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...

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


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.