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.