Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eid El Fitr Holiday

Greetings from the Middle East!! I was off work for the past 9 days and it was FABULOUS!!! Ramadan is officially over and was followed by one week holiday to celebrate Eid El Fitr. My school holiday started at the end of the day on Thursday, September 17 and we returned to school on Sunday September 27.

OMG -- OVER 2 WEEKS OF INTERNET PROBLEMS!! Spent an hour the other night updating the blog and my internet just died before I had a chance to save or post my work -- everything was erased -- the entire written masterpiece! I have since tried to start over and my internet has gone down again. I have had the internet provider to my apartment 3 times in the past 2 weeks.

So here I go again .........

Originally I had thought of going to Muskat Oman with a friend, but by the time we got our potential plans lined up it was the day before our tentative departure. We decided it was all too rushed so we decided to travel to Dubai for 3 days instead. It was a good decision because my gastroenteritits was acting up a bit and it would have been most uncomfortable to travel when I needed a day of rest.

My friend, Emma Mercado, has lived in Dubai for the last year and decided to move to Abu Dhabi and work at my school this year. Picture a 5'1" American/Mexican, full-of-hell, fun-loving, fiesty woman with 2 masters degrees. She was my travel companion of choice and you can see why!! She has her international drivers license and would be able to navitage her way. We rented a car and hit the highway.

The barren desert between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is a reminder that the development in this young country is fairly new and continues to flourish. There are pockets of development as we traveled the clear new highway. No speed limit signs naturally encourage speeders -- if only I had been behind the wheel!! There are occasional radar monitors as you get closer to Dubai to clock your speed and issue electronic tickets. The trip took about 1.5 hours and passed quickly.

As you approach, Dubai traffic increases and you come upon the most impressive buildings of shiny steel and sparkling glass that reflect the sun's rays. The architecture is truly impressive and innovative. You know a great city lies ahead!! Intricate highways unfold and constant construction causes roads to change and driving to become confusing and erratic. We made our way to the apartment building that Emma used to live in. One of her friends had vacated her apt for a few days so we had a place to stay. I met some of Emma's friends who were most hospitable and welcoming.

Although I have made my first trip to Dubai, I never lunched at "The Burj" or rubbed shoulders with the residents of "The Palm". I never made it to the grand hotels along the water or the "Mall of the Emirates" to ski on the indoor ski hill. This city needs many trips to take in everything and on this trip we started slow with 3 malls and visiting with Emma's friends. It was a warm-up for future visits.

I must note that all the malls are really beautiful and extremely modern. We first visited a mall in Sharjah which is a neighbouring emirate that is more conservative than Dubai. Naturally I did not wear my halter top and Daisy Duke shorts on this trip! We then went to a fantastic mall in Festival City back in Dubai. This is the mall Emma frequently shopped at when she lived in Dubai. Very large and home to a huge IKEA.

The next day we enjoyed a lovely breakfast hosted by Emma's friend Wanda (Canadian) and also attended by April (American). So we had 2 Canadians and 2 Americans just to even things out. We all then made our way to the "Ibn Bututa" mall. I loved this place!!! Ibn Bututa is a famous arabic explorer who traveled and discovered many lands and the finary they had to offer. The mall is divided into sections based on his travels. For example, the Persian section would be decorated like Persia, the Indian section like Indian the Egyptian section like Egypt and so on. It was so unique and beautiful.

We enjoyed our short visit and returned back to Abu Dhabi after 3 days. I am waiting for the arrival of my brother Scott to partake in the full Dubai experience in December.

Upon arrival back to Abu Dhabi I met with friends for dinners and drinks, slept in every day and went to school on 3 separate occasions to try and get myself more organized.

We organized a "field trip" for a group of 12 of us to the "Grand Mosque". This is the largest or second largest mosque in the world. It was quite impressive. All woman had to wear an "abya" and cover our heads. The workmanship is absolutely magnificant and very intricate. Remember, money is no object here! Marble, granite, crystal, gold -- it has it all. The carpet is the largest hand made carpet in the world. Everything is hand crafted and spotlessly clean. We spent a couple hours here and anyone who visits me will have this stop on their list of "must see places."

I bought a lovely carpet from a market exhibition that was hand made in Afghanistan. It is a Killim rug and contains all my favourite decorating colours. I have also purchased 2 stunning wall hangings that were made in Kashmir. They are a patchwork of beading and handwork. My roommates have moved out to there own apartment so I have been on my own for 1 week now and LOVING IT!! This privacy will be short-lived as I will eventually get a new roommate. I have however, tried to warm up the place a bit with my new purchases and I am having the apartment painted to get rid of the large, stark-white walls. I otherwise feel comfortable in this apartment and have adjusted quite well. It is not 2483 Chilver by any means, but I am very adaptable to living quarters and my decorating and "stuff" are what make it home.

This break was great to recharge, reconnect and rejuvenate myself. That has been about it in the past few weeks. I will try to post pictures and will now begin a new post to fill you in on the past week since I started back to school.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lots of Pictures

Hey everyone -- go back to the very beginning of the blog to see all the pictures I have posted.  Hope you enjoy.

It is Wednesday and I have had some diarrhea for a couple of days and crampy stomach.  I had to leave my classroom this afternoon from noon until 1:30 and lay down in the nurses's office -- I went to the Gulf Diagnostic Centre and waited about 1 hour -- saw a doctor -- got prescriptions for free and my visit cost me AED 50 which is approx. $16.00.  Everything was covered by my school medical insurance (drugs, tests, dr.) -- I only had to pay the $16.00 bucks.  I have gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.  A student in my class was just in hospital for this very same condition -- I believe I caught it from her.  So many germs and viruses floating around in the classroom.  I clean most days with Lysol Bleach, but I must be more diligent.  They clean the desks, but not thoroughly -- I will have to start doing this nightly.  The doctor is requesting a stool sample to check whether or not this is viral or bacterial.   I am laying low tonight and hopeing this passes.  I am still in limbo regarding my Friday departure for Muscat, Oman.  If I don't get a positive response from the travel agent by tomorrow then the trip is off and it will be just a few days in Dubai and going into school to catch up and just rest for the Eid-al-Fitr week holiday.

Enjoy the pictures -- there are more to come soon,

Loretta -- Goddess of the swampy belly!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Pictures 2

Emirates Palace had an amazing display showing a new project they are developing called Sadyaat Island.  This will be a huge development which will include a cultural hub.  As you can see, there will be a branch of the Paris Louvre and the Guggenheim, both world renowned museums. 

More pictures 1

More pictures of Emirates Palace and whatever else was left over from my camera.

The Emirates Palace

  You can see the splendor and opulence, but it is never the same in pictures.  I first visited the palace about 3 weeks ago with a couple of fellow teachers and our trusted tour guide, Doug Bowsher.  This is just a brief commentary to get these pictures posted.   More pictures and posts to follow shortly.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Week in Review

I'm back with news and updates.  The past week has been a whirlwind of activity both in and outside the classroom.  Meetings, planning and trying to establish a daily routine for my students.    My class continues to flourish -- although some students, namely the boys, tried my patience and pushed their boundaries a little more this week.  I have to realize they are still just babies and it will take probably 6 months to see their development from primary to junior.  They are not yet independent and ask me questions constantly!

I have marking most nights -- mainly math sheets.  My schedule will change once Ramadan is officially over and then I can get into a more fluid groove relating to my schedule.   I generally give homework every night -- an extra math worksheet, cursive writing and 20 minutes of self-selected reading which they must log in their homework diary.  I try to give no homework on the weekend.

This coming week is our last week of Ramadan and then we get a whole week off on holiday for "Eid al-Fitr".  This marks the end of Ramadan with lots of people celebrating and traveling.  My friend Emma and myself are still looking into 4-5 days in Muskat, Oman, but will probably not make any final decisions until this week.  I plan to go to school as well for a couple of days to try and get things done that are outstanding.

This weekend I was out all 3 nights -- Thursday night to a Rugby event which I only went to check out all the guys -- unfortunately, it was lots of families and kids running around -- slim pickings.  We followed that by dropping by a pub called "Heroes".  Lots of beer drinking, smoking, swearing guys -- had a couple drinks and then called it a night.  Not really my crowd.

Last night we went to Le Meridien Hotel to dine at "Pappagalloes"  Italian restaurant.  Nice atmosphere -- extremely slow service.  We followed that with another pub called "Captain's Arms".  More beer-swilling, chain-smoking rough and ready men.  We had a couple drinks and again called it a night.  I am not sure if the pub scene is really for me.  Lots of smoke and small talk to no talk.  Just kind of standing around -- kind of boring!!

Tonight a group of us are treating ourselves to an Iftar dinner at the Emirates Palace Hotel.  At approx. $80.00 Canadian it is a beautiful buffet in a gorgeous tent.  Very "she-she" at a stunning hotel.  Should be a great experience.

The weekend is almost over and I still have marking and organization to do for school.  I have many pictures to post, but will have to figure out how to post on my blog.  Once I get the hang of it, I will post pictures regularly.  

Took my sheets and large towels to the Indian laundermat this weekend.  It cost me appox. $6.00 Can. to wash these items.  My washing machine is too small to handle these larger items so I will have them cleaned every couple weeks.  I have 2 sets of sheets and towels to get me by.  The laundermat is across the street from me.

I met a woman and her 15 year old daughter this past week in a ladies store for Muslim women that sells the long black abyias.  I went in to check it out and stayed 1 hour sitting down and chatting with these women.  I was asked by the girl's mother, who is 37 yrs., if I would tutor her to help her improve her English.  I gave them my phone number and got permission from the Director of my school the next day.  He has no problem with it, so I hope they call me after Ramadan and I can meet with her a couple hours per week and make some extra cash.

I met another woman in a store today and she gave me her card.  She wants me to proctor her exams while she completes her MBA.  She is in HR at an oil and gas company.  She had previously had a Canadian woman proctor for her, but she moved.  I told her I was a teacher and she asked me if I could take over as her proctor.  I gave her my phone number and she will call me. 

And so the networking begins and will continue as long as I am here.  You never know where these contacts with lead me!!!!

Not much more this week -- will keep you updated on the Iftar dinner tonight and my plans for Oman.  Be well, until next time......

Loretta -- Queen of the Sand Box!!!!