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, April 26, 2011

Now what?

Author's note: Be sure to read "Why go?" the first post on this somewhat episodic journey

The disappointment about not getting a position on my first try lasted only a short time. I knew that my chances of getting a position would be better if I applied before April, when teachers are given their contracts for next year. Those teachers who didn't get a contract would be entering the job market, and I had to be ahead of them.

I started with increasing the numbers of resumes I was sending out. Instead of 5 resumes on a weekend, I was now sending 8. Just as quickly, however, notices came back from the schools that the jobs I was applying for were cancelled. As this was in Feb and March, towns were just beginning to feel the budget pinch and were beginning to cut positions.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an ardent feminist and human rights proponent.  The decision to work in an Arabic country was one that took a lot of time and consideration. I remember one Sunday afternoon when I sent out applications to Kingston, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Qatar, Barain, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia. Within two weeks, I heard back about the jobs in Qatar, Saudi Arabia who both wanted to do online Skype interviews.  I really thought long and hard about living in Saudi Arabia, a country where they cut your head off for infractions of the law. I think that was beyond my normal scope of acceptability.

One Sunday morning I woke up to find an employment offer for Abu Dhabi in my inbox. I was so excited. Not only had I wanted to work in Abu Dhabi, but most of my research centered on AD as a destination. In the same few minutes of being excited about AD, at the same time, I also got an offer from Saudi Arabia. My son, Jake (age 19) was home for spring break, and I told him, first. His response to me "Is this what you want to do?" I thought to myself, wow, that is a very mature answer. When I responded in the positive, his reply, "Then you should do it."

The job offer from AD was a little unexpected. This position was with a private, technical school. I really thought I had blown my midnight Skype interview. This particular position I had found on my own and had received  a phone call from the school one night after I had gone to bed. As I answered that call, I thought to myself, "Oh, gosh, it's the school. I had better act wide awake." As the woman  on the phone began to speak to me, she asked me if this was a good time to talk. I responded affirmatively. "Well, I don't want to call at a bad time. What time is it?" She asked politely..."Well, it's 3:30 am." I responded. Now, I don't know how many people have answered a phone call at 3:30 am for a job, but it has to be small. As we talked, she informed me that the school would like to do an interview the next morning. At this point, I held the phone away from my ear, and thought, this has got to be a joke. Who in the world is this? Then she clarified, they would do an interview on Skype with me at 9:00am. Well, as I was mentally ticking off all the things I needed to do to be available for a morning interview, she again clarified, "That will be 12:00 Midnight, your time. Would that be ok with you?"
Well, sure, I'm so used to giving interviews at midnight.
Now, as timing will have it, 12 midnight would be within the same day as this early morning wake up call. As we said "Goodbye" and I lay back on my pillow, my head was whirling a million miles a minute. As a result, I never got back to sleep and got up and went to my subbing job as I normally would, the next morning. Arriving home from school, I thought about taking a short nap in the afternoon, but I had a lot going on, and I wanted to get ready for my Skyping. Having never Skyped, before, I thought I had better practice. I sent a Facebook message off into cyberspace, asking someone to please contact me via Skype. Within the next two hours, I had 4 different Skype conversations, from as far as England and Australia, and as close as Connecticut. I was very glad I had taken the time to do this as I realized my Wi-fi signal wasn't strong enough to pull in enough power to keep the conversation going. I moved my computer to another location where my conversations weren't interrupted.
By suppertime, that night I had prepared myself and my Skype interview location on my couch for this late night showing. I was tired, as I hadn't slept since 3:30am. I had gotten dressed in the same dark top I had worn for my first in person interview in New York. But I had my pajama bottoms on, because, well, they couldn't see them and I had to get to bed sometime.
At 12:06am, the Skype rang up and I began the strangest interview of my life. This was the most nervous I had ever been for an interview. Usually, I am poised and composed. Not this time. My brain was telling me that everything was too strange and as  result, I became overly self-conscious. Additionally, my eyes started to water. I had put on make up because I don't look that great at midnight after being up since the wee hours of the morning. My allergies had decided they didn't care for the make up I had on and I was watering big time. I had put some kleenex next to the computer, so had to reach for a kleenex. Of course, 2 men are watching me very closely, through the camera. I was pretty sure I had lost that position right then and there.

A month later, when Jake was asking me if this was really the job I wanted, it felt right. I had gone on so many interviews that had seemed perfect in every way, that had fallen through, that this job, which had seemed so tenuous on Skype, which I thought I had bombed but instead had actually passed, this was "MY JOB" and I had better take it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why go?

Here's all the info that I have right now to share with you about where I will be when I go to Abu Dhabi. I began this journey in November 2011 when I was searching for jobs for English teachers on the internet. I found a site called and I filled out the application and sent it off into cyberspace. That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I had an e-mail from Teachaway and they wanted me to complete more paperwork and send that back to them. By Friday morning, I had another e-mail that they wanted to interview me over the phone on Tuesday. I was impressed with how quickly this company responded to their job seekers. I also felt pretty good about the upcoming interview. On Tuesday, I was subbing in the high school in Keene, NH and left at the end of the day to wait in my car for the call. I spoke with a pleasant woman from Teachaway who told me about the job offer in Abu Dhabi. This seemed very exciting. At the end of the phone call, she told me that if I passed through the first interview process, I could expect an e-mail asking me to begin preparing my information.

My mind was whirling with the possibilities. I began reading everything I could find about Abu Dhabi. Shortly thereafter, an e-mail arrived from Teach Away instructing me to begin putting my material together. This was an exciting prospect. I was scheduled to be interviewed in February, in New York City. I also began to devour all the information on the Teach Away Facebook site. This site was populated by others like me who were hoping to get a job and also by those who were already in the United Arab Emirates working in the school system.

I was so excited the day I got my passport in the mail. This was my first passport and it now felt like I had the keys to the kingdom. In a way, I did, because travel outside the US was restricted to those having a passport. No longer could we slip over the border into Canada on our driver's license. I continued to collect my paperwork and finally was done by mid-January. I counted off the days until my February interview. On that weekend, I took the train out of Brattleboro, Vt into Hartford, to stay with my younger sister, and then the next morning, I took the train into New York City.

The interview was quite normal, but when all was said and done, I was not hired by the Abu Dhabi Education Council. My disappointment was tremendous, but I am a firm believer that one only receives blessings that are meant to be. At this time, it wasn't meant to be. As I continued filling out application after application, I truly had to think about whether the Middle East was the right place for me. Was this God's way of telling me that I should stay stateside? There were lots of reasons that could be the right path to take. My daughter was newly pregnant, my leaving would mean I would not be here for the baby's birth.

Now what?