Monday, September 12, 2011


Since it was been such a long time since my last entry I was unsure how to effectively portray my experiences thus far in Abu Dhabi.  As I was driving home listening to the underappreciated music of Hanson I was overcome by gratitude and decided that focusing on that would be an accurate portrayal of my experiences.
              I was in the Fairmont from the time I arrived until a week ago.  My time there had to unfortunately come to an end.  The hospitality I have received since arriving in the UAE has been remarkable.  My days in the Fairmont usually followed the same luxurious schedule.  I would wake up go to the breakfast buffet, shop a little for my new apartment, come back to a clean room, take an afternoon nap, go to the pool for drinks and lunch and socialize in the evenings.  I did do a few days of training mixed in there. 

I will miss the Fairmont

                The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), a sector of the Abu Dhabi government,  has provided us with exceptional accommodations and respect.  It was made apparent to be how much they treasure education and their teachers.  Since arrive I have felt as though my career as a teacher matters and my role here is extremely important.  It makes me feel great to be appreciated and respected as a teacher in the UAE. 

My New Home!
I had to move out of the Fairmont because my apartment was ready and I had purchased the majority of the furniture I needed to survive.  I moved into my apartment and have been trying to settle in.  Starting from scratch in a brand new home is pretty hard but the place is coming together.  I have been able to purchase nice pieces of furniture, appliances and electronics for my apartment due to the generosity of my employer.   It was enjoyable to be able to purchase a decent couch, TV and mattress and not have to worry about how I am going to pay for them or if I should charge them to my credit card.  I even had enough money left over to buy more things!  I am extremely fortunate to be able to take part in this experience and to be fully aware of the experience.  The apartment I live in is exceptional and something I could NEVER afford on my own back home.  I am very lucky to be able to have an exquisite apartment to make my home here.  My sister, niece, nephew and brother in law came in town for a week to visit and help me get moved in.  It was a much needed visit for both of us and I am so glad I got to see them.  It is reassuring to know that they are a car ride away from me here.

  I started back to work last week but will not have students until this Sunday.  My work week is Sunday thru Thursday here.  I will be teaching KG1 (PreK) which should be interesting.  I am excited for the challenge.  My school is brand new with a smart board, document camera, projector, computer, slate and response clickers in every classroom.  I am lucky to be at a school with all of these resources. All of the schools in Abu Dhabi will eventually become state of the art schools but it is a process.  All of the resources I need will be provided and the school is beautiful.  I have a principal who is from Georgia and is very passionate about her job.  My Arabic co-teacher is exceptional and speaks perfect English.  I am excited to work with her and learning to let go of all the control of a classroom and share my classroom with another teacher.  I am somewhat controlling so this is a much needed experience for me.  It is very beneficial for me to have to rely on someone else to help me communicate with my students.  I am learning how to be less independent here and allowing myself to rely on others for more things in my life.  The school has a nursery for teachers who have children under three years old to stay during the day.  What a concept! Not punishing a teacher for having children! J  My classroom will have no more than 20 students in it.  My day starts at 7:50am and ends at 2:00pm.  I am given an hour and a half to plan.  I will not have to bring the majority of my work home with me because I am provided ample time to get most of it done at work! 

One of the three pod areas

The value that Abu Dhabi has placed on education and their teachers is admirable.  I am part of developing and opening a brand new school which is exciting in its self.  I am able to be a part of developing the procedures, mission statement, the vision, values, school colors, etc.  My opinions are taken into account and are valued.  I admire the determination Abu Dhabi has in inventing in their education system and the understanding they have that education should be the foundation of a country.  During an assembly we had I was listening to the head of the council speak and he discussed a study that looked at teachers feeling appreciated.  The study stated that when teachers feel appreciated they perform at a higher level as opposed to being unappreciated and not performing at their potential.  ADEC has made it a priority to make sure the teachers they hire feel appreciated.  My attitude towards beginning this school year is extremely positive.  I want to go to work and do my best because of the hospitality and gratitude the education council has shown towards me.  I am determined to make a difference here.
  I am looking forward to working in a multilingual school with many different cultures being represented.  I am ecstatic about working in a school where my ideas are important and are encouraged.  Back home I was always trying to do something else and be something else with regards to my career and I never understood why I wasn’t content where I was.  After being here, I have realized that I need to be in a career or a place where my career is respected and treasured.  I need some validation from others; not a lot.  I am an intrinsically motivated person but it is nice to feel appreciated every once and awhile.  Occasionally, you want people to validate your competency and the prestige of your career.  I have told myself that when I move back to the states I will not be able to teach in the public school system.  Teachers work too hard, put too much emotion into their jobs to not be appreciated at a higher level.  Teachers should feel as though their career path is a prestigious career and one that is respected by the rest of a society.  I want to love my job and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will love my job here.  I think I am off to a good start but I haven’t had any children in my room so we will see how I feel in a week.
 Not all my days are amazing there are bad days where I question my decision but there are more days where I am confident in my decision.  I am proud of myself for having enough courage to take on an opportunity like this. I do miss my friends and family a lot! I am building a support system here and am thankful to have met some beautiful people here.  I am excited to discover more about who I am and my potential as an educator.  I have learnt my lesson and will not wait so long to blog next time because this one took way too long! I am growing already! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ramadan Kareem!

I am slowly realizing that Ramadan mixed with jet lag does not make for a pleasant experience.  Warning, this post is not all rainbows and happiness…
  Ramadan is an Islamic holiday in which Muslims fast during daylight hours.  The stores close for the majority of the day but open again in the evening until 2am.  Most business is held in the evening and women should dress more conservative than usual.  As a visitor to the UAE I must respect Ramadan and its traditions.  For me this means I cannot eat, drink or chew gum in public.  I am able to do those things in private but not where practicing Muslims could see me.
 The temperatures hit around 110F for the majority of the day with the heat index making it feel like 123F.  This is beginning to pose a problem with my hydration.  I was fairly naive about Ramadan and figured I would be just fine.  This notion is proving to be false.  I am constantly ducking into bathroom stalls, crouching in corners and hiding behind things to take a sip of the water in my purse.
  I am not able to eat regularly either.  The hotel has a breakfast buffet for those who are not participating in Ramadan.  I eat my breakfast, stuff my purse full of various food items and then do not eat again until 7pm when the restaurants are open again.  Very few things are open during the day to eat at and the hotel food is very expensive.  I usually eat 4 to 5 small meals a day so me only eating two meals a day is making my weight fluctuate but at least during Ramadan I have to dress conservative in my gypsy clothing.
 I am also struggling to get over my jet lag and am constantly sleeping.  The strange hours are not helping with jet lag either.  Last night, we had to go to the police station to get our finger prints done.  They scheduled us for 11pm and we did not arrive back to the hotel until 2:30am.  That was an enjoyable experience.  Happy Ramadan! 

Now for some rainbows and happiness!!!!

     Overall, my time here has been enjoyable.  I can see myself being happy living here.  I am embracing the new experiences.  There is such a diverse mix of people in the city and I am a big fan of diversity.  I also have met some excellent fellow teachers and we are having a good time together.  The hospitality here has been impeccable.  My sister and her family will be visiting me in September.  My niece called to tell me she was coming to see me and that she was going to bring her own bed to Abu Dhabi because she did NOT want to sleep in my bed.  So I think they will have a comfortable drive from Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi with Peyton’s bed in the car.    

Some of my Texas friends!

At Carrefour...the Wal-Mart of Abu Dhabi


RIP my dear friend the cable joint...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I have arrived!

Ashley has arrived!  Me and my four pieces of luggage (all overweight) have made it safely. I left Houston at 8:45pm on Thursday and flew for 14 hours to Qatar.  The flight was not full but unfortunately my row was completely full.  The two men in my row were not the most social of people so I was able to avoid the small talk.  The flight was actually pretty enjoyable.  I slept, watched movies, ate, read and slept some more.  Qatar Airways was impressive.  The food kind of sucked but everything else was pretty swanky.  All the flight attendants were dressed pretty fancy and their outfits coordinated exactly which I was impressed with.  They even had matching scrunchies which was the perfect addition to their outfits.  I also would like to recommend both movies I watched to everyone Diary of a Wimpy Kid was precious and Limitless was a really well done movie that I am surprised didn’t receive more attention.  After, we landed in Qatar we went through a line of about 200 people to go through security again and then we went to our gate and shortly after boarded our flight to Abu Dhabi. 

Ready to go!

This flight was thirty minutes and flew by.  We landed in Abu Dhabi and disembarked from the plane to be greeted by signs and people telling us where to go.  They herded us into a line and handed out our visas and stylish lanyards to let everyone know who we were.  We then moved to customs.  We waited in line to get our eyes scanned (I am not sure why we did this) and visas stamped.  We made our way through customs to search for our bags.  This is where the frustration began because me having four oversized bags and only me to move them I was somewhat in over my head.  Needless to say they did not all fit on one cart and I had a nice airport worker wheel my bags out.  I will use the power of my blonde hair in times of need J  We then walked into the outdoor sauna at around midnight on Saturday and it was much hotter than expected.  We all loaded onto a bus and headed to the Fairmont Hotel.  We were greeted at the hotel by many people and went downstairs to get our room keys and water.  Our bags were delivered to our rooms within thirty minutes.  I ordered room service and watched TV until I fell asleep around 3am on Saturday morning.  Now this hotel is probably the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in.  My bathtub and shower overlooks the ocean.  The bed is more comfortable than my bed at home.  There is a giant breakfast buffet and breakfast buffets are one of my top five favorite things.  The staff here is incredible and helps me with every little thing.  I think this is what my life was meant to be like and I surely could get used to this...
My Temporary Home

Seating Area

Restroom with a view of the water

My Tub/Shower with a Beach View

2am Snack
View from my room!

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Official, Abu Dhabi here I come!

     I have signed and sent away my contract.  I will be moving to Abu Dhabi to teach elementary at the beginning of August.  I will be part of the largest educational reform currently taking place in the world.  The Abu Dhabi government is in charge of the reform and is recruiting English speaking teachers to come and teach in public school .  I will be in charge of teaching Reading, Math and Science to local children in a public school.  I will be teaching in English and very few if any students will speak English fluently.  So that should be interesting.  I am 1 of 1,000 teachers going over there this year and there are already teachers there who have blazed the trail for us.  This whole process literally started about three weeks ago and on a whim I applied.  After applying I received a call within three hours to do a phone interview.  The phone interview was on Wednesday and on Saturday I had an in person interview with a representative from Teach Away (the recruiting company hiring teachers for Abu Dhabi).  I was then told to get the proper documents ready and be ready for an interview in about 10 days.  I went to my interview on a Thursday and interviewed with a government official from the education council.   When the interview was done and I asked my long list of questions I was offered a position.  I walked out of there kind of in a daze because I still had no clue as to what I wanted to do. 
     I decided to talk to those close to me more and wait on the contract to see if it was worth it.  I did a lot of praying, research, talking and contemplating.  I received the contract late last week and after having it for two days I decided to accept the job.  I just couldn't pass up on this opportunity and I knew that this job was given to me for a reason.  I believe that my higher power put this opportunity in my lap for a reason.  I can't tell you the reason right now but I am sure I will figure it out over the next 2 years.  I am scared to leave all my comforts here in Houston.  I am going to be leaving some amazing people. 
     My friends here are what get me through all of my tough times and are there to support me.  I truly hope that those relationships will continue to grow even with the distance between us.  I am also leaving my boyfriend who I love more than I ever thought I could.  He is my best friend and a true blessing in my life.  I am not sure what is going to happen to our relationship but I am confident it will take the coursee it is supposed to.  My mom and dad will still be in Houston but I have my fingers crossed they will be visiting regularly.  I will miss calling them daily and having them calm me down over one of my irrational freak outs.  I guess I will have to learn how to change windshield wipers on my own, how to deal with a stressful situation, decide if I should go to the doctor or not, set up my apartment, buy a car, and so much more that I rely on my parents for.  Ugh that sounds horrible.  My little sister will be in Lubbock and I will miss being able to share her excitement with her through her college years.  She is at Texas Tech so I am confident she will be fine because when you are a Raider nothing but good things can come from that.  Now, if she was at some other schools that are not to be named I might worry. HAHA.  My older sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew are in Saudi Arabia which is about an hour flight from me.  I will be able to see them pretty regularly and look forward to watching their family grow.  I also will be leaving a job that I have become comfortable at and have met so many great people but the things I have learnt and experienced from that job make me better prepared for what is to come.

Now that I have teared up and got all sentimental let me tell you about where I will be moving...

     Abu Dhabi is located in the United Arab Emirates which is the same country where the infamous Dubai is located.  Abu Dhabi is the capital of the country and is known as the worlds richest country by some due to their wealth in oil.  I will be living in an apartment that my employer provides.  The accommodations are very nice from what I have seen.  I will have to get a car once I receive my residency visa.  The official religion of the country is Islam but is very tolerant of other religions.  About 26% of the UAEs population is made up of nationals and the rest is expatriates from other countries.  Abu Dhabi and the UAE are very safe.  As a single, non-muslim women I feel very safe in the UAE having lived there when I was younger and visiting a couple of years ago.  As opposed to other Muslim countries I will be able to drive, I will not have to cover my head unless I choose to and probably will when I am in public so my hair does not attract a lot of attention.  I will have to cover up my arms, shoulders, legs, and collar bone while I am working.  I will probably wear abayas to work (that is where my blog name came from).  While I am in the city I can wear my regular clothes as long as they are not too revealing.  So no daisy dukes and tube tops for me, haha! 

Me in my new work attire

     My dog Max will hopefully come over after I am settled.  I have to find dog friendly housing which will be a challenge because Muslim people are not big fans of dogs.  After I find suitable housing and have thought out if it is suitable for Max to live here, my parents will put him on the plane and send him to his mom. 
    I think I have written enough for today.  My wish is that all of you will keep in contact with me and visit my blog to see what I am up to.  I will be posting regularly with pictures, links, stories, videos and so much more.  I will have skype, facebook and email so I will be able to keep in contact.  If you are reading this please know that I will miss you and at some point in my life you have helped me become strong enough to make this exciting journey possible.

Here are some pictures of Abu Dhabi: