Thursday, July 30, 2009

PROLOGUE -- Part 2

If I remember correctly, I left off telling about my interviews and getting hired to teach in Abu Dhabi. That was at the beginning of April, 2009. Following that high point, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to stay focused on my current teaching job in Columbia! Nonetheless, I had an amazing group of kids, and they deserved my best efforts for the last two months of school. To keep my excitement for my Abu Dhabi assignment under control, I decided to make learning about my soon-to-be home a collaborative effort. We learned about the cultural differences, the new language (Arabic), the geography of the region, etc. together and it was a lot of fun.

As chaotic and stressful as the end of the school was in terms of preparing to leave for Abu Dhabi, this summer was equally dull. I would go 2 or 3 weeks at a time without hearing any sort of updates on my specific placement, what sort of travel arrangements would be made for my departure, and so on. And the only real job I had to do in regards to preparing for all of this was to get some documents certified and authenticated by the local, state, and national government (a process that is a complete pain in the butt, might I add). At this very moment, I am still waiting to receive my documents from the U.S Department of State--when I should have received them well over a week ago. (I'm sure this situation will add some last-minute nail-biting excitement, which of course I love.)

And that pretty much brings me up to the present. Lately my life has been dedicated to doing 2 things I really don't like to do: (1) Saying goodbyes, and (2) Packing.

I have never been good at saying goodbyes. I get really sentimental about stuff like that under normal circumstances, so having to think, "Man, this will probably be the last time I see this person for at least 2 years" every time I go somewhere has been really hard on me. Always one to see my glass as being half full, however, I've learned that leaving a person for an extended period of time makes you truly appreciate how important they are to you; therefore I've come to realize over the last week or so just how many people there are that I feel blessed to have in my life. (Plus I'm cheating and have snuck in several 2nd "last goodbyes" to make myself feel better.)

As far as packing goes . . . well, don't get me started on packing. I hate having to attach value to everything I own and deciding if it's absolutely necessary for me to bring overseas with me. As far as I'm concerned, everything I have--from clothes to photos to drawings/cards my students/swimmers have given to me over the years to novelty items such as my coconut bra--is meaningful to me in some way. Unfortunately, clothes win, seeing that most people would probably prefer me to wear them in Abu Dhabi and, therefore, a lot of the other things are going to be left behind.

In summary, there is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years of my life. I will make friends and memories that will last me a lifetime, that is to be sure. But in the midst of all the glamor and excitement I have felt recently, I have also been reminded that I have a lot of great things going for me right here at home.

Good night.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I'm sitting here on my living room floor in the 2-bedroom apartment I share with my sister in Kansas City. The humming of the refrigerator and a meek light bending around the corner from my bedroom are all that keep me company. I have a multitude of thoughts swirling through my head right now, the two weighing most heavily on my mind being: (1) It is 2 in the morning . . . why am I still awake? and (2) In 4 days, I will be half way around the world, far away from everything and everybody I've ever known.

I suppose that my keeping this journal (or diary or memoir or whatever you'd like to think of it as) is in direct response to both of these dilemmas. Let me explain . . .

First of all, I've always been somewhat of a sleep-procrastinator. Ever since I can remember I have been. There are some people out there who look forward to going to bed at night. But not me. I dread it. But it's not that I don't enjoy sleeping (there's nothing quite like the feeling of getting a good night's sleep), but rather that I enjoy being awake much, much more. Therefore it's my typical habit to find any number of excuses to stay awake as long as possible until I get too bored to carry on, or, what is often times the case, I simply get too tired to keep my eyes open any longer. Keeping a journal addresses this issue in the sense that I can spend my procrastination time doing something that gives me a sense of productivity, unlike the feeling I get after spending it on Facebook or aimlessly perusing the internet.

Second, I'll be in Abu Dhabi in 4 days, there for 2 years to teach English, math, and science to primary school students. I could be wrong, but I think this is what one might call a "once in a lifetime opportunity." Therefore, keeping a record of all my experiences over the course of this trip is important to me.

Third, and what is probably of greatest interest to most of the people who will be reading this (not that my sleep-procrastination issues aren't interesting, right?), is that keeping this journal will give me the opportunity to communicate my experiences and my day-to-day well-being to people back home.

So . . . now on to the interesting stuff. For those of you who don't know, this process of me going to Abu Dhabi began several months ago in March of 2009. I was two-thirds of the way through my first year as a teacher, teaching 2nd grade at a school in Columbia called Derby Ridge Elementary. I became bored one night after school when I remembered that one of my co-workers had mentioned something about his teaching experiences in Taiwan earlier in the day. Therefore I got on the internet and just started browsing different websites that gave information about teaching overseas, with no real interest in doing anything of the sort at the moment. One thing led to another, however, and before I knew it I was on the website for a company called Teach Away, filling out an application. I had no real expectations of ever hearing back from this company, but, like I said, I was bored so why not?

Well, a few days later, I received a phone call from a representative from Teach Away, who wanted to know if I'd ever considered teaching in the Middle East. Caught of guard by the phone call in general, and even more so by this question, I quickly scrambled for the quickest answer I could think of: "Yes, I'd love to!" Oops. To tell the truth, up to that point I had never spent more than 5 seconds thinking about what the real answer to that question might have been. And maybe things were better that way. Over the next few days, I began to educate myself over this Abu Dhabi place, and found that it was in fact a very fascinating place and that I did indeed want to be considered for a teaching position there.

What happened after that was a whirlwind of events. Within 2 weeks of the initial phone call, I had completed 2 phone interviews, flew to Chicago for a live interview, and had been offered and signed a contract to teach in Abu Dhabi for 2 years. Whew! Talk about stressful!

(At this time, I've reached that point where I simply can't keep my eyes open any longer. So look forward to "PROLOGUE -- Part 2" in the near future. Good night!)