit General Bazaar today, and tried to find a sari. Found lots of sari shops but none really had what I was looking for, and the shop I was in Tuesday had better prices, so I started kicking around the idea of heading back to Laad Bazaar. Then I thought, "Screw it - I'd rather go back to the craft village," so I grabbed an auto to Shilparamam (easier said than done - I know it's in the general vicinity of Hi-Tec City, but couldn't be more specific than that, and the first two drivers didn't know Shilparamam). But eventually I found one who did, who would take me there for 120 rupees (down from the 150 he originally quoted), and I ended up buying the sari I saw on Saturday, a cerulean blue tissue silk embroidered with purple and pink flowers...pretty stunning, even if it's not the black and red I thought I wanted. I also bought fabric for a salwar-kameez - tie-dyed cotton, black with flamey orange and red - and a beaded neckline to stitch on the finished product. Now I just have to get the appropriate bits stitched, but with only a week left in India, I'm thinking I may have to wait and get it done back in the Emirates.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Charminar and the Laad Bazaar

I should have gone to Chowmahalla Palace, too, or the Mecca Masjid. I actually looked for the Chowmahalla Palace, and I knew I hadn't gone far enough, but when I started wandering down a street populated mostly with goats and Pakistani flags, with a sign that said something about "this could cause your death." Okay, it probably was not a warning about walking down the street...I have a feeling it had something to do with an electrical fixture, but I didn't want the Evil One to have to make that call we were discussing last night, and I was a little sketched out by the lack of people, so I decided it would be a good idea to make my way back to the beaten path. Along the way I had this conversation:

Indian young man: "Where are you going."
Me: "I'm wandering. Exploring." (Note: I didn't make eye contact)
IYM: "Okay. I will protect you."
Me: "Ha. I don't need protecting."
IYM: "Why not?"
Me: "Because I know how to take care of myself."
IYM: (noticing the kites I had bought) "Why you have kites?"
Me: "Because I like kites." (rolling my eyes)
>pause<
IYM: "You have big boobies."
Me: "We're not having this conversation."
IYM: "You have big boobs."
Me: "That is inappropriate."
IYM: "I want to touch your big boobs."

That was when I turned and pointed at him and fixed him with the evil eye, and he wisely chose to bugger off. Other than that incident, it was not too eventful. I woke up late and took the auto directly to Charminar, paid my outrageous entry fee, climbed for a very long way in the dark to get to the observation deck, took lots of photos, and eventually had my fill and came back down. I got asked twice if someone could take a photo with me - the first time was a couple of single guys and I thought, "No way," but back down on the ground a family asked, and it was a rock star "Why the hell not?" moment. I had them take one for me, too, and here it is:


After my little excursion off the beaten path, I wandered back to Charminar. I had a blister coming up from my sandals but I really wanted to find a sari - I'm having major sari envy here, and last night at Dominic's party a lady had a gorgeous black one with a red border...well, the closest I came was a really luxe black silk one with a silver border, and I was VERY tempted to get it, but their asking price was high enough that even if I'd talked them down to half that price, it was more than I was looking to pay :-( If I still haven't got one by next Thursday, I guess I know what I'll be doing - til then, I'll hold off and hope. Instead I managed to get the embroidery thread and ribbon I needed to finish my cossie, and figured out how to finish the back of the bra...those small silver bangles are good for something, and I figured out what.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Third-World Redux

So the Evil One had to go back to work today. So the Great One had to amuse herself. This means, time to go exploring! The bandh (political protests, often violent) starts back up tomorrow (supposedly today was some sort of Muslim holiday...probably Ashoura but I'm not sure-a), which meant this may be my only day to explore this week, depending on how long it goes on for.

I have reports to write. I have a belly dance cossie to finish. This would not be the end of the world. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
So. Exploring. It was about 9:30 when I finally left the house. I decided the first thing I wanted to do was wander the streets for a ways, so I headed off down the hill. What can I tell you about Hyderabad? It's unruly - India in general I guess it, but it's difficult for me, being in a city this size and having very little idea of which direction is which. I know which streets I've been on and where I turned off them, and that's about it. I don't have the ability to anticipate where a road will take me and how to logically get from point A to point B. Which is kind of frustrating, but what can you do? Pick a street, pick a direction, and go, knowing that when you get in the auto-rickshaw and tell the driver the name of the very prominent hotel you are living next to, that at the end of the day, you will get home.
As I wandered down the street, I passed a Hindu temple...whose, I'm not sure. It was colorful, and you heard the bell being rung occasionally. Life was taking place along the way; a city waking up as workers swept the streets. Evil tells me Hyderabad is just about the cleanest city she's seen in India, and at 10 in the morning, I believe it...however, I still don't think I'd walk barefoot on these streets for love or money. At the bottom of the hill I came to an intersection and chose to go left - it was a smaller street, and it looked interesting. I passed cows that were just waking up for the day, women digging through a dumpster, shops starting to open, small children playing. I was absolutely the only white person on the street, but I felt safe, even if I did stick out like a sore thumb.
After a while the lane ran out into a larger street, and I decided I was ready to go be a tourist for a while. Evil mentioned Golkonda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tombs, so I hailed an auto and told him where I wanted to go...unfortunately, as we started moving it became very apparent he had no idea where that was. He stopped a well-dressed man walking past, and had him translate for me, and then tried to jack the price up on me. I don't think so. I got out of the auto and found a guy who knew where I wanted to go and was willing to take me for 100 rupees - which may have been too much, but seemed fair at the time. I made it out there alright, and got back in one piece - I'm not going to bore you talking about Golkonda because I don't know or care enough about architecture to try and describe it to you. It's a big fortress. What more do you need to know? I got another auto back here with no problems, and I even recognized where I was once I got to the street where I turned in the morning, and had Indian for lunch at a restaurant in - get this - an old train dining car, complete with serving staff costumes, and they had AMAZING mocktails! And now I'm stuffed and I don't want to think about eating ever again.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

INDIA!!! It's set in India!

I've been waiting a while to use that line.

So here I am, in Hyderabad, in the Evil One's fabulous state department flat. Let me tell you something - this is not how I typically travel. Not just the posh lodgings, but giving up my navigational duties and taking things at a slower pace. I got in at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning. I slept til ten, then I wasted a few hours reading and goofing off on the internet before Evil came home and put me to work stirring the things she was making for her Christmas party. I socialized with strangers...well, to an extent. Before the party really got started, I got out the back of the belt I needed to sew and started stitching, which later on sort of backfired, because when her friends asked what I was making, I saw no reason to lie about the fact that it was a belly dance costume, and they all wanted me to demonstrate...which led to everyone showing off their dance skills. Kinda strange and wonderful, actually.
The next day was Christmas, and while Indian Mormons apparently go to church on Christmas, the Evil One and I saw no reason to do so ourselves. Instead we opened our presents, went across the street for coke and Indian food, and napped while waiting for her cute Indian-Mormon-boy-Partner-in-Crime, Nik, to come over for a True Blood marathon. "Nik watches True Blood???" I asked Evil. "Does he KNOW what HBO is like??" Apparently he does. He was likewise interested in my decision to drag her to Khajuraho...a stop on our itinerary that she hasn't shared with her other church friends. That evening, she dragged me to a Christmas dinner at a consular friend's EVEN LARGER AND POSHER flat. One of the gals had been to Shilparamam that day, a huge craft fair, and Raika, a soon-to-be-consular-ex-wife volunteered to take us yesterday. Of course, though, she had a hangover from the previous night's wine, so it was noon before we left the house, late roll-outs being another thing I don't normally do on my travels...but then, things in India don't open until 11 or so, anyways, or so the Evil One tells me, so I should just probably just shut the heck up, sit back, and enjoy the ride. I can do this - I don't normally travel this way, but I managed it for Bronte last fall...but of course, that was Greece, and I was getting cooking lessons during the lazy afternoons, and it's hard to feel antsy when you're full of moussaka. And just as I had real travel coming up then, this tour's real travel bit doesn't start til the 2nd, so I should probably conserve my energy and money and concentrate on not getting Delhi Belly...(non-degenerate formula? A coke for brekke, a coke for lunch, a coke for dinner - this method has seen me through the third world countless times over. The acid in coke will kill just about anything).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Get Gone

One more sleep, teachah. That's right, guys - tomorrow I fly out to India! It's only been three weeks since the last vacation, but I didn't really go anywhere (Dubai doesn't count), so I'm pretty excited. It will be a warm Christmas - the first one ever. It's funny - the Evil One is more family to me than anyone I spent my other away season with, but that Christmas in Korea felt more like it because of the barren trees and sharp Siberian winds. Here's hoping the similarities stop there - that was the year I trekked up to Seoraksan and got nasty food poisoning, and I realize that there's a very real possibility of me getting some sort of bug whilst there.

I think it will be really good for me to get out of the country. There are a few points on which I need to get my head straight. I got asked to give a talk and serve as a youth Sunday school teacher two weeks ago - me, bad attitude Mormon girl. The talk went well enough...I didn't quote scripture, but for the record, I did look for articles on the church's website. What can I say, it was a tough topic: staying close to the family as a single adult away from home. Yeah, that's right. I was not impressed, and one of my fellow singletons, when she saw my topic, thought it was a crap subject. Apparently it was pick on the Great One week. Anyways, I gave the talk, and it was a manic-depressive sort of talk, because I'm kind of manic-depressive when it comes to my family, and afterwards this sort-of batty old lady comes to me and suggests I take Vitamin B, that it will help even me out.

(Hey you, you old bag! Why don't YOU try giving a talk about being away from your family at Christmas time without being a little emotional?)

And I accepted the calling, too, because that's what we do, and I miss working with high schoolers, and our high schoolers are pretty cool. When I was set apart, I was promised that the Lord is "poised to bring forth miracles." Let it be the one miracle in all the world that concerns me right now - that's all I want. Maybe it would cure me of my bad attitude...maybe not, since I don't have a problem with my Heavenly Father or the church in general, but rather with the congregations I've been in in the past year. And maybe that's not what miracles are for...maybe that's what the youth is for. I don't know. But it will be good to get away and sort out how I really feel about it and other things. Catch you on the flip side.

Monday, December 7, 2009

City of Gold

I've been back in the salt mine for a week now. I'm not going to lie about it - there was NOTHING in me that wanted to come in last Sunday, and I pretty much didn't want to again today. I felt the sort of panic I had five years ago on Sunday nights in Korea when I would linger at dinners with friends after church, putting off the moment when I hit the road to Bundang and it would become all too clear that before I was ready, I would be back in front of eight adorable Korean children that I was utterly unprepared to teach.

I spent a lot of time thinking about teaching over the week off, mostly because I didn't want to come in and put any work towards it. Don't get me wrong. I love children, but sometimes I wish I could just scrap the lesson plan and let us go wild, and who cares if we get paint all over ourselves and the school?

So I thought about it a lot and talked about it a little, and the mirage, the dream job of someday making my living by illustrating, is still wavering in the distance, and if I can just break out of my inertia, if I can build up that portfolio, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it wouldn't be a mirage, it would be as real as that city of gold down the coast there that I've now beaten footpaths down. Really.

Speaking of which, it really, TRULY was amazing. Some of y'all (hi Christa), have heard me boast on countless occasions about my navigational skills (in the dark, one hand tied behind my back, etc...) and it is good to know that they haven't suffered any in the last three months. Driving in, I missed our exit (the roads veer off at inopportune moments, and could be signed better), and yet I managed, with just one quick glance at the map to get turned around and find the way into Mankhool. There were moments in which I may have been approaching the state of "lost," but these came as a result of listening to my menfolk. Yeah, I should know better. At least Socrates actually knew where we were and was able to get me unlost when he was the responsible party...Tony, on the other hand, was pretty hopeless. Of my three objectives for going to Dubai (belly dancing, Korean food, and shopping), I only achieved one (but you should see how kick ass my bed looks with the red bedspread and new pillowcases.

Entertaining myself since returning to RAK hasn't proven too challenging. I cooked twice last week, chili on Monday for the lot of us, and curry on Tuesday because Socrates and I were both bitching about how we didn't have anything to eat...well, it turned out that I had everything I needed to make curry except chicken, and I knew that he had a ton of meat sitting unused in his freezer, so we collaborated. However, my last week's amusement also came at a cost paid out by others. Particularly...well, I have a bad habit of baiting people, particularly those who kind of annoy me (yes, I should know better, but what can I say, it entertains me). So when a certain friend sent out an email about doing a secret santa amongst our "friendship circle," there's a very good chance I might have hit "reply all" and got up on my soapbox about socially coerced gift giving (something which, as you may know, I feel quite passionately about). Which pissed the person in question off - they called me melodramatic (well, duh. that's one of my more endearing qualities) and questioned whether or not they were right in the first place about Americans. Christa, the two of you would have a lot to talk about, I think...but then, you always managed to maintain a good sense of humor about my quirks, so maybe not.

We actually had a little Christmas barbecue over at Dean and Michelle's new palace that night - it was lovely! Well, up until the part when I got stuck in the corner behind two people who had eyes for only one another. When they started sucking face I lost my patience and, when they came up for air, I told one of them to trade me spots so I could enjoy the conversation on the other side of the porch. In the process, that individual managed to miss the chair entirely and almost became the next round of barbecue. I won't spell out exactly why, but there may have been one glass bottle lying around that he was directly responsible for emptying.

The next morning found me up early if not bright for a grueling 6 hour marathon of church (8 if you count the ride to Sharjah and back). I call myself bad attitude girl and don't particularly like the fact that I have a sort of confrontational relationship with Mormon culture right now, but really? Sitting around for two hours afterwards doesn't make me want to be there. But I accepted the assignment to speak this Friday, anyways, and I accepted the calling to teach the youth Sunday school. The funny thing (well, not funny "ha ha" funny) is that after sacrament at 11:30 I gave a lot of thought to leaving, catching a taxi, and going home. After the fact, I wished I would have...but I was planning on going to Quiz Night at the Golf Club, and I thought the fact that I stayed the extra two (excuse me, four) hours when I wanted to leave might cancel out the fact that I was breaking the Sabbath. I guess that's what I get for justifying.

Quiz Night = EPIC WIN! For denizens of RAK that are Quiz Night fans, I just have to say this: don't take on a Mormon girl and her back-up (Socrates, John, and Melissa) on a Christmassy quiz, cause we will BEAT YOU DOWN. The end.

That said, I was in a good enough mood to put up with our Professional Development Super Saturday, which, as it turns out, was not as painful as I was expecting. A little shopping and lunch at Manar Mall, and a bit of beach time...but not too long, because I got a text from Trish asking if I was interested in going to the Dubai Film festival at Madinat Jumeirah. Can I get a "Hell, yeah!"??? Dude, the place was unreal, and don't even get me started on the view of the Burj al Arab looming up behind in the dark, I should have spent one of my afternoons there during the vacation, but I digress. We saw Mother and Child, which was one of those twisty movies that takes three storylines and weaves them together. It was good, but it made for a late night, and was followed by another late night, in which I attempted to be a good little trooper and go to a PD seminar on reading in Dubai, that we never actually made it to, and I'll spare you the recounted misery and tell you that at least I got to buy myself a book and found a Godiva chocolatier at which I bought one person's Christmas gift, so not a total loss, but I was definitely glad to spend the night at home (more or less) last night.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today...

is the greatest day I've ever known. Can't live for tomorrow, I might not have that long..."

Let me tell you about today.

Today we had a craptacular National Day spectacle. Sheesh.

Today I did my impression of khaleegi dancing on the football pitch, per a colleague's request.

Today our kids were adorable, and made me wish I had a fancy women's thobe and that I'd worn it to do my impression of khaleegi dancing. Oh, and one of those gold headdress thingies.

Today I left school feeling like it was the last day of the year. It was THAT exciting to be going on vacation.

Today I had an ATM eat my debit card. Stupid RAK bank.

Today I found out that the ONE business here that actually keeps fairly western hours is the bank. And I was twenty minutes later than I needed to be to see about withdrawing some of my brand-new paycheck and getting a new ATM card. Stupid RAK bank.

Today I saw a family put a kid (baby goat) in that space between the back seat and the hatch of their van, and drive off.

Today I took a three-hour nap, so I probably don't need all THAT much sleep right now, anyways.

Today I heated up my leftover dolmades in the oven (don't have a microwave), and managed to drop the plate and shatter it AND lose the biggest part of my dinner :-( I was more upset about the food.

Today I had a nice evening with friends - pre-"drink" at Trish's with her, Tony, Rachel, and Lynsey, and then to the sailing club - a little live music, a little dancing.

Today I played it cool and feel like that went well for me.

Today I realized I had NO COKE!! and the shops are closed, which constitutes a catastrophe, as I'm leaving with Socrates at 6:30 this morning to take him to the airport, and I really need coke to be functional that early. And so...

Today I will be staying up late enough to go BACK to the sailing club to pick Trish up in her car (which she kindly loaned me to get Socrates and I back to Sunrise), if only so I can bum a coke off her. Chances are I would have, anyways, but now it's imperative.

Eid Mubarak, people.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Close enough

After returning from my grocery run (in which, strangely enough, I ended up buying a really hot pair of shoes), via one of the female taxi drivers, with whom I had a nice chat, I decided I wanted to spend what remained of the daylight swimming and reading at the Hilton. I found myself, air drying on a lounge chair under a sky spangled with pink cotton candy clouds, reading one of Kathy Reich's books I picked up in the teachers' lounge, and enjoying the not-warm, not-cool evening air. And I had to admit, things seemed pretty much like paradise.

Okay, I don't work at the best school ever. (We have it pretty well down in primary, but the secondary could use some help, especially since Tony's decided he's got to leave.) But then, I'm not the best teacher ever - I don't like getting caught up in paperwork, and when the day's over, I just want to go home and relax. My kids have fun and enjoy art, and for now, I can live with that. And so what if Stephanie kind of scares me. My Dark Lord and Master REALLY scared me for the first four months I worked for him.

Okay, so it's a far cry from Korea, where I had a world-class public transportation system and amazing food at my fingertips. I like the Emiratis a helluva lot less than I did the Koreans...but at least there ARE Koreans here (I know...I ran into some at Asiana one night, and met one of my half-Korean students' mothers this week, which got me all excited). So Bundang puts RAK to shame when it comes to what we're going to do this weekend...but honestly, how many weekends did we actually spend in Bundang??? Hell, once I became friends with Ange & company, I was going into Seoul every weekend - sometimes three times in a weekend! So why shouldn't I start spending more time exploring Dubai?

Here's the thing - I could tell you about all the things that are wrong with life here, but what good does that do? I'm here. I can get all the essentials I need for life. I get to teach art to anklebiters, and they all love me. I have my own two-bedroom apartment, with room to dance, and this apartment is just a short walk from a beautiful beach resort where I can sit and watch the sunset. I've got that beach, the mountains (which I can even sometimes see), and a desert full of rolling sand dunes. I have friends to cook for and who make my apartment more than just a place I sleep. I may not make a doctor's salary but it's more than I've ever been paid, and more than sufficient for my means. I can travel, I can belly dance, I can sing fricking karaoke.

Ras Al Khaimah may not be paradise, but it's close enough.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Smoke comes out my ears

Here's a little slice of irony for you: Saturday as things were winding down at the British school, I expressed concern to my fellow teachers that we put things back, because I know I get pissed when I come back to my room after the weekend and shit's been moved around. One teacher explained that this was these teachers' way of contributing to the festival, and another joked and said, "Well, it's a good thing it's not your classroom!"

Unbeknownst to me at the time, there were high school boys unsupervised across the street in my art room, ruining my life. Okay, I'm being a little dramatic with Exhibit A: half a bottle of glue emptied into my class pack of oil pastels, but Exhibit B: the utter obliteration (seriously...read on...) of EVERYTHING in the "My Documents" file on my hard drive. I know it was utterly obliterated because the IT god of RAKESS came and dredged everything up from the last two and a half years, and after three hours looking through them, all I'd found was two files that were actually saved on the server. Most of which I could live with, but those were my student records from the last two months, and I can't recreate that. So the moral of the story is, back that shit up. And

Also on Saturday: experienced my second car accident. Or my second car accident that was not my fault. My taxi driver was trying to merge back onto the road that keeps getting shut down to a one-lane every other week, and apparently he didn't see the car that was going the wrong way, because they merged right into each other. Well, that's all well and good, we all know what the driving is like here, but I got pissed when he got out to talk about it AND LEFT THE METER RUNNING. So I started yelling at him to come in and turn it off because I'm not paying for him to talk to the police, but he ignored me (yeah, he probably had other things on his mind. I don't care). After he'd pulled over another taxi to finish driving me to Sunrise (no thank you, I am two blocks away and so pissed I need the chance to blow off the steam), he finally got around to turning off the meter and tried to charge me 8 dirhams instead of 7, which is what the meter was at when he got hit. One dirham is not a lot of money, but it's a principal, I had a headache and I was pissed.

Yesterday was without significant event, and ended with Arabic night at Bait Muneera, which turned out lovely (thank you, Petra Kitchen). Socrates came over more than 15 minutes ahead of everyone else and it was nice having an intelligent conversation for a change. And with that, I think I'd better get ready for classes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Funkadelic

It's Friday night. How do I describe the last 24 (give or take a few) hours? Let's begin at the end. I just finished watching the first season of The Office, which I downloaded off iTunes this week, in solace. I tried doing so earlier tonight, but I was pretty tired. I know this is going to come as a shock, but I had yet another late Thursday night...I came home around 1:30, but didn't go to sleep until 3. The difference between this week and most others is that I didn't go to church...I volunteered to do a belly dance workshop for the BRI'ISH SCHOOLS OF THE MIDDLE EAST FES'IVAL OF THE PERFORMING AR'S. Except we're calling it "middle eastern dance" (the preferred terminology by a lot of dancers, anyways), because the concept of belly dance may just be too challenging for the conservative parents (and possibly our patron, the sheikh), who will be coming tomorrow to watch the performance.

Never let it be said that I'm afraid to start trouble.

I've never taught belly dance before. Well, I've showed a few moves to a close friend or two, but never to a stranger, and never to adolescent girls. I was sort of uncomfortable with it at first - I introduced the basic isolations, which are not as fun. Once I showed them their first combinations, though, we all started thinking how cool it was, and really got into it when we started the choreography (four combinations, all told, taking up about 40 seconds of our allotted five minutes' performance). One of the girls was quite good, the other two did well enough and enjoyed themselves, and that's all I really want. Well, that and not offending anyone tomorrow...I can positively say there are NONE of the even slightly provocative moves in the choreography, but if any of the kids start singing "go bananza, shake ya body like a belly dancer" (gee, thanks Akon) tomorrow in front of the parents like I heard in the corridor today...I just see potential for this to bite someone in the ass. Probably me. Probably during a hip circle when my booty is sticking out behind me.
There was a drumming performance and free dinner tonight, and I texted a few people to see if they wanted to join, but everyone was still too hung over from the previous night's debauchery. And I couldn't be bothered with flying solo amongst the BC (British curriculum) staff, although they made me feel very welcome and never took the piss out of me once (which sort of made me miss OUR British people). Then - after my nice long nap - I ended up at Melissa's (one of our British people) apartments, and remembered that even MORE, I miss having conversations that meander around lots of different topics and don't focus predominately on one person. After I was there for a while, Socrates came over, and had to go and ruin the new potential to have a more interesting conversation by bringing up her camera.

Let's have a little flashback to earlier this week. Tuesday was silly staff day in secondary - the kids had to raise money to get the staff to dress up in silly costumes. Well, Melissa brought her expensive camera with her, and during the course of the day, it managed to transfer ownership in one way or another (it's unclear whether she left it in her classroom and it got lifted, or whether it fell out of her pocket when she went to change for her staff photo). It is suspected that it ended up in the ownership of some of the Emirati kids, that apparently are disliked by the rest of their year group (read: grade), but there is no evidence, and when they were questioned, nothing was gotten out of them. Well, she wants to drag the police and the parents into it, and Paul, who is head of that year group, was explaining to her that without any evidence, the head of secondary didn't really want to take it any further. To which my friend was adamant that if the head didn't have the balls to do it she'd go over him and get our principal involved, that they'd lean on the kids and they WOULD get her camera back.

And at that point, I opened my mouth and started going on about how it's not fair to do that to the kids (I don't particularly think it's fair to do it to the principal, either, he has enough to deal with and I think he deserves a break from our traumas), that you shouldn't turn them against each other, that even if these kids aren't liked, that WE are the adults and we have to act like it and set the example, and that using them against each other and encouraging that sort of discord is how shit like Columbine happens. And I was told that I'd sing a different song if it was MY 400 euro camera. Not true. I'd be pissed and feel violated and I'd store it up to bring out at a later date...but I'd - in essence - let it go, because at the end of the day, that's all you can do in a situation like this. And when I asserted this, I was told that she wasn't in the mood for it tonight and that I could leave. Which I did, a few minutes later, but not because I can't agree to disagree. I left because I was sick of hearing the Emiratis villianized, which was the course the conversation took after I was told I could leave. Don't get me wrong - khaleegis are not my favorites of Arabs, but recirculating the wrongs of the last couple of weeks is no healthier than recirculating air on an airplane. It stops you from seeing the good, and it's hard enough to see the good as it is.

But I couldn't help but feel a bit of a funk over the dismissal. In spite of the fact that I was a little bored, I played the part of Wing Girl admirably last night, and coached her with the advice that seemed to make sense from Why Men Love Bitches, which I finished earlier this week. She asserted that she owed me big time at one point, so to have her get cross with me so easily...

...admittedly I was being a little confrontational. I have been this week...

...was a bit of a slap in the face. And so I came back over to my apartment and watched The Office alone, appreciating the variety, the witticism, the many shades of American humor at its finest, missing Babysis, Tori, Evil, Sara, Bronte, Azhaar...basically those people who have been to the mattresses and back with me, those who let me get a word in edgewise and would actually care enough to ASK about my belly dance workshop at the other RAKESS, and who, in spite of my propensity for total bitchiness, or possibly because of it, love me all the more. Emptiness is NOT loneliness, Billy Corgan, it beats it anyday, but can't hold a birthday candle to the friendship I have with you guys. Love you :*

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another day, another dirham

So last week, as crazy as it felt, helped me to gain some perspective and improve my work ethic. See, last Wednesday, I had a six period day. This seemed like a LOT of teaching to do in one day, at first. But then I realized that those six periods, forty minutes each, added up to less than one morning - without gym/swimming - at GDA. I'd still have two, possibly four hours more to teach if I were still there. So I've been trying to kick it up a notch here in Miss Becky's art room, and went ahead and started tentatively planning times for double periods for year two - since they requested it and I needed to do it, anyway. As a result - or maybe just because it's been a crazy week, which I'll get to in a minute - this week has flown by.

Yes, it has been a crazy week. Sunday Michelle went up to wake our grieving coworker up so she'd come to school and start working on rebuilding a sense of normalcy in her life. Or at least that was the plan. Actually, she was drunk as a skunk, and in the afternoon Michelle and Sarah took her into the hospital. And after checking in, she turned around and checked herself right out. I got warning of this around 6 that night, and went to spread the word to Maureen, and thus was standing next door when this individual made her way home. I said hi, but got no acknowledgement; she tried the doorknob, then turned right around and walked away. I called our principal to let him know, and tried to catch up with her before she hurt herself, but by the time I'd gotten to the lobby she'd vanished into thin air. I checked the floors, but nada. So I ate dinner with Tony and Melissa - we are so smart, we're taking turns cooking for each other - and when Roy showed up we went looking for her, but she was exactly where I said she would be, checked in at the Hilton via her husband's credit card. We explained what was going to have to happen at this point - that she was going back to her husband in Qatar - and stuck around long enough to make sure she was okay, but left around 9:30. I was fighting a cold - still - and wanted to go to bed early.

Ha. Not likely. Because Melissa needed "petrol," and on our way to the station that also has Macca's (because nothing feeds the soul like greasy fries), we stopped at a corner to let traffic clear, and a Gypo driver tried to cut around her and ended up sideswiping her. Blerg. So while Melissa lost it, I phoned Roy and asked if he was familiar with the saying, "when it rains, it pours," and asked Tony to bring Melissa's backpack (because it had her license), and asked Paul to bring Tony (because he has wheels). Except instead of explaining the situation fully to Paul I seem to have given him the impression that we just needed him to come pick us up, and he showed up without Tony, who took a cab, and hadn't made it to the scene before the police informed us to go to Mamourah station to sort it. And in spite of the evidence in our favor, we ended up getting stuck with the blame...maybe money exchanged hands, maybe it was because we couldn't communicate in Arabic, maybe just because it's a boys' club and we were screwed by our excessive x-chromosomes. Whatever the case may be, the accident was supposedly our fault.

I was pretty strong the whole night. I shed a few tears with Linda, and several on our way OUT of the station, but for the most part, I was cool, calm, and collected. Then I got home and found out my niece the Princess - who I feel fairly confident in saying is the closest thing, genetically, I have to my own children, and possibly always will be (Abby and I have similar coloring, and Shaggy and I look more alike than any of our other siblings) - was born. And THAT'S when I lost it. I didn't think I'd be so emotional over another anklebiter in this world, but I am. I missed little Princess' birth.

I still haven't fully processed the fact that there's a new crazy little redheaded girl out there in our family. And part of me is glad that I haven't had any kids, so I could really appreciate the Princess for who she is. I can't wait to meet her next summer!

There was more trauma throughout the next day or so, and I basically decided I was going to morph into Antisocial Girl on Tuesday and give a great big, "Screw You!" to the rest of the world. And I did. Recovered enough by last night to do my dinner duty (Korean curry - nom nom nom!) but my mind is in a weird place (worried place) and I wasn't the best of company...basically I wanted to get everyone out so I could dance. It's been a while since I've felt like it as much as I have been. Maybe because I've lost some weight, or because I've got three mirrors up on my wall, or just because I have my own space in which to dance. Whatever the case, I'm glad to be back in it. I forgot how much I missed it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Middle Eastern Halloween

When I lived in Bahrain, Halloween came and went without much notice. Well, I don't know what it is...maybe the bigger international community, maybe the Halloween cupcake my TA, Olga, gave me on Thursday, but this weekend has felt like Halloween, through and through.

That night, one of the secondary teachers organized a party at the sailing club. I arrived, fashionably late...I went to check out the belly dancer at the Hilton, but she was dancing at their party instead, but the walk there and back kind of helped me get over my experience from last week...dressed as - drumroll, please - a belly dancer.
Yes, I've been a belly dancer for Halloween before. Also, since I actually AM a belly dancer, it's doesn't really fit American criteria for a Halloween costumes (British Halloween costumes, I've been informed, are supposed to be scary. Which I guess means it's okay to dress like a witch even if you are one). I'm lazy. Get over it.
So anyways, I showed up late and left early, and in between had a pretty good time. It was fabulous doing the Time Warp in my belly dance gear, and I do kind of like the sailing club, even if it's not the most comfortable place to spend an evening. I was still up when the rest of the crew got in, and I ended up over at Melissa's for a while.
Which ended up being another late night...also known as, not so conducive to the whole church thing. And I wasn't really into the whole potluck thing here in the Sharjah ward. Don't get me wrong, Mormon friends...I love a potluck as much as anyone, especially when it gives me the chance to show off my mad cooking skills in front of the single men, but the Sharjah ward is too big and our building a bad configuration to allow it, but for reasons that I'll leave out of this, they seem to be a major thing here in the Bahrain Manama stake (formerly the Arabian Peninsula stake). I walked Kellie to get a taxi, ate two bites of caramel apple, and proceeded to sit and wait, bored, for 45 minutes to go home.

I had good intentions to take a nap, but got a call first from Melissa, who wanted to go into Dubai that night, and then from one of the belly dancers over here, Sabriye, who knows RAK a bit and Dubai a lot and let me pick her brain. Actually, it was a big week for belly dance. I shot an email to Lydia, who I'd like to start taking lessons with once I get wheels, and got a nice response from her, and the Hilton has apparently hired a dancer now. Oh, and I'm planning to do some shopping for costume bits over Eid in Dubai, and taking in some of the area dancers, who seem to rotate between restaurants, which makes them hard to keep track of. But such is life.

Well, I didn't go into Dubai. At the last minute (partly for reasons I will only fess up to if you ask), I decided I just didn't want to go. I wanted to go to Asiana for dinner (where I randomly met five Korean men out to dinner and got to use my dozen or so Korean words, although I turned down their offer of a drink), and picked up a few groceries at Carrefour. Today turned out to be a really good one. It didn't start on the best note because skype kept dicking me around, but me and Melissa randomly decided to go looking for what passes for forts around RAK. We saw the one by Saqr Park and the one in Nakheel, and went looking for a third, but got distracted by a beach (where we picked up some really nice shells for the costume I'd like to make if I ever finish all the other costumes I'm working on) and a rather lovely sand dune that we climbed barefoot and took pictures on and watched the sunset. Back in RAK I put together the little bookshelf I bought to house my projector, and ordered pizza for me, Paul, Tony, and Melissa, and FINALLY watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show on my wall, which, let me tell you, was pretty freaking awesome! Not bad for a Halloween in a land so far from both its pagan and Catholic roots!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Birth of Home Entertainment

Have I ever told you about my great plan? I don't think I have. When I accepted my mom's generous gift of her "gun" (the laptop she splurged out on when my Dad bought himself a new gun last year), complete with cd/dvd burner, I decided that the days of big clunky televisions were at an end. Also, because RAKESS doesn't provide them for teachers, so I didn't want to spend money on something that I was just going to end up leaving behind. No, I was going to be advanced in one aspect for once and think about getting a projector, about setting up a home theater, and this plan was confirmed when I got to my apartment and saw my beautiful, tall, blank wall. On Saturday, I went to the GITex Expo (chingus: think of Yongsan or Techno Mart, but put it all on one level and clean it up a little. Also, no ahjjusshis) in Dubai with Poonam (whose idea it was - she needed a laptop), Melissa, and Rakesh. I was really going because I wanted to spend time with Poonam, but I figured as long as I was there, I should see what I could do about a projector. And so I went ahead and seized the day, because the projector came with speakers and a 500GB hard drive, a carrying case, and - ooooohh! - a portable screen.

Yeah, seriously, what am I supposed to do with THAT??? But all in all it was a good deal, and let me tell you, watching movies on it ROCKS. My current plan for my next soiree is a bit of a potluck party on Halloween and we'll all watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Classic.
What else did I do this weekend? Stayed up WAY too late on Thursday night (or woke up way too early Friday morn) - but karaoke was on the table, so I went for it, and it was great. Friday morning saw me on my way to church with Tamsin and her son (Rick stayed home to take care of their daughter), and in spite of the fact that my lungs were a little tarry from the previous night's atmosphere and I was very tired, it was probably the most spiritual I've felt in a long time; I was actually happy to be there. Here I am, finally about able to get myself a license and car and the freedom to attend church in Dubai, and I'm thinking that I might just stay in Sharjah. As long as I don't end up with the kind of calling I have to be there for EVERY Friday (which would give me the chance to visit Dubai every once in a while and make contact with the singles there), I think I could live with it. And I'd feel guilty abandoning my friend Kellie there, now that she's been called as the youth Sunday school teacher. So yeah.

On the way home Melissa called in a panic trying to locate her camera. In answering her questions in the car I had to implicate myself a bit more than I would have wanted to in front of Tamsin and John. I told them on the way in that I was really tired from being up too late the night before, but I didn't want to go into the gory details. Mind you, I didn't actually do anything wrong. But there is this thing Mormons talk about every little once in a while called the appearance of evil. Oh, and people have a tendency to justify. See, even though you and I know I didn't do anything wrong, the kid doesn't know that, and I don't want him using my bad behavior to justify his own. Heck, even if he did, he might think, "Well, if Ms. Becky (Sister Becky? I don't know what these guys should call me) can go out with her friends and happily coexist with their choices, then so can I." Except Ms. Becky's had a lot of practice at politely declining and fairly supportive friends who've never pressured her to join in, and I don't know many high schoolers that mature.

When she started to recount her escapades of the night before I hurried her off the phone...not only did I know I was going to be hearing about them the remainder of the night, but there was no way either of them needed to overhear any of that, not to mention I was only five minutes from home. When I got there the two of us decided to call off our outing to Dubai that night (because her crush changed his mind about coming, because I'd only slept two hours the night before, and because we haven't really seen much of Poonam lately, due to the fact that she's a workaholic, and there was just no WAY I was going to be able to go along for GITex if we were out late the night before. I felt really at peace about the decision to call off a night of what passes for debauchery in my world for a friend.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life...

...and I'm feeeeeeling good.


Mostly.


Okay, so acclimating is one thing. Thanks to the slow death of Arabian summer, I've pretty much nailed that one. Acculturation, on the other hand...well, it's another thing entirely. Let's put that in the "Things to work on" category.

How about swearing? Shall I talk about swearing? I never used to swear. Chalk it up to the influence of Satan, because before I went to Korea, I never said so much as hell, and now I freely drop F-bombs. Or I did before I got to RAK. Then I stopped swearing for about a month, and finally picked it up again when I got to Singapore - where I figured there were enough foreigners that they could get over it. I've tried to keep it on the down low since returning, but what can I say? Friday found me on a road trip across and down to Fujairah, in a car with three Brits and an Aussie, and I may have remembered all the different colors that words can come in, and used them out. Swearing just has an expressive quality that you just don't get from regular talking. And it was not a big deal...until we sat down at a little restaurant in Fujairah, and when the server brought me my order - hommos and bread, and a LOT more of it than I was expecting - I said, and I quote, "Holy shit!" Then I realized to whom I was talking and clapped my hands over my mouth. The non-westerner in question did not get pissy with me - my expression of horror may have smoothed over my transgression - but I've had it happen in the past. Oops.


Then last night, as I was walking to the salon to chop my hair off - which I've been thinking about for a long time, I was going to wait until I got to Paris but I got bored and stupid on the same night so I went to the mom&pop - madam&maid??? - salon down the street, but that's a story I will tell in a minute. Anyways, as I was going to St. Ives, I met a bunch of snot-nosed boys playing in the street on their bikes (bikes doesn't quite rhyme with Ives, but it's close enough). I like kids, right? I mean, I'm a teacher, I guess it could go both ways, but I do like children. Well, one of them rode up towards me and blew me a kiss. Yeah, yeah, whatever kid. In 15 years I will be creeped out by the fact that you are STILL doing this, but whatever. I kept walking. Then another boy rode up and made a big SMMMMACK! and said, "I love you." Okay, sure. I walked past the main group of boys, and these first two boys rode up behind me and one said something which included the words, excuse my French, "Fuckyou." And that's when I stopped and gave them the evil eye. I tried to remain calm, because the other route gets you nowhere fast, and said, "Excuse me?" As the first boy began to backpedal, the other one shot off another "fuckyou, " and I told him, "That is very bad manners." Mind you, these guys didn't know much English besides the aforementioned phrase. Boy One said, "No, no, like my mother, like my sister," and I said, "Would you say these words to your sister?" at which point they decided to leave me alone.


Until I left the salon with 14 inches less hair. I was feeling pretty vulnerable anyway, what with having lopped off most of what I consider to be my best physical attribute into what is definitely a skinny girl's haircut (and I am not yet a - sort of - skinny girl again), only to walk past these same boys, still loitering in the street, and to have them - in addition to a new chorus of "fuckyou"s (despite Boy One's protests) - squawk over my haircut and tell me that it's not good.
Acculturation point number two: hair.
Now I've had short hair before and it's even been roughly this short before. But that was in America, where girls are free to get pixie cuts. Here long hair is beautiful, and short hair...well, let's just say that my students were upset with me. Bless their hearts. Some of them were sweet enough to not say anything. Others were honest enough to tell me they didn't like it. Ben, who is Swiss and goes to church with me told me he liked it - but his mother and elder sister both have hair shorter than mine. I guess I don't have any more in depth a commentary than that - I just found the mix of reactions interesting, and telling.

Other interesting things about the weekend - driving down to Fujairah. In a car with four other people. Good times. Here's to the fishbowl.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Again (if you wanna call it that)

I am, once again, settled into RAK, and the long month is over. Now we are free during daylight hours to eat, drink, smoke, or...okay, well, I guess we still can't do THAT in public, and it's not like I was, or am, anyways, being a good little Mormon girl and all, but...yeah, we'll leave it at that.

Probably going off on a jaunt five weeks after getting into RAK was not my best decision. If this had been my first time out, I don't know if I would have come back. It was so nice to see the Evil One, and I haven't quite worked out my social equilibrium here. Also, payday is STILL a day away, and the dirhams I had left in my knockoff Coach wallet as I disembarked at Dubai International Airport were rapidly cut in half by the taxi ride to get to the church in Sharjah (okay, to tell the truth, it should have cost 20dhs less, but someone gets his jollies by driving in a slightly different way each week, and although I got to the general vicinity just fine, we proceeded to spend 15 minutes blundering around and having to take long loops to get back to where we started so I could try a second time. Aish). And I had some trepidations about beginning school again, with full days, and a project I hadn't quite worked out how to complete looming over me. Five years ago...I was much weaker than I was now. I actually took sick days back then, would occasionally sneak in the bathroom to cry a little from homesickness, and don't even get me started on the parents (suffice it to say that there were days when I wanted to hide under my desk). I'm not that girl anymore. I took a flying leap back into RAK!
...
...
...

but only after a full day of reading, napping, reading, more napping, swimming at the beach, watching the end of Buffy's second season, and - once more, with FEELING! - pasta for dinner. Friday I was not a very pleasant person to talk to. One well-meaning lady asked me, as I was walking into church, about my vacation, and I told her not to talk to me. I alternated between snappy and soppy and sleepy, and I was NOT impressed by our 1.5 hour long visiting teaching workshop that didn't start til 30 minutes after it should have and the people that kept trying to take pictures with ME in them for the bulletin boards to show what a great workshop it was, because
I'm sorry...
but I have been crammed in a little seat for 8 of the last 24 hours...
and 11 more of those hours I have been stuck in the Mumbai airport, which, my friends I must warn you, does NOT have free wifi, although it does have a sort of uncomfortable "slumber room," and the flight attendants will occasionally come by and wake you up to be sure you're not supposed to be on their flight...
and I just spent 100 dirhams getting here from the airport...
and I have not had a shower since I woke up yesterday...
and I am not dressed well enough, by my standards, for church...
SO DON'T TRY TO INVOLVE ME IN YOUR WORKSHOP. DON'T MAKE ME PLAY PAPARAZZI WITH YOU BY TRYING TO TAKE PICTURES OF ME LOOKING LIKE A SKANK. SINCE I HAVE TO BE HERE AND THERE AREN'T COUCHES IN THE FOYER, LET ME SIT IN THE BACK, LEAVE ME ALONE, AND LET ME NAP IN PEACE!

Also on my mind, strangely enough...whether or not I'm an uber-bitch, but I'll leave the pondering of that for another day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Unlimited...

together we're unlimited....
It's the last day of my trip to Singapore - in three hours I'll be leaving on a jet plane. It's been a lot of fun. We've walked until my feet were literally ready to crumble into tiny pieces. I've really enjoyed being back in a little corner of Asia, and spending time with the Evil One. Although at times she got a little annoying (as I'm sure I did), what with the, "Oh, the foreign service treats us so well, blah blah blah." There are other ways to see the world, you know, and I am perfectly satisfied with the way I've chosen. As in Wicked (the musical for which this blog is named, in case you missed that), one of the main characters goes to work for the government, the other becomes fairly anti-establishment, but each hopes the other is happy in the end...etc, etc. Anyways, it's been amazing having someone else to wander with, and I can't wait for the next time.

"Together we'll be the greatest team there's ever been..."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The world (at large)

Never let anyone tell you I can't be spontaneous. After hearing the Evil One tell me, "Come to Singapore! Come to Singapore! It's very nice! You can hang out with me AND Kit!" for a week, I got all sorts of spontaneous and bought myself a ticket to leave the next day once I got my passport back. So here I am, in her room at the Regent, lazing (yes, I know I'm in Singapore, I ought to be doing something, but she made me go to church. I went to church two days ago! Also, I didn't sleep much on the flight over, and we were walking just about LITERALLY all day yesterday...all of which you lucky bums get to hear about).

I thought I was pretty clever with the ticket I got. Being a denizen of RAK and not driving a car presents some problems when it comes to getting to the Dubai airport. However, the Sailors were going to be going to church Friday morning, and I figured I could just leave church, find a taxi, and take it from there to Dubai. I did the same thing on the way back, but unfortunately, I kind of screwed myself over in this, because it means I'll be stuck in the Mumbai airport for ten hours. And the most I can say on that account is, at least it's not nineteen stuck in Sheremetyevo. They actually did me one better and drove me to the airport after church (it was the quickest we've gotten out of the church since I started going with them a month ago).

At the airport, I adopted a travel buddy. I'm not sure what it is about me, but apparently I seem like the kind of woman you want to have take you under her wing at an airport, because this is the second time I've had a complete stranger ask me to do so. A Filipina girl, in this case, was standing behind me in line, and it looked like we might possibly be the only two women on the flight (actually, we were two of about six, so sue me for jumping to conclusions), and she asked me if we could request seats together as she didn't want to be alone with all those mustached Indian men (honestly, neither did I - there is something more than a little scary about being the only woman in a crowd, especially when I know that they are all staring at me). She was a very sweet woman, but by the time we finally got to Singapore, I was was happy to be rid of her, because I'm just that kind of prickly person, and it irritates me to have someone act THAT dependent toward me.

I was also in a kind of a crabby mood when I got there because I flew on the red-eye from Chennai, and I couldn't sleep well, and I just don't like airplane travel. Also, I've been fighting a cold this week. Which is why it was good that Evil didn't come to the airport to get me. By the time I'd been in the cab as long as it takes to get to the hotel from the airport, I was okay with the fact that she had coerced me into spending that much time on a cramped plane with a bunch of people who don't understand that deodorant is an essential for a peaceful world, because Singapore is lush and green and beautiful and reminds me a lot of Bundang, with high-rises and hills and did I mention how green it is? RAK is actually pretty well-foliaged for the middle east, but Singapore is absolutely verdant. Also, it's really close to the equator - as close as I've ever been, although I still haven't crossed it - but the weather is quite lovely. We had rain yesterday and although it got pretty humid, for the most part it was totally liveable.

So, what have we been doing? Walking, walking, and eating ice cream. After Evil's physical therapy appointment, we walked up Emerald Hill and had an adventure trying to find a new way back (didn't quite happen, but it was fun exploring). We took the subway to Little India and wandered around - I got to listen to The Evil One's Tour-of-Hyderabad-via-Singapore, and I bought sari fabric that I'm going to use to make a tablecloth for my otherwise fairly barren apartment. Jane basically used me as her packhorse/slave under the excuse of her gimpy arm, which is an impressive array of colors. We came back to the Regent just in time to get ahold of Kit, who came over and we went walking (again...my poor feet! If I walked more in RAK in the last month than I did the whole time I was back in Iowa, then I think I will walk more this week in Singapore than I have in RAK AND Iowa), ending up in Chinatown, where they had a celebration for the beginning of Autumn, with lights and performances and fireworks (which we watched as we were eating ice cream at Swensen's....mmmmm....)

It was loads of fun, and promises to be more, but it's a chill Sunday, which is nice because my body is NOT happy with me for abusing it after long months of inactivity.



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Decisions, decisions

It's twenty til three and I'm hungry. This doesn't really shock me. Since coming to RAK I've experienced this sensation...heretofore largely unknown this year...basically daily. I'm not bitching or anything, because I know that it means that I'm not overeating (for the most part - there's a very good chance I may have eaten a large pack of caramel waffles one day this last week). Instead, I've actually eaten brekke - I'm on granola bars and lite hot choco right now, although I was eating a fried egg and slice of toast as long as the dozen eggs the school originally supplied me with held out. I've fixed myself a PB&J daily since school started, and paired it with a small pack of chips or an apple. And for dinner - pasta, coke, and a snickers (don't even talk to me about the healthfulness of that...remember, this is me talking, and coke and snickers are the foundation of a successful diet in my world). I wish I could say that I took my move to the UAE and made it a springboard for lots of positive changes in my life...but, well, it's kind of been a necessity, because my financial choices in the last year have left me without a whole lot in the way of savings, and I'm trying not to add to my debts. Which means I don't get to eat out, and since RAK doesn't have a Taco Bell, I'm mostly okay with this. However, I might just kill if a Barnes and Noble sugar cookie were at stake. Seriously.

I made the decision, on the other hand, to go ahead, bite the bullet, and get a cash advance from the school for my membership at the Hilton Beach Resort. What it basically comes down to is this - that nice long week off we have next week for Eid, when Jane was supposed to come to visit? Well, thanks to her broken arm, she's not coming, and I've got all of two books at home I haven't read yet, so desperate times call for desperate measures. It also promotes me being sociable, since most of the new teachers are going to be hanging out there during the vacation.

Hmm. Well, goody for me. Because, actually, I attempted to be sociable this weekend, with mixed results. Thursday night was the new staff welcome dinner, and one of the teachers I like but keep crossing wires with, asked if I was coming to it, and honestly, social events are really not as painful as I make them out to be. Plus it was free dinner (ie: more meat in one sitting than I have eaten since I came to RAK...I seem to somehow have become more-or-less a vegetarian this month). Before the dinner I got to talk a few minutes to the new year 6 teacher, a tall, blonde Irishman. Mmm. We'll see if there's anything left of him after the harpies have descended (if any of my fellow teachers happen to be reading this, please know that I don't really mean you're a harpy. Probably). We went to the sailing club, and it was well enough, although I did a pretty good impression of a wall flower most of the night.

I managed to get up in plenty of time for church, and due to the baptism ended up spending a total of SIX HOURS there (no, I'm not counting the hour's ride there, or back) - and was rewarded by eating cheese cake...not cheesecake, mind you, but cake that had been frosted then sprinkled with fancy shredded parmesan cheese. SICK. AND. WRONG. Suffice it to say that the family who made the cake was NOT American, because WE damn well know how to make sweets, and that ain't it. Got home and had no intention of going anywhere but the internet cafe for the rest of the night. Then one of my colleagues came by to tell me how late she'd stayed at the sailing club after I left, and to coerce me into going again that night, and convinced me with the fact that they have free wifi.

On the other hand, it cost 20 dirhams for admission. I can do the math. Still, I thought, whatever, I'm attempting to be social. One of our Saffer colleagues showed up with her nice-looking, 20-something son, which seemed like a bonus at the time, but the colleague that coerced me into coming started putting the moves on him, and by the end of the night I was glad she did. She wanted the party to keep going, and convinced me and another teacher into playing wing girls for a while - I was firm about the fact that I had an early roll-out for my Skype date with Tori, and only planned to stay about ten minutes. Yes. Some wing girl I am. At least in this situation. Well, we got home and she proceeded to get violently ill from too much drinky-poo, and so for the next hour I babysat the douchebag while wing girl #2 tended to her. And I actually realized during this time that he was, in fact, a douchebag. He told a racist joke about Indians (dots not feathers), and after I told him that one of our friends is Indian, he proceeded to tell us ANOTHER, and summarized his feelings by saying, "I hate them." There were other topics we passed over that reaffirmed his status to me, but I actually got pissed when he started hassling me for leaving an hour after I intended to. I'm sorry, you git, but I have a life, and you have no right to call me lame for getting up early to stay close to the people I love.

Saturday I retaliated by staying in all day after my morning Skype session, finishing off season 2 of X-Files, drinking coke, and walking on the beach at sunset. I reveled in my anti-sociality. Go me.

Last note: the sheikh started a scholarship program last year for teachers in RAK to get their masters or PhD or whatever. I'm seriously considering going after it...it would mean an extra two years (at least) in the Emirates, but to get my masters AND have it paid for??? Seriously. My two main considerations are a.) if I like it here well enough (so far, so good), and b.) if I can find a good online program for a masters in international education. There's another possibility - he'll also pay for a summer educational program, and if I can't commit because of a.) or b.) to the masters, well, Semester at Sea runs a special summer program, Teachers at Sea, and I'd almost rather do that...it's been in the back of my mind for a while now. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Going Pro

Sometimes - okay, a lot of times - my life as a teacher has not seemed all that professional (I know...hard to believe someone that's traded, "F*** you!"s across a crowded staffroom with Evil Incarnate could be anything less than stringently professional, but it's true). Since graduating five years ago, I have spent only one year actually teaching art (more or less unsupervised and making up the curriculum as I went along), and a trio of years in the fast paced world of human trafficking...aka, the hagwon (private ESL school) industry...in South Korea. I have worked hard. I have lived through hell. But basically, if the kids were happy and getting good grades that they may or may not deserve, I was doing alright. That comfortability was probably one of the great deciding factors for me in staying at GDA as long as I did. But someday, kids, you've got to grow up.

Before I got to the Emirates, I sometimes found myself wondering exactly how I got myself into this. RAKESS is a good, well-established IB school, and when I leave, I'm going to be well-situated to move into an even better school. But that means getting my shit together. I'm not the art department anymore; I am a part of the art department, and the art department is an integral part of something bigger. I'm exceedingly blessed to be working with Casey - she is the epitome of professionalism, very experienced and knowledgeable...in short, exactly the sort of mentor I should have had five years ago when I first started teaching. Of course that (and the fact that she could be cast as Murphy if they made the Dresden Files into a tv show...oh, wait....never mind) is a little intimidating, and I actually find myself missing the John Lee style of management (in which, on my first day at GDA, I was threatened that, "If you piss these parents off, not only do they have the resources to destroy you, I WILL PERSONALLY >content edited by author due to graphic nature< UP YOUR >ditto< TIL THE >ditto< SHOOTS OUT YOUR MOUTH SO HARD IT KNOCKS YOUR TEETH OUT!") Of course, the John Lee style of management didn't do anything to make me a better teacher. Actually, it's probably his fault that I got that first parent complaint, about how I didn't smile enough - I was pretty terrified that first month. On the other hand, trust me when I say he provides one hell of a reference.

Birdwalk complete.

This was not the most productive weekend of my life. I had good intentions (which make great paving stones, from what I hear) of working on school stuff, and took a lot of heavy books and papers home with me for this express purpose, only to decide napping and watching X-Files was much more necessary (who says you have to be professional on the weekend?). But it wasn't a waste. I went ahead and invited five of my fellow teachers over on Thursday night for dinner, cooked vegetarian fajitas (that I was not altogether satisfied with). Several hours, dirty dishes, and a broken glass later, I rolled into bed, as late as I have since leaving America. It was not the best dinner party I have ever hosted (that would be the night we taught John how to play canasta, and I melted my rice cooker - good food, great company, and the destruction of a household appliance...how much more memorable can an evening get???), but at least I'm trying to be social, right?



Friday (the new Sunday) I spent an hour trying to convince myself to call the Sailors and tell them I wasn't coming to church. I was tired. I had...issues you'd probably prefer I left out of my blog. There was nothing in me that wanted to ride with them an hour into Sharjah, spend three hours fighting sleep through church, Sunday school (Friday school???), and Relief Society, followed by the better part of an hour waiting to leave while they chit-chatted...

...p.s. Mormon friends: how have I been a member of this church for going on thirteen years without discovering that my fellow Saints seem incapable of just leaving, that they have to linger, and chit chat, and chit chat some more. I mean, good grief, Charlie Brown...

...and finally drive ANOTHER hour back to RAK. Nothing. But I'm a good little Mormon girl and going to church is what I do, besides which, there's not a whole lot else to do with my whole, empty Friday, and so, fifteen minutes before the Sailors' arrival, decided that I was, in fact, going to church. Aaaaaaaaaand, the rest of the day I watched X-Files.

Saturday began with what is turning into a ritual ride up to the Net Club Cafe where I skyped with Tori. This has been the highlight of my last three weeks. It's nice to know at the end of the week I can catch up on True Blood and the B&N gossip and just shoot the shit with someone without having to pretend I'm interested in what they have to say. Much of the rest of Saturday passed in the same way as Sunday ("David Duchovny, why don't you love me??"), and then that night Serena and I we went to see Drag Me to Hell. Yes, I know it came out about six months ago back home...that's how it works a lot of the time. It wasn't a bad movie, but they seemed to get a little caught up in the scatological aspects of the genre, gushing blood and vomiting kittens and whatnot. Also, as appalling as I find the premise, it didn't cause me any loss of sleep, due to the fact that my belief in the justice of God overrode the belief that one mortal could curse another into hell for anything, trivial or not. Sustainability of belief aside, I really enjoyed wandering the mall and talking to Serena, and I didn't really have to pretend to be interested in what she had to say, either. And that's a start, at least.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Things I Remembered This Week

When most people have deja vu...well, I heard an explanation for it once upon a time, it has to do with chemicals, or changes in the Matrix, or something. I, in fact, have deja vu for legitimate reasons - I have, in fact, done some of these things before. This is my third round of desert living, my second in the middle east (unless you count my wanderings last fall, in which case we're up to four and three), although it always seems to be so long between that I forget certain things. Such as, how to drink 8 liters of water in a day. The answer: I'm still not sure, but I must, for that seems to be about how much I sweat out over my 25 minute playground duty.

I'm also remembering why I love linen so very, very much. IT BREATHES. Nothing is as nice as walking in from the bloody hot outdoors, and having the cool air flow right through your clothing. It's like walking around naked, but without the possibility of sunburns and stonings for public indencency.

I've remembered the reason why I loved Prison Break so much - other than its inherent awesomeness - which is because it gave me something to fill up the long, dull evenings, as I'm having the same experience now watching classic X-Files (note: I still want to be Scully when I grow up. I also still want to DO Mulder when I grow up). Consequently, I also remember how much it always sucked to try and watch or listen to anything while the muezzin (call to prayer) is blasting. I remember why I used to hoard napkins from restaurants (see above, "How to drink 8 liters of water in a day.")

The hopeful point of all this is, I think I'm almost acclimated. Acclimatized? Whatever. Yesterday when I was waiting for a cab after school, I was standing there, and the breeze was blowing, and yea though it was hot, verily I didn't want to die. Which either means it's getting cooler (yeah, right), or I'm getting used to the heat.

The individual who has distinguished herself as just plain irritating to me complimented me on my hat today. I've had this hat for over four years now, and it's getting pretty grungy, but it may very well be the best purchase I made during the three years I lived in Korea (orange finches? a flute? coin hip scarves? Yes, this beats them all). When she said it was a nice hat, I remembered the night that I got it - it was February, and I was going over to Suji to Amelia's new apartment, although I can't remember why anymore, and I saw it on my way through Samsung Plaza, and thought, "I MUST have this hat! It will protect me from the nasty evil UV rays and not die on me in four weeks like sun hats in times past (and it has)," and how excited I was to show it to her when I got there. In spite of the fact that Amelia and I grew apart fairly quickly after that, I still remember those times fondly, and it was incongruous to have that memory dredged up by the one person who has annoyed me ALREADY in the last three weeks. But since I've been known to change my mind about people once I get to know them - hell, I originally thought Supermike was some cocky bastard and wondered who the hell he thought he was - maybe there's hope for this one yet. I won't give you even odds on it, but stranger things have happened.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The First Days of School

Unh. I have survived Day One at RAKESS. I didn't actually teach, and the kids were really good on the playground when I had duty out there...so why do I feel like I got hit by a Mac truck? On the bright side, things are slowly coming together as far as the PYP curriculum, I haven't managed to make too much of an idiot out of myself in front of Casey or Stephanie, and my classroom's pretty well set up. So things could be worse.
Thursday night a bunch of people went out to the golf club and later, the sailing club. At first I wanted to go, wanted to make friends, but around five o'clock, I remembered that I don't like socializing in big groups like that (most of whom I don't give a flying fig about and at least a couple of which I find irritating) and that I was perfectly capable of entertaining myself in a much more enjoyable manner. And also, that I've never cared much for the sort of friends you make in forced situations like that. So I went to a net cafe for a while, then checked out the OK Pizzeria next door, and had some pretty amazing penne diavolo. When I got home, I read. It may mean a few extra bored and lonely evenings, but at least I'll be in good company. But maybe I'll put together a victory dinner for this Thursday night and share it with the people who might have potential.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Float on...

So, we are about finished here with day 4 of the full staff orientation week at RAKESS. This week has consisted of a little bit of "getting to know you," a medium sized portion of meetings, lots and lots of work on my classroom...although, actually, I'm not going to be teaching - like, my own stuff - until after our Eid holiday, the end of September or so (shorter school day = priotizing time)...and, of course, our outdoor, team-building, adventure day.

Yes, that's right - I said outdoor. Have you heard me bitch about the heat around here? Or the humidity? Or the SUN???? Well, maybe you haven't, but this blog is young. In short - I'm in the middle east. I think we qualify for the "World's Nastiest Summer" award. And that is why we left Sunrise at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning.

Because the primary is so big they split us into two groups before sending us to our doom...er, I mean, to our very fun adventure day! Half started by kayaking around the inlet from the ocean in central RAK, the other half began by rock-climbing or biking up in the mountains. My group was the envied group because we got to do the climbing and biking in what passes for the cooler part of the morning...but because I'm contrary and a little scared of sunlight, I was wishing I could have got the kayaking over with before the UV got too bad. Oh well, life goes on, right?
Now, because my family has mountain goats in its Swiss ancestry, I was all about the climbing. My brother and at least a couple of cousins are into that shit. Actually, I think Shaggy ought to check out Al Shaheen, the group that led us, because I think he'd have a lot of fun with it. I think Diana and Katie ought to check them out too, because a large percentage of them are single and speak with lush Scottish accents. Anyways, so I was excited about my turn, and I scrambled up the wall until my arms got wobbly, then walked back down the cliff. Soon enough the bikers that started at the other end of the wadi made it to us, and my group went down and took our turn on the bikes. I had probably been on a bike more recently than any of my colleagues, but I was really impressed with how well everyone did. I also think I know what happened to my gear-shift. It wasn't a particularly hard ride, 3km on mostly level ground but the trail we were on was loose stones and we did sink into them and the sand every now and again. By the time we got to the vans, I was ready to knock back about a liter of water and never leave an air-conditioned space again.
But, of course, we weren't done yet.

We got to the area where we put in our kayaks, and changed into our "bathing costumes" (man, I love British words). Then we spent quite a while in the heat and sun, and I started worrying about my skin. So I went to put on more sunscreen...I'd already been doing this in the van while we were coming in from the mountains, since we were under the aircon...only to realize I had no idea where my sunscreen was. It was not in my bag. It was not on the ground, or in the room where I'd changed. I ended up borrowing someone else's to reapply, and then we spent another half hour getting geared up and playing games and I REALLY started to worry. I have what I like to call a vampyric complexion, and have been known to get badly burned when constantly reapplying SPF 45 sunscreen...and I was going to be out on the water where the light was going to be coming at me from the bottom as well as the top? Aish. I almost chickened out. Then our Head of Lower Primary came by, and told me, "Oh c'mon. At least try it." Except she said it in her British accent, and with her imposing, McGonagall-ish demeanor, I felt that there was no way that I could stay on shore. I was going out on the water whether I liked it or not, because I'd rather eat glass than lose face with her.

And I took one of the Indian ladies who couldn't swim with me at first. We got a little ways from shore, and she freaked (with, as I'm sure Babysis could testify, good reason, although she didn't know that at the time). So I came back and got paired up with a Canadian. We started out, but then we came back to shore, where the Al Shaheen boys were trying to figure out what to do with our odd number...so being sort-of experienced, thanks to the many float trips Dad took us on in our little green canoe, I volunteered to take a kayak out on my own, and that's what I did. I only capsized once, and managed to beat everyone at the game of British bulldog we played. I did get a little burnt on my hands where my shirt didn't cover, and weird patchy places on my legs, but by the time the skin cancer sets in, they'll surely have a cure for it, right???

Sunday, August 23, 2009

There she goes....

It's 4 p.m. in RAK (Ras Al Khaimah), and I'm at an internet cafe not TOO terribly far from the a.p.t. I actually wrote a nice, inaugural blog during one of my bored moments, but that's on my laptop, which I'm not willing to cart around in 50 degree heat, especially now that Ramadan's on, and my go-to WiFi connection, Coffee and Cream, won't be opening til after sunset. So you're getting this piece of crap instead. Suck it up.

Since this is the inaugural post, I should probably begin by giving you the lowdown on life here. RAK's the northernmost emirate (governing structure...kinda comparable to a state or province), and...hmmm, can the term backwater be used? Maybe not quite in its purest form, but I'll use it anyways. There are lots of new buildings without power, more than one mall operating at half occupancy, with another, BIGGER one in the works (both things fallout from the economic crisis, to my understanding), rubble - from what, I don't know - and at least a couple of dusty back alleys without lights. I know because when I decided to seek out food last night, I ended up meandering down a couple of them.

On the other hand, there are really quite lovely things here, too. I live in a building called the Sunrise. Or Mairaid. I'm not sure why it has two names, but I like calling it the Sunrise. It's pretty much going to be party central for the teachers at RAKESS this year, I think, because a ton of us and what seems like most of the British curriculum teachers live there. It's also - HALLELUJAH! - a ten minute's walk from the beach (which I will not be swimming at because...okay, it does still very occasionally suck to be a white woman), and the beautiful Hilton beach resort, which I'll be joining. I have my own apartment, which is probably three times the size of my place in Korea, so there's still a fairly good chance I may lose things. I've dedicated one of my rooms as my belly dance studio, cleared out most of the furniture and bought two ten-dollar mirrors (so far) for it. We had an introduction activity today at RAKESS, and my partner mentioned that I had an exotic habit, and that I was looking for other people who might be interested in belly dancing, which is not entirely true - if you know me, you know I'm more than happy to go it on my own, no matter what "it" may be. But three other ladies came up to me throughout the rest of the day and said that they had also danced, or were interested in dancing, and after experiencing what it was like to be part of a community of dancers, in Omaha, and at the end of my time in Seoul, I'm actually excited about creating one here in RAK. Dubai, eat your heart out!
I got to go to church on Friday, and that was good. I was a little worried about being assigned to the Sharjah ward. I had been told that there were lots of singles in Dubai, and as nice as married people are, they don't make what you would call, "Ideal Partners in Crime." They have families and stuff. So I was happy to meet some girls there - one of whom looks like a taller version of Diana (I had to restrain myself from boinging her curls), and seemed to find my mix of sarcasm and snideness agreeable. I may still consider Dubai once I've got a car.

The teachers are a really quite amazing mix. Everyday I get to listen to accents from all over the world - Aussies, Saffers, Indians, Brits from all over the isles, a few Americans, and...ugh. Canadians. Whose nationalistic pride I still don't totally understand. Maybe next year. There are lots of single ones too...yeah, that's a preoccupation of mine. To understand it you'd have to know my history in Bahrain, and that's too long a story to go into right now. Suffice it to say that in spite of the fact that I'm a fiercely independent person, and that my friends have actually been known to drive me NUTS (hello, Christa), at the end of the day you need them to put it all in perspective, to help you laugh at things or to sympathize with you over the frustration. In the end, it was not the crappy school or the atrocious student behavior or whatever that made me leave Bahrain...it was that lack of friends.

Last thing for now - Ramadan. It started yesterday, and it annoys me now, almost as much as it annoyed me three years ago. But I'm trying to think of it as a forced opportunity to work on some of my less wonderful habits. Which are coming along alright just by virtue of leaving the states...and possibly something deeper. I already feel better than I have in a very long time, like a layer of myself has peeled away leaving behind a softer, newer thing in its wake.