My Farewell Tour

Years ago, sitting in class, didn't you wonder why you had to learn where Mesopotamia was? Why learn about the places so far away? What was the point of knowing about some huge desert in a place it was unlikely I would ever visit. Well, now I know why. One never knows in life what sort of interesting things will come about. And my life has certainly been interesting. But, now it's time to learn about another part of the world and depart from my safe haven of New Hampshire and head out to parts unknown in a place called Abu Dhabi.
I am calling this part of my journey, before I leave, my "Farewell Tour" because haven't you ever noticed that when a cool rock band is going to change members or break up, they have a Farewell Tour that lasts about a year? Well, I began my "Farewell Tour" at the Thanksgiving dinner table last November as I sat and looked around at my family, my cousins, aunts and uncles and I asked my mother what she would think if I decided to teach overseas. My mother responded favorably and I thought, well, then, this is it. This could be my last Thanksgiving dinner with the family in New England, for a couple of years. I mentally looked around at the family as if to impress their faces and that moment on my mind. At that point, my mother was the only one who knew that I was planning such a crazy, wild journey of my heart. I applaud her for being open to such an idea. Now that I am further along in my journey, she is still so very supportive. What more can one ask from her parents?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Dinner Ends: "Elvis Has Left the Building"

 Stay Tuned; More Photos to follow

Like many Americans, I am getting ready for Thanksgiving, this week. We will adjust our calendar to accommodate our schedule. Over here, it's been a bit of a challenge to put a Thanksgiving dinner together. Since we work on Thursday, I will have our event on Saturday. The guest list is a little out of hand, now, I think I am up to 40 confirmed people. My upstairs neighbor and colleague, Sebastian, has offered me the use of the rooftop deck for additional space. (I'm pretty sure I will need it!)
The turkeys did appear in the stores after Halloween, so I brought home two large size 13lbs (well, large for Abu Dhabi) each...yesterday, I returned to the store for another, all the big ones were gone, so this one is about 10 lbs.
Hunting for the makings for stuffing has been the biggest challenge...cannot find sage, anywhere...I was in the market yesterday, in the spice aisle with another American also looking for spices. She had her I-pad with her and googled "Sage" and all we could determine is that if I find something with the scientific name "salvia" that would work. At the same time, another American walked up and she had found some "sage-y feeling" herbs in the veggie dept that she thought tasted like sage. So, I trucked back over there and found same...but I am not sure it is sage. has a very sharp, peppery taste. but I chopped it up into the dressing...and with the marjoram and thyme, it is passable as to what I think stuffing should taste like. The bread itself had to be created from stacks of French loaves, browned in the oven.
Other adventures in culinary tasks...I have the makings for Whipped cream and had to find a whisk to whip it. I didn't want to spend the $$ right now for a real mixer.
The American gal from the spice aisle asked me if I knew where she could find real vanilla extract...ah, well, yes, in another country...a Western country, as Muslim countries do not allow vanilla extract to be sold, as it is alcohol based. I did suggest to her that she could get vanilla beans at the herbalist and put them in a small bottle of grain alcohol or vodka and be able to have real vanilla.  (She really should Google that!)
The defrost process is taking forever. Bird #1 (Elvis) had 4 days in the fridge and really could have gone another day. Bird #2 (Arlo) has been in the fridge 2 days and shows no signs of softening. Bird #3 (Khalas...Arabic for "finish" or "end") had better straighten up and defrost or you know I'll have to just execute him...again.
Oh, the biggest joy is cooking over here. There is no such thing as a real old fashioned stove oven...I did find a beautiful "cooker" which is a stove/oven combo, with convection, so after burning the brownies on my first try out...I have learned to adjust both time and temp. Elvis turned out so beautifully moist with the crispest of crusts that when I go home I am ditching my traditional oven and getting one of these convection combos.
My cranberry bread also turned out better than ever.
I cued up my Youtube this morning to find a copy of Arlo Guthrie singing "Alice's Restaurant" so we can continue the tradition. I would miss that if I couldn't hear it.
Well, that's a little insight into "Giving Thanksgiving for Being in Abu Dhabi" and I believe I have just written my next blog!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Today's episode in Abu Dhabi was a trip to the mall for internet wifi use. I do this almost every day with several teaching colleagues. Today, the bus dropped us opposite the Khalidiya mall. There used to be a broken fence that we could sneak through, but the good maintenance folks of the Abu Dhabi highway system have fixed it. So getting to the mall, now requires a long walk around the fence and crossing two 3 lane highways. I stand perched behind three Pakistani men who are going to the mall for the same purpose I am...laptop bags dangling from their shoulders. I see a break in the traffic and one person runs. He makes it. The next two wait for a break in the traffic. I prepare to run with them. I check to see if my colleagues have made it across. Tim is in the middle of the median strip, waiting for his wife Cindy to venture across. 
Let's pause for a moment to consider the drivers of Abu Dhabi. These brave souls man the driving wheel attempting to avoid cabs, motor bikes and the occasional pedestrian. They peer ahead into the traffic and see a hapless soul about to step off the curb...they speed up, in an attempt to splat him or her over the front of their grill. I have seen them grinning and even laughing as they bear down in their expensive cars. They get big points for catching one of us, and particularly huge points for catching an American over 50 ... I am a prime target. However, I have seen 60+ year old Asian women who qualify as prey, as well. Asian women can run particularly fast. 
I step off into the morass of traffic, wait for the opening between cars and run as fast as I can for the median strip. I pause, breathing hard, looking down the street for the next break in traffic. I see Tim and Cindy have made it safely. I watch the young men run and I follow in their stead. I reach the safety of the opposite curb. Today, I have negotiated the traffic, safely. I'm pretty sure the game designers of Frogger spent a lot of time in Abu Dhabi.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning...

Early one September morn…

Week one of my new job in my new school has come and gone. I not only love this job, but I am finding that I am at peace, here in the desert. Oh, it’s certainly not a bed of roses. There are many things I would change about this job, if I could. However, the overwhelming sense of peace descends at the end of the day. There are many imperfections…the day I was moved from my delightful job at the boys’ school to the girls’ campus was particularly difficult, and getting to the girls’ campus to find that no one in administration had thought that pens, pencils, paper or other supplies were essential to the running of the school was a particular jolt. However, we were given a stipend to go buy supplies at the store. And a few days later, copy paper made its way to our campus, as well as staplers, tape and paper clips. There are just certain things that make you feel that you are a teacher. Obviously, I can teach with merely a stick in sand, and I was fully prepared to do so, but the pens were a nice touch. We are still lacking internet and our overhead LCD projectors are still on the ceiling without a remote to run them. But, those are mere technicalities, and I expect with a little more patience, those things too, shall be ironed out. Strangely enough, last Thursday a brand new, automated (and free) vending machine for coffee, mochaccino, cappuccino, and cardamom tea appeared in the faculty lounge. One can certainly understand where Arab priorities lie. I didn’t think I would like cardamom tea, but am finding it particularly delightful. I’m thinking I will become addicted to mochaccino and cappuccino with this fantastic addition to our teacher lounge. (I do dislike coffee unless it is really flavored up) Of course, I can still enjoy my first love, Earl Grey tea with a bit of milk and sugar, but let’s face it, on my half hour morning break, it will be so much easier to just push a button. Oh, yes. Break in the morning is 25 minutes long, versus the hectic, stateside jam-your-worksheets through the copier, spend 5 minutes swearing at it and another 4 minutes trying to remove the jam and by that time you realize that you have to run to the rest room before heading back to class.  Abu Dhabi culture does have its advantages for the older bladder.

On another subject entirely, I had a pretty good weekend. On Friday, I pulled off an afternoon tea for an assortment of new friends and colleagues. We munched on tea sandwiches, drank sun tea and laughed about life in Abu Dhabi. On Saturday, I got up quite early and attended a charity flea market at the Sheraton Inn, and came away with some amazing purchases; plates, serving dishes, towels, pillows, a duvet and a duvet cover, several lamps that match my décor,  an African ebony bowl and a framed coin collection. After that success, I wound my way over to Nefertiti furniture, a used furniture place that had been closed during my spare time during Ramadan. I purchased an IKEA chaise lounge, two large pillows, two glass-topped side tables and a kitchen bar for my kitchen supplies that are starting to overwhelm my tiny kitchen space. As I walked away from Nefertiti, in the blazing hot sun, I thought that it was the right time for my friend Michael to be returning from his morning jaunt and I hoped he would pass by me in his taxi. Instead, I baked my way to the edge of the road and waited a few minutes for a taxi. Later that afternoon, Michael mentioned that he had passed me by in the Khalidiya area carrying two pillows. My prescience is alive and well in Abu Dhabi, it just didn’t extend to “seeing” Michael stopping for me. Had a second moment in class, this morning, after class had started and we were well on our way toward 8am. I was doing a last attendance check when I mentioned to the class that I fully expected Huda to walk through the door any moment…and at that very moment, she did. I enjoy these little moments of clarity and prescience. God has put me in a good place.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Joining the Circus

Joining the Circus

As I take my turn at discovering this new country in my life, I am struck by how many things are new, and how many are exactly the same as “back home.” Shopping malls and stores all seem to be eerily similar…it isn’t unlike going to any large mall in a new city when you go into a mall in Abu Dhabi. The advertising entices you; the same mannequins beckon to you through the display windows. Some stores even ARE the same stores…American Eagle, Banana Republic, the Gap, or Carter’s. Some stores I had never been in or only took a quick glance around are now calling out to me to come and check out their goods. Other stores TRY to be like those in the states with names like. “Women’s Secret” and “The Unlimited.” But this isn’t a blog about shopping, of which I go to many malls but do not buy much. Malls right now are for e-mailing, Facebooking and surfing the net, as we have no internet at our home, right now. 

This blog is about joining the circus. Three days ago, I met Emma. She is helping her friend move into the apartment across my hallway. After two minutes of chatting with Emma, I liked her immensely. As I explained to her that I had left my family behind in the US and, in a way, ran away from home, she laughed and said, “Well, you can put a sign above your door…’Circus’…”
It took me a moment, and then I smiled and responded, “Of course, I have joined the circus!”

Remember when you were little, you thought about joining the circus? In my house, at least, there were several comments about me as I grew up that if I couldn’t find my niche in life, I could always join the circus. I think that as I graduated high school, got married, and had a child all in the same day, without benefit of pregnancy, my family did think that I had perhaps gone off to join the circus. As my husband and his son and I became a family and then I had another child, my life got busier and busier. I was a Boy Scout and Girl Scout leader, teacher’s aide, then substitute teacher, and had owned a happily thriving convenience store business with my former husband, but I still hadn’t found my niche in life. By the time my second son came into the picture, I had a family of three children ranging in ages from newborn to 19 years old. It was a busy household. I was happy in many ways, and fulfilled in others, but still missing that essential core of who I was. I found choruses to join, then directed choruses for many years. I was hired by my church, as well as other churches to lead their choirs. I played in handbell ensembles, and played in huge thousand-member bell choir concerts in Boston, Hartford, and Bristol, Rhode Island. I felt fulfilled. Or was I?

It wasn’t until I went to a Girl Scout celebration and heard Grace Corrigan speak about her daughter, Christa McAuliffe that I knew what I needed to do next. As Grace spoke about Christa’s commitment to young people, to teaching and to becoming a pioneer, I felt drawn to continue to search for that same fulfillment for myself. A short time later, for the first time in my life, I enrolled in full-time classes at Keene State College, in Keene, NH. I was 37 years young.
However, this isn’t a blog about my career as a teacher, or finding my way as an “adult learner” at Keene State College. This is a blog about joining the circus.
The day I filled out my applications for a teaching job in Abu Dhabi, I knew I was stepping off what I had heretofore known as my normal, somewhat crazy, always eclectic life as mom, sister, daughter, grammy, aunt, niece and friend. I knew when I told people of my plans, that they weren’t sure if I was kidding, or not. The most confounded looks I received were from those who had been in the service and perhaps had fought in Kuwait or Afghanistan and knew what a brutal summer in the Middle East felt like.  Some people immediately responded with positive remarks,
“Wow! What an experience you will have.” And others merely shrugged and said,
“Well, I hope you like it.”
Some folks straight out told me I was crazy and came pretty close to telling me to have my head examined, (thanks, Benny and Rocky).
But as time went by and my commitment to this journey came close, most folks resigned themselves to the fact that I was really going so far away. Some of my friends (Deb, Paula, Mary) who had said goodbyes to me, before, sang songs to me,

So far away, doesn’t anybody stay in one place, anymore?

And I responded,

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, …taxi’s waiting he’s blowing his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die…”

As you can see,  and to paraphrase Carole King,

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue. An everlasting vision of an ever changing view. An endless world of tapestry in bits of blue and gold; a tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.

But this isn’t a blog about how music has informed my life, made me who I am today, sustained me during the down moments and lifted me up during the inspiring moments. This is a blog about joining the circus.

When something changes your life in untold little ways, as well as big ones, when an idea comes along that seems bigger than life, bigger than fantasy, and bigger than one person can embrace: That feeling of utter awe, utter impossibility, utter phantasmagorical manifestation of light, sound and life. That is what joining the circus feels like. As I dance around my mostly empty apartment, singing my beloved folk songs, I am drawn to those with themes that lift my spirits, those that take me home for a moment in my mind, but also remind me why I am here and what I am doing.  And so I leave you with one of  Joni Mitchell’s songs, one made famous by one of my favorite musicians and good friends, Tom Rush,

We’re captive on the carousel of time. We can’t begin we can only look behind from where we came and go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round in the circle game
                                                            ~Joni Mitchell

That’s all for today. I’m going back to Banana Republic to swing with the monkeys.
(For those of you paying careful attention, I realize that this final line does not complete the circus metaphor...but, give me a break...I'm not in Kansas, anymore)

Charlie on the MTA

As I make my way around the city, I am relieved and grateful to have three colleagues with me. Tim, Cindy and Michael have been superb travel companions and provide untold hilarity as we find our way around the city and experience new circumstances. Today, was the day we learned how to use the bus system. Up to this point, we have traveled by way of taxi or the occasional private car owned by a friend. However, on Sunday, our new school week begins and we must be in our new work environment (school) by 7AM. Since we live quite a distance from our school, and the taxis are beginning to get a tad expensive, the bus seemed like it might be a good alternative. 
We caught the Number 52 bus at the Marina Mall, where we had gone to sit around at the Caribou Café and check our e-mail and Facebook. I had messages from two of my children, so I was eager to respond to each of them. Sitting in the Caribou Café is exactly like sitting in any café in America, except for one thing…people do smoke inside of restaurants in Abu Dhabi. Today, was one of those days. My three friends sat near one of the smokers, an Emirati gentleman, so I took a seat in the corner further from the smoke.  I soon realized that the Emirati gent had taken a liking to Tim and they were carrying on a grand conversation. As their conversation came to an end, it was apparent that the wireless signal had as well and it was time to go check out the bus situation. Getting the bus was no problem. It picked us up right outside the mall. The best part about the bus was that it only cost 1 Dirham…or about 36 cents, American. This was the deal of the day, let me tell you. We are used to paying up to 13 Dirhams for a taxi ride to the Marina Mall depending on how convoluted a ride the driver takes us on. As we settled into our bus ride, we remarked that we could see much more through the large bus windows than we could from the taxi.  I remarked that I was “Through with taxis.” We knew that a taxi ride to school took about 20 minutes and by the time we got to Khalifa University, with all the stops the bus took, it was close to a            45-minute ride. I didn’t consider that too bad, considering the money we saved on taxi rides. We got out of the bus, crossed the highway and went to the bus stop on the other side of the road to make our way back. After what was exactly a 20-minute wait (the bus runs every 20 minutes) a bus pulled up. In Abu Dhabi, women sit on the front of the bus and men sit in the back. As Cindy and I entered the front of the bus, we were stopped by a crush of women jammed into the front seats and aisles of the bus. The men’s area was even worse, and Michael and Tim had no recourse but to stand in the aisle in the women’s section. We rocked back and forth as the bus moved. At the next stop, even more folks got on, with the men pushing their way through the rear door. I wasn’t sure how many people this bus could carry, but at one point, I’m sure I felt the wheels of the bus start to teeter.
Michael had decided to meet with a friend, but he was unable to make his way off the bus through the crowd. I asked him whether he knew the song, “Charlie on the MTA” and he responded “No.” The song describes the fate or rather the non-fate of poor Charlie who got on one of the MTA subways in Boston and then couldn’t figure out how or where to get off…

       And he never returned, no he never returned,
       And his fate is still unlearned
       He must ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston
       He’s the man who never returned.
                             ~Irish Rovers, Kingston Trio, et al...melody by Henry Clay Work 
Please click the link for more info.
As we continued to stop and press more passengers into whatever small spaces were left, people did get understandably peeved. The Muslim woman sitting next to me suddenly felt a whoosh of cool air as the fan began to turn and pushed her naked foot between the two Indian women sitting across from me. Had they been friends, this would have been a somewhat intimate gesture; akin to draping your arms across someone’s shoulder, or pressing your cheek against another’s. These three women didn’t know each other, and spoke different languages. The elder of the two Indian women tried to explain to the Muslim woman that she needed to take her foot out. The Muslim woman did not remove her foot, however. The ride passed uncomfortably as the Indian woman decided graciously to not press the issue. The Muslim woman came to her stop and got off and Michael saw his moment at this point and escaped the bus as Tim, Cindy and I bounced our way toward our stop. Suddenly, our stop came into view and we all dropped off the bus, like lice off of fresh-washed hair. As we trudged home through the heat, we began to question the decision to use the bus as our main mode of transportation.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wow, that was some ride...

Welcome to my blog from the other side of the world...Abu Dhabi. I won't bore you with the plane details or the arrival details, which were all very normal and mundane...however, when I paid 4Euro for a spot of tea in Charles Degaulle Airport which then translated into over $6 American on my credit card, I realized I was not in "Kansas" any more (or New Hampshire.) At arrival, I was met by Haris, the assistant from my school. We collected Cindy and Tim, a married couple and Michael who arrived on a different flight at about the same time. I saw a cash exchange place where I quickly turned $60 American into 220 AED Dirhams. I also spied a friendly camel and I asked Michael to take a picture of me and I obliged and took one of him, as well. Haris then walked us outside where the humidity and heat hit me like a large wet, wool rug. It was immediately oppressive. Then Haris popped Cindy, Tim and Mike into a cab and I set off with Haris across the hottest blacktop I had ever experienced...mind you, I was pushing my life belongings in three suitcases, one laptop, and a large canvas the time we reached his car, I was exhausted. We quickly arrived at the Aloft Hotel and I put my belongings into my hotel room, got on the internet to announce my arrival to my family and friends and went up to the Ramadan tent to meet with my new traveling companions for a late night bite. I tried the Shawarma, with no yogurt sauce, thank you. It turned out to be a chicken wrap which was very digestible. After that, we retired to our rooms and I actually slept very well. In the morning we were bused from our hotel to our new school, the Institute of Applied Technology. Our first day consisted of paperwork and hearing about our new school. We were allowed to leave early and I finished the day by looking at housing prospects on Dubizzle, a website for the Arab World. I also networked with colleagues for ideas on where to go to look at housing prospects. Strangely enough, one of the first places I saw on Dubizzle, which I had also seen at home turned out to be the place I am going to call home. But, I'm getting ahead of my story.
The rest of that first week turned out to be a series of days where we showed up at school, signed in, were told our laptop arrival was imminent and were then told we could use the day in whatever fashion we wanted to...but first there were the medical tests. One of our school assistants, Moustaffah, drove us to a medical clinic. There were literally hundreds of people standing on line, sitting in chairs, waiting for a technician to call a name. This was my Ellis Island. As they called out names and numbers, I thought of all the immigrants who had come to America, with different expectations, but probably expectations that were not unlike my own..."Please God, let me get through this..." When I went for my x-ray, the tech put me in a small changing room where I was to stay until called. This was the most wretched moment of my journey, so far. This small cubicle was disgusting, filthy and dingy. For a medical building, it was so far below American standards. I did hope I would never have to see this building, again... Alas. 
The next few days were similar, showing up to work, released from work and finding a real estate agent who would take us around to see some apartments. However, after I had been at IAT for one week, Moustaffah came to collect me. "You need to go back to medical center." When I asked "Why?" Moustaffah merely shrugged his shoulders. After shuffling back through some long lines, I was told to go to Room 21. There I spoke at length with a practitioner who explained my lung x-rays were not approved. I would have to A. take antibiotics until the infection cleared up. B. undergo TB testing as they thought I may possibly have TB or C. I could explain what may be wrong and possibly get my records from home (A long while back, I considered bringing my medical records, but never thought of the x-ray problem at that time and I later discarded that thought)
So, I gave this lovely woman my "lung problem" history. In 2008, I had a bad bout of pneumonia, which the doctors had said was an "infiltrate." Even today, I'm not sure what that exactly means, other than the shadows are apparently still in my lungs, and I still have the cough from time to time. My options were given to me: I had to produce my medical records from the states within one week or go through additional testing for TB. (they also suggested the antibiotic again, as that would have made them feel better.) Keep in mind, this diagnosis and plan of care was all done without any stethoscope, blood pressure cuff or thermometer having been used. Apparently diagnosis in Abu Dhabi is done a bit differently.
A few days later, I received the med tests from the states, but by then it was the weekend, and following that, there is a mandatory holiday for the entire UAE so getting confirmation or any type of oversight for this problem is now delayed until perhaps Sept 1.
I mentally put the medical stuff on the back burner, as I knew that the worst that would come from that was a delay in my residency visa and THAT would mean I would have to make border runs to Oman (which is an ok place to go) or Yemen (don't worry, I'm NOT going THERE) to get my next 30-day visa stamp. And my front burner was now consumed with finding a place to live. I had seen housing options all over the area, and then that little picture of the white side by side villas in the Al Bateen area came up on Dubizzle, again. I had heard that two other folks from our school had already rented the top floors, but there were studio apts, and one bedroom apts still available. I drove out with Tim and Cindy and I was impressed with what I saw. I also liked the idea that I would have neighbors whom I already knew in the other apts. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting deposit money, signing some preliminary papers and working out the kinks. These apts  were still in process of being finished, but I was running out of time, as our 5-day stay at the Aloft had come to an end and I had to make housing choices. Since the apts still had that Beirut, Lebanon decorator look of open doorframes framed in concrete blocks enhanced by crumbling concrete and piles of broken rubble. However, I had seen enough episodes of Trading Spaces and Design on a Dime to know that there was potential in this little apartment of mine. I will have a huge living room of 20'x20' and a smaller bedroom area of 13'x20' with an itsy-bitsy kitchen area and an adequate bathroom where I can put a washer/dryer combo. 
So, now my days are filled with trying to find some inexpensive housewares in both new and used condition. I hosted my first impromptu dinner party with Jackie and Brandon on Friday night when the Indian restaurant where we chose to eat was lacking an exhaust fan and as the tears were running down my cheeks, we made the smart decision to move the party to my apartment to eat our Indian dinner. My new colleagues are quickly becoming my new friends. The next evening, which was last night, Brandon returned the favor by inviting a small group of us to his new flat for pot luck. I brought drum sticks courtesy of the hot food department of the local Carrefours store and one of those yummy looking cakes that has kiwi, peaches, and strawberries glazed on top. (yes, some things are JUST like the states) We met two new colleagues from our school who told their new immigrating stories. However, that will save for another day.
Oh, one last update...when my housing at the Aloft hotel ran out (5 days, only!!) I found a "deal" on Agoda for a 5-star room for only $69 per night for a small studio apartment/hotel. When I arrived, my room wasn't ready, so they upgraded me to a "Junior Suite" which is very comfortable. This is a lovely, older hotel with a gorgeous pool and exercise room on the roof. The staff has been outstanding. I like this hotel so much better than the Aloft, as it has a kitchenette and I have three wonderful rooms here. I would have chosen to live here, but it would have taken all my housing money, it's a 15 AED Dirham ride to school and the area is lousy. Other than that, I have the lovely bakery across the street that has the most delicious Baklava and Khanafa. Of course, due to Ramadan, I can only buy those at night, after 9:00pm. 
More later on Ramadan and how it affects Westerners.
I am happy here. I am missing my family, but don't have the homesickness that sometimes plagues me in strange places.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Look at the Emirates

The more I read about Abu Dhabi and its environs, the more impressed I am with the creation of this gem out of the desert. 50 years ago, it was merely a sandy fishing and pearl diving village. Today it has such a wealth of innovative buildings, technological wonders, and natural wonders that it could take me a while to explore all the gifts that Abu Dhabi offers. I am including a link to an interactive map so click on the word "Map" and explore a little with me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Have a Day/Date of Departure!

I had almost given up...after days and weeks of waiting for my e-ticket, I was beginning to think it was all a dream. Since I had been given a start date of Aug 14, I was pretty sure they were going to bring me over by the 8th or 9th of Aug. Going to Abu Dhabi is not like driving to Concord, there is a period of adjustment for the weather, the time change and the language and culture that takes place going from New Hampshire to Abu Dhabi, so I really did think that bringing me over a few days early would be to both our mutual benefits. Apparently, I don't think like an Emirati. They have given me a time and date of Saturday, August 13 with an arrival on Sunday, August 14. I have e-mailed my rep to be sure they would reschedule my orientation (they will). Then I began the process of calling or texting all my family members. My son, Jake was first as I knew he was on the road to work. His response, "Excellent!" That made me feel so good. My daughter, Jess, is next as she is an early riser. We discussed the time of arrival in Abu Dhabi and think we know what time I will arrive there. My mom and sister, Sue are next. Mom wondered who was calling her so early in the morning and Sue responded, "Nancy of course, she got her ticket." Sue had such conviction, she knew it was me. I called my son, Matt, then and gave him the news. Everyone was so upbeat and positive, I felt encouraged. 
I know that having your mother/daughter/sister leave the country for up to 6 months at a time is a difficult condition. My family has encouraged me from the very beginning to go ahead and do this. Oh, it hasn't all been easy. We have had our moments of tears and sadness, that's for sure. For the last 6 weeks as I have waited for this all-important mobilization news to come, everyone has asked, "When do you leave?" and my answer has been, "I don't know yet." And this week, it has gotten down to very little time left. My school had already given me a work-start date of August 14. With the arrival in a strange country, finding a place to live, and beginning work on the 14th. But each day, as I check my e-mail there is no news. The daytime TV shows mock me; Nate Berkus calls out to me, "Have you got your ticket, yet?" and David Letterman crows, "You can get free tickets!" Each little moment is an insult to my inner clock which is screaming out, "GO! Get thee to Abu Dhabi!" By this time, my family, which had previously been happily asking me if I had my tickets, and have perhaps been a little wistful about my leaving are now asking in tired voices, "Anything in the e-mail, today?" Yes, it is time for me to go. My house is ready for my son to take over with two roommates. Everything in my life is encouraging my leaving: my cell phone battery is only holding a charge for a few minutes; my hair dryer has stopped working. As Bob Dylan says, "One more cup of coffee  before I go" or in my case, tea. Earl Grey, preferably, with milk and real sugar.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Anorexic Packing

I'm trying to shove my life into two suitcases, one carry on,, a laptop bag and a large canvas bag. It's not easy. I binge, I purge. I see it all come back the next day. I binge and purge some more. In the meanwhile, as my packing has turned into a marathon event, I am also working at purging my outdoor life of a few extraneous living yard has been turned into a spectator sport. People stop by, drop their jaws and stare in what can only be described as abject horror, fascination or hilarity at what is going on in my yard. The backhoe is there, tugging pulling and thrashing with roots, tree stumps and large bricks and mortar. People ask my man Vincent what is going on. He responds, "Well, I think she hit the lottery" because, really it's no one's business but my own. In a way, I have hit the lottery. I am going on the trip and experience of a lifetime. The decision to tear apart my yard was borne out of a need to make the yard work very easy and accessible for my son, Jake, who is going to be my housing manager for the two years I am overseas.
I guess I have an all or nothing personality at this point. My house has been overhauled, both inside and out. Every bedroom is getting a bed, desk, bureau, bookcase and a "welcome to our home" basket with a stainless mug and a few items to help with the transition to our home. Two young men will be living with my son, when school begins on the first of September. I've been told a few horror stories from well-meaning friends, I am remembering some of the poor choices made by some members of the family who shall remain nameless. I am trusting a lot in God and in the power of his influence in this move to Abu Dhabi. I am also trusting a lot in three young men to use this time to grow safely, and enjoy a fairly stress free life in a small town in New Hampshire. My son looked up his college in the rating catalog, yesterday. "Hey, did you know that NEC is ranked higher than Colby Sawyer and Franklin Pierce College?" Of course I do...did he think I was sending him to some rinky dink New Hampshire school? As I move on to the field trip of a life time, I pray that my instincts are correct...that this is exactly what I should be doing at this point in my life.
Let the packing anorexia continue! I shall purge more, tomorrow.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Farewell Tour

As I make my way around New England, saying goodbye to people and places I love, I have made some new discoveries and made new realizations about myself.
I had a wonderful visit with friends from my Martha's Vineyard Writing program, Andrea, Joan, Diana, MinGi and made some new friends, Sarah and Jackson. We rented a house on the Vineyard that I have stayed in perhaps 4 other times. It is a wonderful home, owned by Chuck and Ann who also operate the lovely shoppe "Off Main" in Vineyard Haven.
Oops, I will finish later, as my plane to visit my wonderful daughter, son in law and grandson in Baltimore is  boarding...It's late, but that's no excuse.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Of Grass Roots and Grass Routes

New Hampshire is in the midst of another political season...which is the season that occurs right after Pot Hole season. Yes, that really is a season, here. It is marked by cars falling into house-sized craters and amazing road crew members, like Bill Goss, Bill Dumais, and Ernie Butler filling those holes back in with something called "Hot Mix" which is different from what you play on your I-Pod. Yet, I digress. New Hampshire's political season is marked with what are known as "Grass Roots" campaigns; the attempt by several aspiring intelligent (or not) people coming into our state to throw their hat into the ring.
I am launching my own "Grass Roots" campaign...that of going overseas to Abu Dhabi, to teach Emirati students to speak and write English well enough to get into a good college and compete for amazing jobs. I would like to call my journey a Grass Skirt campaign, because I've never been to Hawaii and always wanted to wear a grass skirt and dance the Hula at a luau...yet I digress...It's true, I can't refer to this as my Grass Skirt campaign because doing so would violate the morality laws of the Arabic culture I plan to join. Abu Dhabi is an amazing place, which you would know if it were as popular a destination as Hawaii. Most people ask two questions of me when I tell them where I am going..."Is it safe?" and "Where will you live?"   Thank goodness I have good answers ready for them: Yes, it's very safe, and I have no idea where I will live, that is part of the mystery and adventure. But I do get a generous housing allowance as part of my salary and I will be able to find an amazing apartment or villa in the city. 
The culture is lenient toward Westerners (Me) because Abu Dhabi relies on a large influx of ex-pats to work in the country--doing everything from building construction, teaching, healing, cleaning to working at the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Race track and at Ferrari World (Who says this can't be a "destination retreat?) However, there are some rules about what Westerners and other ex-pats can and can't do. Walking around in a bathing suit or other scanty clothing is forbidden; they actually prefer that your collarbone and your elbows are covered. Skirts should go below the knee. Although I don't have to wear a burqa, as I am not a Muslim, or a Hijab (head covering) there are certain articles of clothing I will purchase or bring with me to wear. As a fairly modest woman, I don't think I will have problems with this particular rule. I am also packing my bathing suits and shorts, as I know there will be opportunities to wear those around my own home. Due to the strict rulings about clothing, I will not have to look at any more sagging, bagging pants on young men, in fact most young men will wear a long, white garment known as a dishdasha or kurta over cotton pants and shirt. Because this is a country that prides itself on modesty, the smart ex-pat will be respectful of these rules. The other important rule to remember is that of separate spaces for men and women. Women do not visit men in their apartments or homes, and vice versa. All visiting is done in public places with other folks present. Since I will be part of a teaching community of other ex-pats, I am sure they already participate in group activities and events and am looking forward to joining them.
Westerners do go out, and there are wonderful restaurants, theater, concerts and other events to attend. That's another thing I am looking forward to. Living in NH, one is isolated from the large city performances. Although I go frequently to the theater in Concord, NH and the New London Players, it has been a long time since I have seen a big-name concert. 
Those are just some of the random thoughts I have this morning as I pack up my house, and think about the new life ahead. I began by thinking about how this journey is a bit of a Grass Roots experience for me...I'm leaving my own grass roots and moving to a location that will bring new experiences, new knowledge and new friends. I will not be forgetting my own roots, though, we will keep in touch. We will just be going down a different Grass Route.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


The process of saying "Goodbye" began, for me, last November. I knew I wanted to go overseas, so I was sort of trying on the idea of how it felt to be my last Thanksgiving, my last Christmas season (as I will probably be home for the actual holiday) my last Easter, my last visit with friends. Pretty soon, I will be getting down to my last trip to the store, my last sleep in my own bed, with my own pillow, my last morning looking at my face in the mirror. But with about 5-7 weeks left, I am still in the process of saying goodbye to people. Today I had an amazing visit with some of my oldest friends from New Britain, Ct. I attended New Britain High School with these folks and some of them go all the way back to Slade Jr. High School and at least two (Bill F and Kim D) go all the way to third grade at Vance Elementary school. 
There is something very comforting about having people in my life who go back so far; we share the common memories of square dancing, Mrs. Olson, and Religion classes. We share learning about the assassination of JFK in 3rd grade, we share common understanding of who the neighborhood toughs were, and what the neighborhood secrets were. 
By the time we made it through elementary school, we got up to the confusing experience of Junior High, now known as Middle School. By Junior High school, the stories about the teachers were legend...the teachers who could pick a student up by the front of a shirt, who used a cattle prod to shock students, Mr. Hogan, and the scary science teacher who was also a part time police officer. I'm pretty sure he thought each one of us was a criminal in the making. Such is the stuff of middle school memories. 
By high school, I was finding my friends and making inroads into who I wanted to be. Most of that ended on Dec 31, 1972 when I moved with my family from New Britain to Jackson NH. There was a gap left where my friends were. A gap that I have tried to fill since then. The goodbye process helped me out today as I met with some of those wonderful friends from high school that I had known way back then. Most of them I hadn't seen since 1972. The reunion was a wonderful picnic with about 35 folks from the good old days. Granted, some didn't remember me, and some I didn't know at that time, and they didn't know me. But that's the good thing about reunions. We are all adults, now, the cliques are gone and we all can meet each other on an equal footing. The stories went around. The memories were poignant and the day was truly a day in which friendships were rekindled. 
I thank my life-long friends Deb P and Carole N for going with me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's a Small World, After All

It is so exciting to open my blog each day and check out how many people are reading my blog. Today, someone from Letterkenny, Donegal took a look at what I'm writing. Donegal? Really? Wow. It seems I'm getting a lot of views...Fowlerville, Michigan, Lady Lake, Florida, Nashville Tennessee, and Cincinnatti, Ohio. That's just today. I would love it if each person would leave a little "Here I am" comment and tell me where they are from, or who they are, or why they came to my page. It's fascinating to write this blog and have it read by so many people. I live in a small town in New Hampshire, where we have no Walmart, no Target, only one grocery store, and 4 gas stations. (When you live that far from a major city, you have to buy a lot of gas to get there.) Right now, I work in an even smaller town that is an hour from home.
So, stop and visit for a bit, leave a note or comment, and hopefully you will click on one of my sponsors. Tell me what you like or don't like about my blog. Right now it's a bit blase, as I haven't actually set foot in Abu Dhabi, yet. Once I get there, I hope to have lots to say;-)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Post about Posters

I have an extensive classroom poster collection. Some of my favorite books and authors are documented in my posters. I have laminated most of them for long-term use. I have enjoyed hanging them in my classrooms, over the last 12 years of teaching in New Hampshire. Now, I am going through them to bring a good selection to Abu Dhabi. I'm aware I can't take them all. Physically, they would take up too much space to ship. But I have acquired two heavy duty shipping tubes, and I am going to roll and ship as many as I can...but that comes with a heavy responsibility. We know that teaching in the Middle East is not the same as teaching in the US. As I lovingly peruse my posters, I reject some outright...the wonderful Star Wars poster from 2005 Father's Day, proclaiming "Who's Your Daddy?" The poster proclaiming "Go and Read" with a beautiful library in the background, I reject due to the young girl dressed in her finest dress, complete with a straw boater...but her arms are poking out from the short sleeves, and you can see her elbows. I love Charlotte's Web and have used it extensively in the high school classroom when we discuss farm life, rural ways, etc. But, it has a pig, both in the picture and in the story; a strictly forbidden concept in Abu Dhabi.
I will take my posters of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Marion Anderson, When Marion Sang, and Zora Neale Hurston, as I think those will translate into the Arabic classroom. I reject the beautiful photo/poster of the book, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands as too Christian.
I take with me the first poster I purchased for $10 from a former student and amazing artist, Wes Sweetser. It is a pastel chalk of Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is a wonderful recreation and always leaves my students a bit breathless as they peer through the clear blue sky to discover the fallen city hidden in the background. Another poster I will bring, a water color created by another former student, Michelle Yount, for a classroom project of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. I take this because I expect I will be teaching The Raven as I introduce my high school readers to Western literature.
I will take along several reminders of my American heritage that will remain in my apartment, the Jackson Covered Bridge,

a water color, painted by my dear colleague and friend, Denis Chasse, (the photo linked here is a reasonable facsimile of Denis's painting but is an internet photo) and a Josten's yearbook poster commemorating 9/11. I will also take a water color, "For Freedom" by my dear friend, Gabriel Krekk, a Hungarian-Canadian artist. And last, but not least, I will carry across the seas my reproductions of our nation's historical documents, The Star Spangled Banner, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Patrick Henry's speech. I hope as I take this little bit of my academic history and our US history to Abu Dhabi I am able to convey to my students what a wide historical and literary richness can be found in these posters and paintings.