Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Weekend

This was a pretty great weekend. On Thursday night, I went to a going away party for some people who are moving out of our hotel apartments to another building where pets are allowed (they missed their dog too much). It was fun to swap stories about our first few days at school, and now I feel like my first two days were a lot more productive than I thought; most people didn't even get to (or choose to) interact with any students the first few days, so I feel a bit ahead of the game.

On Friday, Hector, Jeff, and I decided to throw a little dinner party. So we went to the store, picked out some food for our Valencian rice, then headed back. I worked out real quick, then headed over to get started with preparing the meal. The preparation/cook time lasted about 3 hours, then our guests started arriving. We sat and enjoyed the good food and company for another 3 hours, then some of us decided to have a movie night. We headed over to Graeme's house, where we learned that he has this really awesome sports package on cable. We ended up watching baseball for about an hour, and even though it was a game I had no interest in, it was nice to enjoy one of the comforts of home that I haven't been able to do since July before I got here. Then we watched Zoolander, which I also haven't seen in a long time, so that was fun. Jeff and I capped off the night by going to his place and eating some cheesecake.

Today, I went to the post office to mail about 25 letters, along with a birthday package to a certain brother of mine. That was kind of a pain, since the lady helping me didn't really know any English. Nonetheless, we were able to communicate out what I needed to be done and my mission was accomplished. Next, I headed to the Marina Mall to pick up my new suit. After I picked it up, I went to the bookstore to look at books. I ended up being in there for well over an hour checking out a bunch of different books, and I eventually bought three of them. After that, I went to Ikea, where I picked up some more things to decorate my apartment with, most notably an indoor plant for my living room. Hopefully I am a better with plants than my sister and it stays alive for more than 2 weeks. I'm pretty sure it will.

Tonight, I went to see Inglourious Basterds, which just came out here a few days ago. I thought it was a great film and it was a good way to wind down my weekend to get ready for a full week at school.

Speaking of which, I need to go to bed so I have a good, productive week!

Goodnight from Abu Dhabi,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Day of School . . . Kind Of

So . . . today was our official first day of school with students attending. I woke up at about 5 this morning, rearin' to get to school and meet some of the students.

By the time we arrived, some students had already arrived and were giving Christopher, Andrew, and me funny looks (which I don't blame them for doing). We walked to our office, set our things down, and then went to search out an administrator to find out what our schedules would look like and which classrooms we would be in. At this, the vice-principal chuckled for a minute, then explained that we should not worry because no actual teaching would be done today or tomorrow; rather, it was supposed to be a time for the kids to get re-aquainted with the school and socialize with friends after not seeing each other for 3 months. Though this made some sense to me, I still feel like this can be accomplished with a bit more (or a lot more) structure in place. However, I realize I can't change certain cultural traditions in a day (or probably ever), so I let this one be. Anyhow, to make the point I was trying to make, because everybody knows that nothing actually happens on the 1st day of school here, only about 1/3 of the students actually showed up.

Since we are supposed to be teaching 1st graders in the morning, and since the 1st graders (new to schooling since they don't do kindergarten here) were all shuffled into the gymnasium to watch movies all day (not a totally bad way of getting them hooked), guess what--I watched movies all morning. The Lion King. In Arabic. Twice.

The afternoon was a little better. While the other two were lounging around in the office (because presumably we weren't supposed to be doing anything according to several of the teachers), I decided I would go walk around the school and create something to do for myself. As I was walking across the courtyard, I noticed some boys from the 2nd grade classroom peeking their heads out and then running back inside. I thought I'd go check to see what they were up to, and to my surprise found that there was no teacher in the classroom! So I quickly ran back to our office (they'd been in there for 10 minutes with no teacher without causing any real trouble, what was another 30 seconds), grabbed some coloring pages and some puzzles, then went back in to supervise the teacher-less 2nd graders. Without my knowing any Arabic to speak of, along with their not knowing any English, we managed to get some coloring done in a very orderly fashion. I even got them to understand that they were to only use 1 crayon at a time, and if they needed to get another one, they had to either trade with a friend or come trade with me. Not a bad start, I thought. Then we got a bit more serious. I got some puzzles out, split them into 2 groups, and had each group work on a puzzle with each other. They were pretty timid to get up and work cooperatively with each other (something they probably don't normally do in school here), and so it took a lot of hand-gesturing and intense guidance to get the activity up and running. However, to their credit, they didn't do half bad working with each other and solving the puzzles once they got going.

At this point, Andrew and Christopher came looking for me and we did the rest of the activities through co-teaching. Since we still had quite a bit of time left, and we didn't really have any other tangible things for us to work with, I decided I would teach them some common classroom phrases in English. We spent a good solid 30 minutes on "sit down," "stand up," and "line up," all successful and all without them understanding a word of what I was saying (initially anyway). Finally, to wrap things up for the day, I wanted to see how well they knew their numbers from 1-10 in English. What I found is that they could recognize the symbols for the numbers ("1" for "one") and that they could recite the numbers in order from memory, but things got a bit screwy when I had them try to recognize the numbers out of order. Though this was a bit frustrating, it gave me some good insight into how they have been taught English before, as well as where they're at with their English-speaking skills.

At the end of the day, the kids all rushed off to the buses, and all of the students and most of the teachers were out of there within 10 minutes of the bell ringing.

All in all, I'd say the day was most interesting and a great first experience with working with students who could not speak any English. We'll see how the rest of the year goes!

Good night from Abu Dhabi,


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eid Mubarak!

At the end of the month of Ramadan (the past few days), there is a 3 day holiday called Eid, at which time everybody basically goes nuts about not having to fast during the day any more, amongst other things. For us non-Muslims, this has basically been a time for us to celebrate not having to conceal the fact that we were eating and drinking during daylight hours any more. What a relief for everybody involved!

To catch everybody up to speed on things, I have kind of been a bum for the past few days that we've had off. On Saturday, I went to the Abu Dhabi public beach with some friends. The place was actually very nice and clean, and there weren't that many people there so we had our own little plot of sand to enjoy. We had heard that there was a little barrier reef not but 20 yards from the beach, so a few of us came prepared with some goggles to go scope it out. Turns out that this little barrier reef happens to be home to lots of tropical fish, and we even some a couple of sea turtles swimming around right beneath us!

On Sunday, I slept in, then headed off to the Marina Mall to scope out all of the Eid sales that were going on. I ended up buying some more professional attire, as well as some odds and ends to spice up my apartment a bit more. Also, I spent about 5 hours pulling some resources together and started creating some activities for my students and I to do during the first 3 or 4 days of school. Not surprisingly, I really enjoyed getting things together for the start of school and got really excited about the upcoming school year, and, in a good sort of way, my job has begun to consume my energy and my thoughts.

Today, I went to the Abu Dhabi Mall to eat lunch with Jeff and do a bit more shopping. I was a bit shopped out by this point so I didn't really buy anything, but it was nice to walk around and see everybody at the mall in such a great mood. (I can't stress enough how much different the atmosphere is around here when people allow themselves to follow "regular" eating schedules again).

Another, less positive (but more realistic) difference I noticed today was on my run along the Corniche this afternoon. Now that people aren't rushing off to eat all evening after fasting all day, the Corniche was really, really crowded with people, to the point where I could hardly get a good run in (it felt more like I was completing an obstacle course than anything). During Ramadan, there would be times when I would run for minutes at a time without passing another person, and I think that kind of spoiled me and gave me false conceptions about how much space I will have to run here. Regardless, the Corniche was still beautiful at dusk, and I don't really blame all the people for wanting to be out there to enjoy it!

Finally, this has been my last night off before school starts. I didn't really do anything too crazy because I'm trying to create a somewhat regular sleep schedule for myself. However, I did find time to go downstairs and relax with some friends and talk about things non-school-related (possibly the last time that happens for a really long time).

Now I'm off to bed, so good night from Abu Dhabi,


Thursday, September 17, 2009

My First Week at School

This was my first week at Al Bahya Elementary School for Boys, and what a week it was!

As I mentioned in my last post, on Sunday we got lost on the way there and it ended up taking us 2 hours to get there. Luckily, we didn't really get lost the rest of the week and so now it only takes about 35 minutes to get there. Unfortunately, with the traffic coming back into Abu Dhabi in the afternoons, it takes a little over an hour on the return trip.

Overall, everybody seems very laid back and friendly, though for the first 2 days nobody really went out of their way to make us feel welcome and accepted into their community. By Tuesday, I realized I needed to take more initiative and make a greater effort to show interest in them versus trying to get them to take an interest in me. Over the past few days (Wednesday and Thursday), many more of them have come up to me and my English-teaching colleagues and we ended up all having some really great conversations.

One of the things I like most about the school is that the teachers all come from such a variety of backgrounds. Since Emiratis (people native to the UAE) don't partake in "lowly jobs" such as teaching (most of them really don't work at all but rather are pretty much given a free ride on life via oil money, but that topic is for another day), all of the teachers are expatriates from neighboring countries in the Middle East. So far, I have enjoyed getting to know teachers from Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, and Lebanon, and I'm sure other nationalities are represented at our school as well.

Another thing I like about our school is the actual layout of the building. Basically, the building is a giant 2-story square: there is a very big courtyard in the middle, with all classrooms facing out to it. There is a soccer field set up in the courtyard, which I think is pretty cool.

One thing I don't like about the school is that none of the teachers were really doing any work all week. With a 3-day holiday coming up next week, our next day at school will be the first day students arrive. And yet, we still have no idea which classrooms we will be in, nor have we seen any sort of concrete schedule or class lists. Everybody here is just used to that and says that the first few weeks are for everybody to figure out what is going on, so I will try my best not to get to stressed out about it.

Since we were required to be at the school every day this week, and since there was no organized work to be done, I spent some time on my own trying to figure out how I can utilize the (very limited) resources available to me to start delivering the curriculum in some capacity. I also spent some time collaborating with my fellow English teachers on how we are going to get through the first few weeks since our kids will probably not know a single word of English.

Upon re-reading what I have written so far, it may sound like I did not enjoy my first week at my school. In all honesty, I though it was a great to get my feet wet with something so different than what I am used to and finally find out where I will be spending a great chunk of my time over the next 2 years.

Since it is the weekend here, I am going to go relax with some of my friends now.

Good night from Abu Dhabi,


Monday, September 14, 2009

My Week in India, Pt. 2

DAY 5, Monday, 7 September 2009

I left off with our relaxing night in Jaipur. The next morning, our driver drove us up another mountain nearby to see the Jaigarh Fort, which due to it's (scenic) mountain location has never been conquered in battle. We walked around the fort for several hours to see the nice architecture, gardens, and the world's largest cannon located there.

Me standing on a bridge at the Jaigarh Fort.

World's largest cannon, complete with a tacky tin-roofed housing.

After we got our fill of the fort, we headed back down the mountain to see the Jal Mahal, literally meaning "water palace" due to the fact that it sits in the middle of a lake. Pretty cool.
Me trying to take a tacky picture. Didn't work. But that's the Jal Mahal.

Next, we went to see a textiles factory where traditional Indian clothing, blankets, scarves, etc. are made. After watching some things being made, I decided I would try on some Indian paijamas (traditional clothes, not sleepwear) and really liked the way they fit. So I had some tailored for me and now I own some. Unfortunately, I did not buy a turban. That night, we went in to get Ayurvedic treatments. This basically consisted of receiving a light massage with oil to help relax me, improve the flow of my circulation, and clear my mind. It was very nice.
After our treatments, we felt very calm and decided it would be best to go to bed early.

DAY 6, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

We slept in a bit and, feeling quite refreshed, headed for the holy city of Pushkar, a much smaller and less congested place than anywhere we had been yet. When we got to our hotel there, we ate a good lunch, changed out of our riding-in-the-car clothes, and went to set up a camel desert safari. We found out that one of the packages included a night's stay out in the desert, and even though nobody else really seemed interested in doing this, I thought it would be a great opportunity and signed right up for it. Then we did a bit of walking around Pushkar to have a look at all the temples there. We also were were pretty excited to see the holy lake there, but were a bit disappointed to find out that the thing had dried up during the dry season. Oh well. We finished our day by trying an Israeli restaurant in town, which served up some great food.

DAY 7, Wednesday, 9 September 2009

This day was by far the most memorable of the days we spent in India. We started it off by waking up at 5:00 am in order to be able to hike up the mountain to see the sun rise over the city from above. We got a bit lost in the city, and since it was 5:00 in the morning, there weren't really any people to ask for help. However, thanks to Andrew and I's superior masculine navigation skills, we found the foot of the path up to the top of the mountain. When still at the bottom, Andrew was foolish enough to challenge me to a race up to the top. Though the guide book said it takes an hour or more to climb to the top, Andrew made it in 25 minutes, and I made it in 20 (funny how pride speeds things up). We got up there just as the sun was rising over the top of the mountains opposite us, and the views from up there were simply breathtaking (or maybe we were just out of breath). We stayed up there for 2 hours, basking in the glory of being on top of a mountain and enjoying the company of some very funny monkeys. We even got a chance to meet some locals and talk to them for a while.
The sun rising over the mountains and Pushkar.

Some monkeys sitting on a tree hanging over the edge of a cliff, overlooking the valley down below.

Making some new friends at the top of the mountain.

After a much more slow-paced walk back down the mountain, we headed back to our hotel to take a much-needed nap. We woke up, ate lunch, walked around and did a bit of shopping (the candy store was the only thing that piqued my interest), then got ready for our camel safari. I was so excited! We walked over to the place, got on our camels, and headed out of town into the desert. Not surprisingly, the desert in India was still pretty dirty and smelly, but it was still fun.
Me on my camel. I'm not mad at all, so I don't know why I look like that.

Sunset in the desert.

After about 2 hours of riding around, we stopped at the dinner/camp-site and chilled for a bit while the guides made a traditional Indian dinner. We ate, then Andrew and the Danielles headed back into town in the dark while I hung out with one of the guides for a while. He was really nice, and asked me all sorts of questions about living in the U.S. and American politics. My favorite one: "How did Bush get re-elected for a 2nd term? Nobody even likes him." Haha.
Finally I got really tired and he handed me a blanket to sleep on. I will never forget looking up at the stars in the Indian night sky right before I fell asleep, thinking about all the different things that had to happen in my life over the past few years to got me to that single moment. Needless to say, I had a huge smile on my face.

DAY 8, Thursday, 10 September 2009

I woke up in the morning with sand in my mouth, wondering how many bugs had crawled on me while I was sleeping. Still, I had a pleasant view of another sunrise to look at and I was happy.
First thing I saw when I woke up.

After breakfast, I got back on my camel and rode back into town. I went back to sleep for a bit longer, then we got ready to take a taxi to nearby Ajmer, where we caught a train back to Delhi. Though the train ride was 6 hours long, nothing really that exciting happened. We all read/took naps pretty much the whole way. When we got back to Delhi, it was nighttime so we found a hostel to stay in for the night. We were pretty much exhausted by this point, so we all went to bed early.

DAY 9, Friday, 11 September 2009

This day pretty much consisted of us going to the airport, flying back to Dubai (thankfully with no emergency landings in Pakistan), catching a bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and telling the same stories over and over to all of our friends.

This concludes my narrative of my trip to India.

In other news, we began "meetings" at our own schools yesterday. We got lost on the way to ours because nobody actually bothered to look at a map before we left, so it took us 2 hours to get there (with a nice trip out into the middle of the desert along the way). Our principal and all the teachers seemed friendly enough, though everything seemed to be pretty disorganized (imagine that). But we kept our chins up and tried to make the most of the situation.

Well, I'm tired, so good night from Abu Dhabi,


Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Week in India, Pt. 1

As many of you know by now, I just got back from spending a week in India. While it would be impossible to fully share with you what I experienced there (especially through a blog), I will try to hit the highlights as well as I can:

DAY 1, Thursday, 3 September 2009

First thing in the morning, Andrew, Danielle, and I caught a taxi to the Abu Dhabi bus terminal, where we then got on a bus headed for Dubai. The bus ride lasted for about 2 hours and I got a good nap on the way there. Once in Dubai, we caught another taxi to the Dubai International Airport. As are most things in Dubai, this was the most grand airport I've ever seen. Our flight left at 3:45, and everything seemed to be going very smoothly. The service on Emirates Airlines was top notch, as our every whim was tended to from the moment we stepped on the plane (mostly in the form of all-you-can-eat food and drink).
Part of Dubai from the air.

Once we began to approach our destination of Delhi, India, we hit some very violent storms and our plane was getting tossed around a lot. After we were kept in a holding pattern around Delhi for nearly an hour, the pilot came on and said we would be unable to land in Delhi at the moment and since we were running short on fuel we needed to make an emergency landing somewhere. All the airports nearby in India were apparently very congested, so we had to make our emergency landing in Pakistan. Everybody on the plane was a bit nervous, as it was very obvious that we were not very welcome at their airport. We refueled as quickly as possible and got back up in the air. Once again, the pilot came on and announced that due to weather conditions in India, we would be heading back to Dubai. So, six hours after we left Dubai, we landed back in Dubai around midnight. The people from customer service announced to us that we would be placed on a flight back to Delhi that left at 4:45 am. We went to our gate and tried to get a bit of sleep on the floor of the airport for a few hours.

DAY 2, Friday, 4 September 2009

Without much sleep, we boarded the plane headed back to Delhi, India at about 4:00 am. I was extremely grumpy due to the fact that I had been traveling for nearly 24 hours and hadn't even made it out of the United Arab Emirates yet. Nonetheless, I tried to think positively as we flew back to Delhi. We landed in India at about 8:30 am (their time). By the time we went through customs and exchanged our currency, it was about 9:30 am. We went out to grab a taxi and headed to our first hostel. Immediately, I realized that traffic in Delhi was a complete nightmare, as there were rickshaws, aut0-rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, bikes, and even some people traveling on horse carts all trying to share to same roads, most of which did not have any lines on them. Also, many of the major intersections did not have traffic lights, so most of the time there was traffic crossing from all directions at the same time. Never have I seen such chaos, yet we didn't see a single accident. Our taxi took us to the end of a very dirty, run-down street and we were left to try to find our hostel on our own. As soon as we stepped out of our taxi, we were instant targets for beggars and people trying to get us to go to their hotels and hostels, as well as shopkeepers and men selling random things from their street carts. The ground was still very muddy from the previous nights storms, and the whole street reeked of human waste. After walking around for about 2 hours and getting pointed in every which direction, we finally found our hostel. We all chilled out for a while, took showers, and then decided to go explore the city of Delhi. First we found a travel agent there, and we set up a loose agenda of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go for the six days we had left in India. Then we got on the subway and headed across town to get away from the run-down part of town we were in. The problem was that no matter where we went in the city, there were tons of homeless beggars, filthy overcrowded streets, and a terrible smell. At one point, we came across a baby (maybe 9 months old) that was tied to a brick on the side of the street, playing in a puddle of urine; the mother must have been out begging nearby while the brick served as baby-sitter. I couldn't help but start crying, and quickly suggested that we leave the area immediately.
One of the least busy streets we saw in Delhi.

After a bit more walking around, we concluded that Delhi was the craziest, most congested, most depressing city we ever hoped to find ourselves in and went back to our hostel. Though we hadn't really eaten a proper meal all day, none of us had any sort of appetite. Since a driver was going to come pick us up and take us to Agra the next day at 7:00 am, we went to bed early.

DAY 3, Saturday, 5 September 2009

Our driver was waiting for us promptly at 7:00 and we headed out of town towards Agra. It took us nearly 2 hours just to get out of Delhi, and even though we were not considered to be in a city for most of the 6-hour drive, there were people with their carts, cows, goats, etc. lining the road all the way there. At that point, India just seemed to be an endless expanse of people in all directions. About half way to Agra, we stopped off at a Hindu temple.
Hindu temple on the way to Agra.

There was a man there who was kind enough to show us around and explain some of the different things we saw. Then we were back on the road. Still behind on our sleep, we all slept most of the way. When we arrived in Agra, we first stopped at a site called Akbar's Tomb, a large monument and temple where an emperor was buried.
Part of Akbar's Tomb.

We then went to our hotel, freshened up a bit, then headed out for some food and to see the Red Fort. The fort was really cool, and it was here that I had my first of many monkey encounters. Also from the fort, we got our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal. After wandering around the city for a while longer, we headed back to our hotel for some sleep.
Me with part of the Red Fort in the background.

View of the Taj Mahal from the Red Fort.

DAY 4, Sunday, 6 September 2009

We woke up at 5:00 am to go to the Taj Mahal early. We heard this was the best time to see it, not only because there would be far fewer tourists then than there would be later in the day, but also because the lighting of the sunrise on the building was supposed to be superb. We got to the site around 6:00 am, then walked around for about 2 1/2 hours. The whole place, especially the mausoleum, was truly amazing.
Me supporting my favorite baseball team in front of the Taj Mahal.

After returning back to our hotel briefly, our driver picked us up and we began heading toward the city of Jaipur. This entailed another 6-hour car drive, which was pleasantly interrupted by our visit to a "ghost town" (basically a city that seemed pretty in tact but was currently unoccupied). It was cool to walk around it and imagine what life there used to be like.
Part of the "ghost town." Where is King Louie?

When we were just outside of Jaipur, our driver took us to this place called nicknamed the Monkey Temple. We immediately saw why, as the place was completely infested with monkeys. We walked up this path leading to the top of the mountain there, and all the monkeys followed us up to the top. (To be honest, the whole thing was a bit creepy, like a scene out of a Stephen King story).
Monkeys following us. Cool, but creepy.

Once we got to the top of the mountain, there was another small temple, from which we could see the whole city of Jaipur. It was pretty cool.
Andrew and I heading back down the mountain.

Finally, we drove into the city of Jaipur, where we decided to take a much-deserved night off. We ate dinner and listened to some local music on our hotel's rooftop restaurant . . .

I will tell more about the 2nd half of our trip tomorrow. Right now, I'm getting ready to go put on my Chiefs jersey and eat dinner with some friends. (By the way, I also just ordered NFL Network Team Pass, so I can watch all the Chiefs games on my computer--only a day after they play for real. Whoo!)

Good afternoon from Abu Dhabi,


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leasing a Car and Getting Ready for Vacation

Today was a fairly busy day for me. First thing this morning, Andrew and I traveled all around the city pricing out car leases. After visiting about 7 different businesses, we decided that Budget had the best deal for our situation. So we went back there, filled out some paper work, and chose the kind of car we wanted. We ultimately decided on a Nissan Tiida, which we though is small enough to maneuver the tight traffic here in the city but spacious enough for our 4-person carpool that we have set up to go to school and back each day this year. To lease such a car will cost us 1900 dhs per month, or approximately $520 per month. Since we will be splitting this cost between the two of us (plus getting some compensation from our fellow car-poolers), this operation will only cost me the equivalent of about $250 per month. Not bad.

On the way back from getting that all done, I received a call from the Indian Empost office with news that my passport was ready to pick up. So this evening, I headed over to the Empost building, picked up my passport which now sports a travel visa to India, then headed for the mall to pick up a few things.

Tonight, Andrew, Danielle, Danielle, and I booked our flights to India. We will be leaving from Dubai early tomorrow afternoon and will be arriving in Delhi in the evening. We will be returning on the 11th of September. We don't really have a set plan as of right now, but tentatively we have agreed that we would like to hit up Agra (home of the Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Pushkar, and Varanasi. We will hopefully be doing a lot of overnight traveling on trains so that we can maximize the amount of things we can do during the day.

For obvious reasons, this will be my last post until I return to Abu Dhabi. Expect a nice long post with lots of pictures then!

Good night from Abu Dhabi,


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Last Day of ADEC Meetings!

Today was the last day that I had to go to a meeting hosted by the Abu Dhabi Education Council. I now have nearly 2 weeks off, of course during which time I am going to be traveling to Dubai and then on to India. Woo! After that point, all teachers must report directly to their principals at their own schools in order to prep for the upcoming school year.

Following my meeting today, I was feeling pretty tired so I laid down for a nice little nap and ended up sleeping for 3 1/2 hours. I felt pretty bad that I wasted such a big portion of my day so I decided to make up for it by being super productive: First, I started a new load of laundry, as well as folded my freshly dry laundry. Second, I washed some dishes that had been building up in my sink. Third, I ran over to the dry cleaners to pick up my clothes there. Next, I tidied up my living room a bit. Finally, I went to the gym to get a workout in before dinner.

For dinner, we went to Ponderosa Steakhouse (haha) for a "family dinner." Our family consists of Jeff, Kate, Erin, and I, and we have such a family dinner about once or twice a week. Now you're probably wondering why we call ourselves a family. First of all, we are all pretty close and tend to keep an eye on each other the way a family member would. But mostly, it's because we were out to eat at Darbar (an Indian restaurant nearby) a few weeks ago, and only men can sit in the front of the restaurant while women and families must sit in the back. So, Jeff and I (being gentlemen) decided that we wouldn't make the girls eat in the back by themselves and therefore dubbed ourselves a family.

Well, I am off to a movie night!

Good night from Abu Dhabi,


Getting My Indian Tourist Visa

In order to travel to India, one must obtain a tourist visa. So first thing this morning, I caught a taxi to the Indian Empost building here in Abu Dhabi to get that taken care of. First off, I've got to say that everybody there was EXTEMELY nice. They were so excited (almost a bit giddy) that I was going to India. Second, this was probably the least difficulty I have had with getting paperwork processed . . . ever. I just filled out a form in about 2 minutes, gave it to them along with my passport (of which they made a copy) and some passport-sized photos of myself, and then they told me I could have a tourist visa! The only downside to getting a tourist visa for India is that it cost me 315 dhs ($100), but oh well. Now I'm going to India.

Then I went to a meeting about the importance of using hands-on activities to engage learners in the classroom . . . during which there were NO hands-on activities. Once again, the so-called experts here failed to use the best practice that they so strongly and persistently preach to us. To make matters worse, one of the people in charge was eating in the back of the room while waiting their turn to present, which was extremely insensitive to the Muslims in the room (recall: eating in public during Ramadan can be punishable by imprisonment). People never cease to amaze me.

When I got home from my meeting, I was feeling like eating breakfast even though it was really lunchtime. So I got out my steak and made a steak, egg, and cheese (with a few mushrooms for good measure) breakfast burrito using some Arabic flatbread as my tortilla. It was pretty awesome.

Then I played Audrey's violin for about 3 hours again. Haha. I am such a nerd.

This afternoon, I did some running inside since it was about 110 degrees outside. I went down to the bottom of my stairwell and ran back up to the top. It was exactly 20 flights of stairs. I was amazed by how I could feel the increase in heat/humidity as I ran up--by the time I got to the top, I might as well have been outside! Anyhow, I did this 4 times and my legs were burning so bad by the end (on my last time up, my legs gave out involuntarily and I had to crawl up the last to flights of stairs)! Good workout for sure.

To celebrate getting our first paychecks today (even though they shorted us but don't get me started on that), some of us went to a place called the Lebonese Flower which is supposedly the most popular Lebonese restaurant in town. We ordered some hummus, baba ganoush, felafels, and salads for appetizers, and we got the big assorted meat platter to share for our meal. The tray of meat they brought us was epic in size, and all 8 of us stuffing ourselves could not finish it. All the food was VERY tasty, and I'm pretty sure Lebanese food is my new favorite kind of food.

Tonight, I hung out with Audrey for awhile. She let me try on the new rollerblades she bought, and I skated around the hotel for awhile. Then I gave her violin back to her so that I will do something social tomorrow afternoon. :)

Goodnight from Abu Dhabi,