Friday, April 29, 2011

Wow! A post from November that couldn't be more relevant now...

November 5, 2010

I can’t sleep

So today is November 5, 2010. My first thought is “remember, remember the 5th of November”, which also makes me think that I should visit London. Truth be told, I want to see the world. I don’t care to discriminate either. My goal in coming to the United Arab Emirates was first and foremost adventure and what ultimately swayed the decision was money. It sounds so unromantic but hear me out…this is the only place in the world (that I know of) that will pay me the amount of money required for me to indulge myself in a few vacations every year and not end up in the poor house. Unfortunately and fortunately for me I love my profession. I love teaching with so much passion that I majored in it despite the constant warnings and knowledge that financial stability was just not going to be a part of my future.

It is now close to 3:00am, which actually means that it’s really not the 5th of November here anymore. I still think I should go to London though…So what exactly has prompted my 3am ramblings? Heartbreak. My newest boyfriend is halas (poof, gone, quit it). Halas has a strong throaty sound at the beginning of it and I tend to say it a lot in the classroom. Someone once jokingly told me that “boys just come and go like seasons” when it comes to me and I guess it’s true. The weather in Abu Dhabi is finally changing. I noticed this change about a week ago. There’s a breeze in the air and the sauna effect has suddenly disappeared. This kind of weather makes me want to go out and enjoy this wonderful city. I recently bought a folding bicycle that I can’t wait to ride down along the Corniche. Maybe later today I will do just that to clear my mind.

It was also about a week ago that I started getting that unhappy itch, literally. About a week ago, I caught lice! I thought I had developed a stress induced itch for a week and then one day it was just too much and I heard from another LT (the name given to the English teachers which is an acronym for Licensed Teacher) at our school that she found lice in her hair. I had my boyfriend check and I had a lice colony in my hair. Gross. I bought some shampoo, a comb, and compulsively washed and combed my hair for two days. I’m going to shampoo again later today because the children still have lice. The day after I found out that I had gotten lice, I gave myself the assignment of checking all the children. About half of second grade had lice. There’s a school nurse, but get this, the school nurse thought it was only necessary to check the children with long hair and their solution to the problem was to cut their hair. You would think that in a school that has that much of a lice problem that the nurse would know that the length of your hair doesn’t determine whether or not you get lice. I’ve been wearing a head covering ever since.

There’s a lot to tell about schooling but I’ll save that for the next post (which I’m going to type right after this post because I feel inspired to do so).

Backtracking…So what prompted the latest breakup? A vacation. Of course, there’s more to the story but there’s always that one thing that is just the final draw. I have to say though that I am getting better and better every day. My bullshit tolerance when it comes to men is at an all-time low. It’s a combination of a shady past that involved dating megalomaniacs, musicians, and poetic douchebags (with the exception being the first that treated me like gold) and just a major love for me. For once in my life it really is all about me and I feel no guilt at all about my selfishness. This opportunity might not come around again. This month I am turning twenty-four. I am happy alone and need to stop finding love in every corner. It’s a difficult thing for me to do because truth be told, I find the beauty in everything. Sure, I have my fml moments but for the most part my life is viewed through rose colored glasses, my cup is half full and I wear a smile on my face. It’s my coping mechanism for a shitty childhood and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to deal with life then laugh and continue along smiling at the world. I find that when you smile, the world smiles back. Here in the UAE, a little sugar goes a long way.

Next week I’ll either be in Jordan or Sri Lanka (if the price is better than Jordan which is unlikely). My plans for Thailand fell through because my friends and I failed to book early, which I’m surprisingly not sad about. I think I need a longer vacation than a week for Thailand. I’m very excited about the prospect of visiting Jordan and since I’ve been assigned travel agent with my friends, I think I will sway it that way. I want to see Amman, Petra, and the Dead Sea. I have a meeting with a travel agent later today.

I also decided that I’m going to Europe alone in December. My travel agent will book me my Eurail pass for 5 bordering countries. I’m meeting up with some teachers in Vienna for Christmas and doing a day tour of Budapest. The other countries I’m not certain of yet. Paris was my original destination point for the start of my journey but now I’m thinking that the city of love might just make me cry. I’m excited by the idea of doing a vacation all by myself. Yes, very very excited indeed.

My glass just filled a little past the half point.


So, life always deals you what you least expect. As determined as I was I decided to give my relationship another try. It lasted another four months and I ended it last week. Now I'm really focusing on myself. I still haven't done the solo vacation which I so wanted but my chance is coming this summer. I'm excited to report that I'll be going to Tanzania. I am beyond excited. I booked the adventure through gap adventures ( ; the tour is called Tanzania Encompassed). My tickets are booked and I'm set to go. As part of my adventure, I'll be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. The prospect of reaching summit has me completely giddy with excitement.

So far my vacations while here in Abu Dhabi have been the following:
November Jordan (Amman, Petra, Dead Sea) + "the unmentionable place" with two incredible girls who teach here in AD. I can't wait to return someday to Jordan. I absolutely loved it.
December Czech Republic with my then boyfriend. I saw snow for the first time! The whole country was just magical.
April Turkey (Istanbul + Cappodocia) with my two best friends from home that came to visit me in Abu Dhabi.
July/August (so close I can taste it!) Tanzania - climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, spotting the Big 5 on safari, Masaai village visit and chillen on the beach in Zanzibar
In July I'll also be returning to my home base, Miami, Florida for close to two weeks. I'm so excited to see my friends and family, eat delicious Cuban food, dance salsa and get publicly intoxicated (haha)

My vacation plans for next year (possibilities/dreams):
November Egypt seems most likely
December Rumor has it that this upcoming December we'll have three weeks vacation time so if that's the case, I'm off to Europe! I'm thinking book into Paris and leave from Rome. That was my original idea for this past December.
April cherry blossoms in Japan would be amazing :)
July/August Peru/Bolivia perhaps?

I can't believe a year has almost passed since I first embarked on this journey. All I can think is...let the good times roll!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 2: Prague to Cesky Krumlov

The next day we got up early to get to a car rental place in order to head out to Cesky Krumlov. I was ubber excited about Cesky because I had read it was picture perfect. It was supposed to look like something out of a Disney movie. A cab driver had told us that you couldn't even drive into the city. This made me so excited.

Renting a car proved initially difficult because the place was a lot further than we had remembered. When we got to the location there was a sign saying they'd come back later with a number. We of course could not call because our phones were not working. We walked around looking for another car rental place. This didn't work out and we were extremely annoyed at the fact that nothing seemed to be open. Finally, we walked back and the initial car rental place was open. After that it was smooth sailing.
Our little car was mostly driven by Nathan (who insisted on driving because he had experience in snow, which annoyed me but made sense). Getting to drive around though made me so happy. I miss driving. I need to get my license here in the UAE and get myself a pair of wheels. Luckily, the car came equipped with a GPS system. Our drive was three hours away. We drove by Cesky Budovice in route and finally arrived at Cesky Krumlov as the sun was setting. Our GPS told us to go on a street that was clearly labeled with a big X, so we parked and walked into the cobble stoned city. It was love at first sight. Our hotel was located within a short walking distance from the entrance and it was a good thing we didn't enter because we were in fact not allowed to do so. We dropped out bags at the hotel and made our way to the castle, which was just a walking distance away. This castle was surrounded by a river. The town in which it is located reminds me of the village in Beauty and the Beast. My windows opened outward and the streets were narrow and filled with small cute shops. It looked like nothing had changed in hundreds of years.

The castle at Cesky is very renaissance style. It is huge, and very ornate in terms of the painted walls. We walked around and got to see a beautiful view from the castle. Climbing up to the castle was quite a feat because of the icy ground and my ill equipped shoes. The view was worth it.

Night was falling upon us and we headed back to the hotel. I was so tired (a recurring theme this trip- my body felt out of it) and we ended up ordering pizza. I only ate a slice. I felt bad because Nathan wanted to explore (even though everything was closed) and wanted to grab a drink. I just wasn't up for it. I think in large part it was that my body is just not used to the cold weather. Nathan is a polar bear. hehe.

The next day we walked around the castle and ate some delicious breakfast in a small bakery. Early in the day we headed out to go to out next destination: Karvory Vary (a hot springs town that banks on it's relaxation).

Picture posts will follow. I feel too lazy for now.

Visiting the city that people always think I've moved to: Dubai

An old post about my first visit to Dubai (stayed on draft mode because I never got around to posting pictures)

Two nights ago after meeting with Jerry and Gen at Hemmingways, we hitched a plan to go to Dubai. I was really excited because I didn't think I'd go so soon. Jerry rented a car and was willing to take us. He warned us though that he "drove like an Emirate", which was scary news because that means that he drives really fast. There was room for one more person so I invited Michelle.

I wake up the next morning really energized and excited about the days adventure only to be let down. Here's the thing before I even got to Jerry and Gen who were waiting for me in the lobby, I saw Michelle who wasn't too happy and decided not to go. Long story short, I decided not to go either. It was a matter of comfort level. I went back to talk to Michelle and we decided to investigate renting a car for the day or catching a bus to Dubai. I really like Michelle for that reason, she's an adventurer.

We went to concierge and decided to go with the bus plan. Without leaving a moment to back out of our plans we went outside and caught a cab to the bus station. The station was clearly labeled. We asked the only other woman we saw how much the ride was. She told us 25 Dirhams. Sweet. That's about 5 US dollars. The bus that pulled up was not at all what I had expected. It was the typical Orlando field trip bus from back home; it was clean and air conditioned. We hopped on and were boarded first, which was nice. Women in the UAE ride in the front of the bus only. Typically they are escorted to "priority" lines at the bank and have separate lines at other random locations. I was glad that I had read about this before the bus ride because normally I would not sit in the front.

The ride to Dubai was about 2 hours. Michelle and I chatted most of the way. On the way there I spotted a circular skyscraper which Brett and I had watched a program about before I left. I snapped a picture to show him. Besides a few random towns, it was mostly desert (but not the cool sad dunes that I had seen on  the way to Al Ain).

When we arrived to Dubai we followed where we saw the majority of people were going. We threw on our scarves over our heads but that didn't last too long because it was hot. We just followed the crowd for some time and came to an area of Dubai that reminded me of China Town, NYC. The streets were a little dirty and there were no local people anywhere. Most of the people we saw looked like a blend of Indians and other darker skinned Arabs. There were no women to be spotted anywhere. This is not the glitz and glam that I expected of Dubai. At no point did I feel unsafe, but it was not the image that I expected to encounter. I was very glad that I was very modestly dressed.

We walked around aimlessly for a bit. There were stores everywhere and restaurants that smelled open which was surprising because of Ramadan. We stumbled upon our first souk in Dubai and it looked a lot more like the souks that we wanted to see in Abu Dhabi. This souk was outdoors and shaded by a wooden structure. Just like in NYC, each shop keeper would say "hello ladies, please please come in and see." We said "no, thank you" profusely and continued our walking. We figured we'd be back to this area if we didn't see anything elsewhere. As soon as we left this souk area we saw water. We walked towards it because we knew that we needed to cross the channel in order to reach the other souks. We walked along the water and between the buildings we saw rows of men sitting down in the shade. I assumed they were workers by their demeanor. I couldn't help but feel bad for these workers. I have difficulty with the Ramadan restrictions and am barely active. These men have to perform physical labor and are expected to adhere to the same rules (a lot of them are also Muslims as well). Supposedly, the rules were somewhat relaxed for workers based on a news clip that I watched the other day.

Across the channel we saw Dhows, which are wooden boats that are used to crossed. We knew that we had to pay to cross and asked how much. It only cost us 1 Dirham (3.68Dhs=$1) to cross. Michelle and I hopped on the boat with all other men. The dhow ride was my favorite part of Dubai. It was nice to feel the breeze as we went across and take in the view provided. The boats themselves looked ancient and it was fascinating to see so many boats crossing the channel.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Prague, Czech Republic

I haven't posted in what seems like forever. A lot has happened in the last few months. I will try to backtrack sometime and actually have saved drafts I need to post but in this post I will focus on what I feel has been the best thing that has happened to me in the last few months- travel.

Since as long as I could remember I have been obssesed with traveling and seeing the world first hand. In fact, my dream is to take a few years off and just travel. For many years this dream was just that...a dream. Being here in Abu Dhabi has made my dream a reality.

In November, I got to travel to Jordan (and shhh Jerusalem). Unfortunately, I misplaced my SD card with these pictures and will have to backtrack someday when I find it.

This post will focus on my most recent trip- Czech Republic. :D

Our trip began with an overnight stay in Dubai because flights are cheaper from Dubai than Abu Dhabi. We spent some time at the Dubai Mall which is an immense mall. Nathan bought himself a new digital camera and I bought a new SD card because I had misplaced mine.

We caught an early morning flight to Kiev, Ukraine which provided our connecting flight to Prague, Czech Republic. Nathan and I boarded the plane in our Abu Dhabi clothes and were shocked to discover that upon arrival at Kiev, we had to dismount directly on the terminal. It was freezing and for the first time I saw snow! Granted, it was already on the ground and not too impressive, but I was totally excited anyways. Getting off the plane to go catch the next plane was no problem because the process was quick. The real issue was waiting to board the next plane in the freezing cold. As a slow line progressed up the side of the airplane, my ears were so cold that I thought I had caused permanent damage. I just kept shivering and slowly was becoming disoriented. It made me appreciate the Abu Dhabi sunshine.

We're smiling on the outside only

We flew through an airline called Aerosvit, which we have renamed Aeroshit. Poor Nathan didn’t fit in the seats (he’s 6’3 or so). The seat reached his shoulders and his knees were jammed against the seat in front of him. He had to suffer as a teenager kept trying to adjust his seat. I was confortable though (since I’m normal sized, haha). The ticket was only $500 so I couldn’t complain. 

My first glimpse at Prague

We arrived in Prague at around 6pm and it was already completely dark. I was jumping up and down getting out of the airport because there were little bits of snow in the air (I think it's a snow flurry). Everything was covered in snow and looked so beautiful! We caught an express shuttle from the airport and were dropped off near a train terminal. Nathan has a worse sense of direction than I do (which is quite shocking) and much to my protest and dismay we caught a really expensive taxi to our hotel. I bitched and moaned the whole time because we got taken for fools. The driver drove us around in a circle and we arrived at our hotel 5 minutes after getting on. I could have done better walking…but then again…I also had some rest on the plane while Nathan was just uncomfortable the entire time. I tried to forget the whole incident but just stayed angry the whole night because I'm just like that. (one of my many character flaws  :P)
view from the river
 I got over it the next day. We got up early and had an amazing breakfast. We loaded up because we knew it would be a long day.
bundled up

We started our walk by heading towards the river. The river led to the Prague Castle. Along the way we saw awesome graffiti. I feel that the graffiti in this city is the best I’ve seen anywhere. It suits the city. We thought we found the famed St. Andrews Bridge and headed to the Jewish quarters of Josefov. We checked out the amazing architecture and stopped by the Franz Kafka cafĂ© to have some Irish coffee. Yum! Coffee and Baileys are always a winning combination.
 We did not do much in Josefov besides just walk around and take in the architecture. It was our first real look at the typical architecture of Prague. In Josefov there are is a Jewish museum and also a few synagogues. The museum is composed of artifacts taken from Jewish families by the Nazis to create a museum for an extinct race. It turned my stomach and I wanted to have a lighter day so I decided to skip out. There is also a town nearby called Terezin of important significance to Jews because it served as a concentration camp that was played off to be a sanctuary for the Jews almost till the end of the war.  Sick.

At the park :)

After Josefov, we headed back towards the “St. Andrew’s Bridge” and walked into a park that was spacious and filled with lots of snow for me to play with. I made a snow angel, helped put a snowman back together, kicked down the snowman, and threw a snowball at Nathan. I also had a flipping genius idea to sled down a hill with our inflatable seat cushions. We climbed up a mini hill that some bad ass little kids were skiing down and I prepared for take off. Weeeeeeeeeeee. The first attempt was a complete success. Nathan came down and even went over a snow built ramp and hurt his booty. I went down again to get a picture. This time though I accidently opened up my legs and all the snow came rushing to my face. I was laughing and crying. I couldn’t feel my face or open my eyes. It was incredibly painful but soooo worth the experience (and awesomely hilarious pictures!). It made my mascara smudge though and I looked a little beat up the rest of the day.

We hung around the park for a bit and played on a swing. It was so sweet. I felt so deliriously happy to have Nathan to snuggle with in the cold weather. He’s so cuddly. Lol. We eventually made our way to the Prague Castle which looms high above the city.

It's nice to be able to kiss in public!

From afar the castle does not look very impressive but when you get closer you realize how massive and impressive it is. The Prague Castle is what I’ve dreamed castled to look like. It’s like the Beauty and the Beast castle. I loved it. When I go back to Prague, I’ll pay to go inside. For this trip we were trying to keep costs down and settled from admiring from a distance while sipping our delicious hot wine.

On our way back out of the castle we discovered the real St. Andrew's Bridge. It is such an amazing bridge. There are a bunch of immense statues dating back to the Baroque era. The bridge was filled with people. Trombones and trumpets were playing Christmas songs from on top of the entrance to the city at the end of the bridge, there was a bridge band jamming (with a upright bass!), and many sketch artists. My favorite moment at the bridge was listening to a blind man playing music on the bridge (the name of the instrument escapes me). Nathan and I paused and listened for a few minutes and gave him a tip. It was such beautiful music. I felt so blessed to be experiencing something so wonderful.

We made our long journey back to the hotel on foot, settled into our cozy beds and fell into a deep sleep even though it was only 6pm! We were exhausted from a long day of walking but both had such an amazing time.

Sunset view of the Castle. Just beautiful.

This is only day one of the adventure. I will break this trip up into a few posts. Also, I bought a nice new camera a Nikon D90, from which I'll just make a picture post later.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Be optimisstic, when the road gets bumpy...

Things aren't always so peachy in the UAE when it comes to my job. This has been the most difficult point of my career. If I'm able to conquer this, I can truly conquer anything.

I need some time to post and reflect on the past months happenings. There have been quite a few tears shed and the ride isn't over, in fact it has just begun all over again. The school started with 6 English teachers and now we're down to 4. I plan to stick it out but it's costing me dearly in terms of my personal happiness. I need to focus my energy on what really matters, the children. I must say that I am amazed by the progress that has been made. They have turned from little monsters that made me cry to little cute monsters that make me smile every time I see them. I'm very happy that I chose to come to the UAE and don't consider going back to Miami as an option. From this point forward the world is at my fingertips. My adventure here will cease as soon as my contract ends but it will only open the doors to a new adventure that I probably never even considered before.

The Middle East is not for me. I will elaborate on this soon but for now this will be my last public post. Like everything here in Abu Dhabi, this blog is probably being watched closely. This is part of the reason I've dissapeared for a bit. I will make this an invite only blog that is accessible to the people I know in order for me to feel free to post everything and not be censored.

First Day of School!(An old post that I never got done editing)

 (In one word: chaotic.

I set my alarm and woke up at 5am, made a little breakfast, took a quick wake up shower, grabbed a bunch of teaching stuff and went downstairs to meet the teachers I ride with. I felt nervous but mostly excited. I had built up the day ahead of me so many times in my head that I was excited to finally have it and wonder no longer. Up until this point I had heard so many bad stories about the behavior of these students that I just wanted to get started instead of sitting around worried.

So when we get to the school, the first thing we saw was buses of little boys going into the school. The boys are required to wear kandoras which is the national attire of the UAE. They looked so cute. I could spot them already pushing and shoving each other off the bus, this was a nice sign of what lay ahead.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First day of school (kinda)

So yesterday was the first day of school. I went to the lobby and met with two teachers and the lead teacher to ride to school. The two teachers that live in my building are named Liz and Brette.I decided to withhold the fact that my last boyfriend was named Brett too to Brette. hehe. My lead teacher is named Yvonne. She's a really cool assertive black woman that taught in Miami-Dade County and ended on the position of staffing specialist for the region I was working in ::cue in the It's a Small World After All song:: There are three other teachers working in my school., Anika (which we call Ms. Annie in school because when she said her name the Arabic teachers started laughing and said that it sounded like penis in Arabic. lmao), Barbara and Jean.
I will be coteaching with Brette most of the day and helping Liz. My classroom will be 2nd grade and I'll be helping Liz in 1st grade. I think this arrangement will work well. I really like both girls very much. Brette is Canadian and Liz is from New Zealand. Just from speaking to them there's a high probability that after this adventure I'll be moving to Australia to do my masters. Their curriculum is a lot more hands-on and their approaches are just great. Liz, Brette and Anika are the returning teachers. Anika is working with Barbara in third grade and Jean is teaching first grade (and had different people coming throughout the day to help).

On a quick note about Anika- she's ummm difficult. On first impression she's a very stubborn person and just carries a cloud of negativity around her. Barbara is pretty quiet but seems to be a firm person and Jean just seems really sad. I need to reach out to her. Unfortunately, Jean is short on cash and does not really have a ride to school. Our car is full and her hotel is out of the way. I'll have to think up ways to help her ot. Maybe I can buy some materials for her to use for now. :(

So getting back to the first day...We came into the office and Barbara, Anika and Jean were already there. The principal did not expect more than 1 teacher and got 3 new teachers. The principal had not created the schedule yet and the classrooms were full of construction dust. Any child that showed up to school was sent home. A few boys ran around the courtyard and were dripping with sweat (at only 8:15am!). For the most part we sat around waiting for the principal to give us the created schedule. When we got it, both Jean and I weren't on the schedule. For the next couple hours we worked on the schedule. Things got heated because Anika insisted on having someone in her classroom all day. She was obviously bitter that Liz had had a smaller workload the previous year. She defintely set a horrible first impression on people that didn't know her. She was demanding, and just generally bitter. Eventually after some obvious animosity we created a schedule that seemed to please everyone. Every teacher would be in charge of her own class and receive assistance from other teachers. I hope it works out nicely.

The day ended at 12:30 and I went home and napped for three hours. I need to stop doing that because it's making it difficult for me to fall asleep.

Today I woke up at 5:30 and we headed off to school at 6:15. We discussed rules and a discipline plan as a group and then were able to set up our classrooms. I lucked out because Brette had bought so much stuff over the summer. I need to find the teacher store and buy a few things to contribute. We made the classroom a little happier by adding a word wall, some Dr. Seuss animated rules, and a circle area with a chart paper graph. It's only going to get nicer. I kept thinking about the fact that back home I'd have two weeks to set up. A one day set-up is tough.

Today Anika seemed like another person. She seemed nice. Split personality? Who knows. haha.

I came home and napped again for way too long, made some awful spaghetti (I bought tomato paste to make my own and it was bitter - I'm sticking to Ragu Sauce), and now I'm watching Nurse Betty. I love how I have free cable with great channels that always play movies. Friday is my relaxation day and teacher party at night, and Saturday planning and prepping for the real first day of school.

I better take advantage of the next few relaxing days because they might be limited from now on. :)