Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Last Few Months!

     Well I haven't been as good at blogging as I would have hoped, but I figure while I'm home for the summer I can at least update everyone about how I spent the last couple months. Over the last three months, I have celebrated my 30th, spent time in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, and moved into a new apartment. It's been a busy time, but I've really enjoyed settling in to my new home and establishing some routines. 
My awesome cake!
With Tasha for my birthday!
   Here are some pictures of my birthday, my trip to Iceland Water Park and my new digs. I am lucky enough to have a great group of friends here in Al Ain and they all came out to celebrate 30 with me. They even got me a cake from the cake lady which was delicious! We also took a weekend trip to RAK to enjoy the water park, which was great in the heat. I have realized that even though age has made me fearless in a lot of ways, amusement park braveness is not one of them. I went on the highest slide, but can't promise that I'll ever do that again!!
At Iceland!
Relaxing after Iceland
Relaxing after Iceland!
Camels roam the streets in RAK!
     Part of why I love the UAE so much is because we do something fun pretty much every weekend, whether it's going out in Dubai, pool partying in Al Ain, or hitting up a concert in Abu Dhabi. There is never a dull moment with my friends!
Out in Dubai
Pool party with Queeda!
Ferry Corsten on Yas Island
New car!!
 As you may or may not know, my old apartment smelled like sewage. That is why I found a new place and moved in June 1st! I love my new digs and am so happy to be able to actually invite people in! After about a month, I finally got a couch and was able to host a housewarming gathering with a bunch of friends. I took advantage of my nice big kitchen and cooked for everyone. It was great having all my friends over. If only I had though to take a picture!!

So that's a brief glimpse of the last few months. While I've really enjoyed being home for almost four weeks now, I am really looking forward to my two week vacation to Paris and Italy. Seeing all of my family and friends has been wonderful and I look forward to the next time I'm home. Until then, I'll continue to keep everyone posted through my blog. I'm not going to make any promises, but I will try to be more frequent than once every three months!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Back To School? But Break Was So Much Fun?

Meg and I

View from the dhow cruise
Well, we're about to start week three post-break and so far the time is flying. I barely remember last week and I can only hope that the rest of the year goes by as fast. I've been very fortunate in regards to work. Being a pull out support teacher definitely has its advantages, the biggest of which being the fact that I get to work with a variety of age groups. For the most part the kids are really sweet, with a few terrors thrown in there to keep me on my toes, but that is the same in the states. There are already a few that I really enjoy and look forward to seeing. (Yes, some of them are the terrors!) Enough about work though, I've done a lot of fun stuff over the last two weekends and that's way more exciting.
Dessert 4 wheeling
Hadi made me hold a bird
     As I imagine you've heard, my boss is from my home town. Her two daughters came to Abu Dhabi for a week over break, so I got to meet and hang out with them, which was a great time. Her youngest was high school buddies with my great friend Sarah, so it was a lot of fun to chat with her. Since Lisa was trying to fit in so much fun stuff for her girls, I was able to tag along and do a lot of this cool stuff as well.  We went on a dhow cruise that left out of Oman just outside Fujairah, went four wheeling in the dessert, and made a visit to an Emirati farm.  
Horses at the farm
     The dhow cruise was really nice and relaxing, but we had a bit of an adventure on the way there. We didn't realize that the boat was leaving out of Oman, which for those of you unfamiliar with the Middle East, is another country! So my friends and I drive 2.5 hours and between the three of us we have a passport, a UAE ID card (sort of acts like a passport/enhanced drivers' lic.) and a UAE driver's license. We didn't even think to bring any ID because we didn't realize we would be going through border control. I always have mine with me as I do not yet have my UAE ID card. Naturally, we assumed we are screwed and will probably be turning around for another 2.5. We decide to give it a whirl and the guy at border control is actually super nice and makes an exception because we had driven so far. I firmly believe if we had only driven the hour from Dubai, we would have been making a U-turn! Crisis was averted though, and we enjoyed a sunny day lounging on a boat, eating and snorkeling. 
Rocking my keffiyeh
My new friend 'Twiggy"
     The next day, Lisa's Emirati friends took us four wheeling in the dessert, followed by a nice visit to an Emirati farm. There we held birds, rode a horse and hung out with a dog I affectionately named twiggy. It was an amusing night to say the least, complete with photos taken while sitting in front of a painting of horses and holding a toy gun and toy violin-type instrument. As I read this back, it doesn't sound that funny, but trust was! We were all crying by the time the photos were done. 

Ready for the Eagles!!
   That was my last hoorah before break was over, but don't worry, I did a lot of fun stuff the next weekend as well! On the 12th (mom's bday) I 
Blurry, but those white blobs are the Eagles!
Fireworks after the concert
went to see the Eagles live in Dubai. To say that this was the best $100 I've spent since I've been here is a gross understatement. This was by far the most amazing concert I've ever been to. Partly because it was the Eagles, and I have grown up listening to and loving them and partly because it was the first time they have ever been to the middle east. There was this amazing energy in the crowd and it was spectacular to be a part of. Despite the fact that all the older people looked at me like "Does this girl even know who the Eagles are?" I enjoyed myself immensely....and sang every word to prove that, "Yes, I do know who they are and probably love them more than you!" They played Hotel California to start off their encore set and it was awesome! If you have never heard of the band, you at least know this song, and when it came on, the crowd energy definitely turned up a notch. Just as I was beginning to worry that they wouldn't play Desperado, they closed with it and I actually teared up listening to it.  Overall, it was the best experience I've had here and I am so glad that my friend Shannon asked me to go with her. They sound as great as they do on record and that is a pretty impressive feat for a group that has been together for so long!
Couldn't stop after brunch!
Mona, Mo and I at brunch
Mo and I at brunch
     The next day I drove into Abu Dhabi for boozy brunch number three and had a wonderful time as always. I got to hang out with the regular brunch crew as well as a few new additions. Mona's cousins were in town and they were a lot of fun to hang out with. We love Mona, so we love all of her relatives as well! This was a really good deal because we were allowed to float between all three restaurants at the Intercontinental hotel. Needless to say, we all left sufficiently stuffed and then spent the rest of the night hanging out and doing a little souk shopping!
     I'll leave the adventures of last week to a new post as I am sleepy and think this one is really quite long already! 'Til next time blog friends!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's April Already??

     I can't believe it has been two weeks since my last post. I guess time flies when you're having fun! Since I last surfaced in blog world, I have gone to Al Maya Island twice, made another visit to Dubai, gotten my apartment as set up as it's going to get, been to an Emirati wedding, seen Hunger Games, used my gym membership for the first time, went to my first rooftop BBQ, and have been generally enjoying life.
     Despite the fact that Mike and Sarah were insistent that I stay away from boats, I have gone twice to Al Maya island. Both times by boat, and can you imagine, I have survived to talk about it! Anyway, this island is great. My friends and I have gone for the last two Fridays, and it is so nice to just relax by the beach and have a Corona! It is free as long as you get over there by 2 and is complete with beach, infinity pool, swim up bar, waiters, and DJ. The place is packed with people and there are always lots of beautiful men walking around, so no complaints from this girl.
Magnolia Bakery!
     I also went to Hunger Games twice. I had told one friend I'd see it with her, but then couldn't wait to see it until I got back to Al Ain, so I went in AD. I loved it! I was sad I couldn't see it with my Daniele sisters, but at least I got to see it! It was as good, if not better than the book, and if you haven't seen it yet, or read the books, you should do both!! The only thing that stinks about seeing movies here is the fact that movie etiquette does not exist. People will answer phone calls and have full conversations in the middle of the movie. It would drive my brother nuts! I've gotten over it though, and my love of going to the movies far outweighs my annoyance with my fellow moviegoers.
Outside for the fountains!
     I made another visit to Dubai as well. This time I went with Mona and Mo, and we spent the entire day at the Dubai Mall. The place just swallows you up, but it is pretty cool. While we were there we visited Magnolia bakery, which is located inside the Bloomingdale's.  It felt just like home! We also sat outside for dinner so we could enjoy the fountain shows. All in all, a very nice day.
     My first Emirati wedding was spectacular, and I imagine that they can get way more elaborate than this. The men and women are separated, so we had to trek around back to the ladies' entrance. It was worth the walk. When you walk in, your eyes are darting everywhere to take it all in. The sparkle, the flowers, the elaborate dresses, big hair, airbrushed makeup, and the runway that cuts through the center of the room make for quite the first impression. We were greeted very warmly, and introduced to all of Mona's sisters. Mona (different from Mona who came to Dubai) is a coworker who invited us to join in the festivities.

     We didn't actually see her until about an hour in, but her sisters took care of us and let us pick a table. There were 60 10-tops to choose from, so we picked one close to the stage. From the moment we sat until the time we left, we were bombarded with drinks, food and desserts. The music started and women and children were up on that stage dancing all night. That is, until the men came in, at which point they covered up again, but it was awesome to see all of the beautiful women without their abayas for a few hours. They were great dancers and seriously the most wonderful hosts ever. They must have checked on us at least ten times. I am excited to go to more weddings in the future, because I imagine every one is a little different and just as beautiful.
Ice cream for Mo's bday!
      Sunday was Mo's birthday, so I took her to the gym! In all fairness, after the gym we spent the day by the pool and swim up bar. I finally put my gym membership to use after purchasing it a week prior and it felt good to finally exercise again. I've been pretty negligent since I've gotten here, but I plan to be more diligent once school starts back up. While at the pool, we met some nice Scottish people and it turns out two of them live here and are golf pros just down the street at the Rugby club. I think I'll check it out later this week. I have yet to see the place and wouldn't mind hitting a bucket at the driving range for some stress relief!
    We ended the night with a rooftop BBQ at Lisa's apartment complex. It was a great time. We met several other teachers and some Lebanese engineers. Lisa's friend who will take us dune bashing on Saturday was also there. The food and company were wonderful and I hope that there are more BBQs to come!
Kitchen sans washer/dryer
    I've been running around getting things for my apartment for the last two weeks. Every time I leave the apartment I buy more stuff and every time I return home, I remember something I forgot! I think I am pretty settled now, and won't need anything else major until I move to a new apartment in a few months. I am the proud owner of a washer/dryer and my last load of laundry is currently in right now! I am glad to be semi-settled and look forward to being in a more permanent home once this lease is up. Aside from that, I've just been spending times with friends and loving life here in Al Ain.

     I will try to be better about posting more, and as I settle into a routine and get out of vacation mode, I think it will be easier to get to. I will also try to start taking more pictures! See you again soon blog world. Inshallah!

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Finally Have an Apartment and a School!!

Family Room
    When I moved to Abu Dhabi, I had envisioned myself waking up to the view of gorgeous beaches with the gulf breeze wafting through my window. Well, Al Ain is land locked, so that isn't exactly what I got, but it could be worse for sure! I have been placed in a complex located a little on the outskirts and on the way to my school. It is only temporary and I will get to pick my own place when the lease is up in June. They pay by the year here, so when teachers go home mid contract, it leaves ADEC with lots of empty apartments to fill. They won't be renewing with this complex next year, which is why I get to move out in a few short months.
Bedroom I won't be using
Bigger room that I will use
        I am happy about this for a few reasons. 1) Normally they make you wait a full year before you get to pick a place and I only have to wait 3 months. 2) The place is furnished, so I don't have to shop now and then find a mover to lug myself to a place of my choosing. 3)I get to hold on to my housing allowance and take time to decide how I want to furnish my apartment, rather than feel pressure to buy everything in a week because we get booted from the hotel after 5 days once we have both our keys and furnish allowance. 4)Mohamed is setting up our electric,water, and gas. Jen and I also set up our internet/phone after a few short hours (insert extreme sarcasm) at Etisalat. All that being said, the place is not that bad. I just prefer somewhere with more light and closer to town. I feel fortunate that for now I can get to know neighborhoods I'd like to live, and I get to take a bus too and from school.
Patio seating at apartment
MUCH better bathroom!
Master Bath
Pool at apartment
     The apartment is 2 bedroom and 2.5 bath with a decent kitchen and family room. I will actually use the hall bath and bigger room, rather than the master bedroom/bath because they both have better light than the master. It also comes with a stove and fridge, which is nice because most places you need to purchase appliances. There is also a pool and a small gym, but I probably won't be using those as I just got a membership to the Rotana. The Rotana is a beautiful hotel/resort and has a great gym and pool. I plan to exercise during the week and relax there on the weekends!
     Now on to my new school. The place is gorgeous and only two years old. It houses both boys and girls, but they have separate halves of the building.  The staff all seem really nice so far, and I'll be working with all of them as I have landed a resource room position. I am thrilled to be able to work across the grade levels and help support the ELLs who really need it. It will be a lot of work for sure, but I think in the long run it will be less stressful than taking over a classroom at this point in the year.
     The craziest thing about my new school is that one of my heads of faculty is from Maine-Endwell. We have both taught at Homer Brink and know many of the same people. I think it's a sure sign that I am in fact meant to work and retire from M-E when I get home from this adventure. It's sounds a bit hokey, but I think it's the universe telling me not to forget about Homer Brink, which has been my dream school since I student taught there in 2004. In the mean time, I love having someone from home around who understands my love of Consol's and knows what a spiedie is!
Big bright hallways!
Main Entrance
     It is because of Lisa that I was able to get such a good deal on my gym membership as well.  A few friends and I went out for drinks on Friday night and ran into Lisa at the Rotana. She introduced us to the gym manager and he agreed to give us 50% off as long as we came in by the 25th. We went in today and are only paying $50 a month to use the awesome facilities. For those of you at home, think Court Jester, but with a beautiful outdoor pool, 6 restaurants, and a swim up bar. It's pretty sweet.
     Overall, I'm really loving life in Al Ain. It is much slower paced than the city and I enjoy the suburban feel, not to mention the fact that you can actually see the views as there are very few tall buildings. Break starts in a few days and I'm sure I'll be up to something fun, so be on the lookout for my spring break blogs!