Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friday Brunch...An Expat Tradition!

     What else is there to do on a holy day, but go to an all you can eat/drink Japanese brunch? Nothing, I tell you! Which is why a few of us decided to take part in this expat tradition. Am I ever glad we did. I had a great time and made some new friends. Not to mention the food was spectacular. You may be wondering what exactly this tradition entails, so I shall tell you.
Ramona and Leah
Leah and Me
Yum, yum and yum!
     Apparently most of the big hotels host these expat brunches. According to Ramona, Ben's friend who is in her second year here, they are very popular, and a lot of them have groupon deals if you look for them. The restaurants are usually on the water with amazing views. We chose Sho Cho, located in the Souk Qaryat Al Beri, situated directly across the water from the Grand Mosque. WOW! It was a gorgeous day and they started bringing us specialty drinks as soon as we sat down. We had everything from pineapple mojitos to jager bombs. If the drinks weren't enough there was the food...the food!! They brought out edamame, chicken teriyaki, sushi, salmon, hamour and tuna sashimi, steak tar tar, prawn egg rolls and those were just the appetizers! We each selected a main dish and I chose the rock shrimp in a creamy chili sauce. Oh my goodness, this may be the best thing I have ever tasted in my whole life. Bottom line, I'm hooked on these brunches and want to try one at least once a month!
     Despite the fact that we drank from noon to 4:30, that did not stop us from returning to the souk later that night to try out the club 8. We did have a break back at the hotel where we relaxed (I may have dozed a little on the couch) and changed to go to a bar. I was super tired while we were there, but had fun nonetheless. We wound up chatting with a bunch of guys from the French Legion all night and it was a lot of fun trying to tell stories and interpret stories through the major language barriers. The guys we were talking to most, were Romanian and French. They were pretty hysterical and Ramona got our favorite Romanian's number so we can meet up again when they come back to town.

Best shrimp in the world!

Maureen, Me, Ben
     If anyone from home decides to come visit me, you have one of these brunches to look forward to. I hope these picture entice some of you to start saving for your plane tickets now!

It's Only Been 24 Hours??

     On Thursday morning, we had our first meeting with ADEC. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's the Abu Dhabi Education Council, aka, my employer for the next two years. It was funny, because it felt like I had been here for ages since I had already spent so much time with people, but we had only been here a day. I can't speak for everyone, but a few of us were quite nervous for this meeting. As it turns out, there was no need for nerves. All they did was give us some books and have us sign up for bank accounts.  Nothing scary there!
This one has the inside belt, and little balls
line the neckline and wrists.
     Since the meeting was so short, it seemed like the best thing to do for the rest of the day was to shop. So, that is what Maureen, Irma and I did. We trekked back to the Madinat Zayed souk in search of abayas. We were originally going to head to the shops across from the Ponderosa (yes, the steakhouse), because they supposedly have great deals, but we had walked and decided that the souk was far enough in the heat.
No belt, but couldn't resist the colors!
       Now, in case you're wondering, abayas are not flattering. At all, especially on me. So, to that end, I tried on about thirty before I found a couple that I was willing to be seen in out in public. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I ever had imagined a black sheath in so many styles. It is mind boggling and seriously, one was worse than the next. That is until I found the perfect style! They have ones with an inside belt that creates a sort of empire waste look. This is what I will look for from now on. I wound up buying two. One with a belt and one without. I had sworn off ones without, but it's just so pretty, and I have a real hard time passing up anything with the teal/lime green color combo, so I bought it. I was glad to find some, because my friends were real troopers about helping me find nice ones, and it would have stunk to come home empty handed.

     By the time we got home, we were exhausted, so we just enjoyed a nice chit chat and some room service. Who knew shopping could be so tiring?


Monday, February 27, 2012

My Temporary Home

     Since arriving on Wednesday, I have been staying in a hotel. Being single, I've been placed in a plain old hotel room with a small kitchen. I don't mind at all, because what am I going to do with a living room at the moment? I am barely ever in my room as I've been out shopping and seeing sights. So here it is, in all its glory, complete with the view from my window. The view isn't that exciting, but does include a huge prayer space that is used for holidays. You may notice the tire marks all over it. Anyone else think it's strange that they allow people to drive on a space they use to pray? I thought it was a little odd at first, but I guess they can't let all that area go to waste!

Next up, a few posts about some of the things I've been up to since my arrival! Stay tuned! =)

Hellooooo Abu Dhabi!

    I waited for two months to receive my ticket, but landing in Abu Dhabi, it felt like I had waited a day! It suddenly all felt so fast and surreal. Could this seriously be my life? I had to keep reminding myself that I was across the world and not just in Florida.
     Once off the plane, we immediately found someone waiting for us. This was a huge relief, at least for me, as I was way too exhausted to have navigated the airport by myself.  We were whisked off to get our eye scans and then shuffled through passport control.  Then, we collected our luggage and were put onto a bus. Despite the quick pace, Maureen and I, of course, took time to take some pictures at the airport. I mean really, what is an adventure without pictures?

     Stepping out of the airport was the oddest sensation I have had in a while. It felt like vacation, but it wasn't. Like I was dreaming, but I was awake. The air was a little brisk, but muggy. I was exhausted, but excited. I missed my old home but was looking forward to my new one. I missed my family, but already liked my new friends. A complete and total mishmash of emotions. It was an odd sensation, but an invigorating one as well!
     Now that I was finally in Abu Dhabi, I really just wanted to sleep, having had only about 3-4 hrs rest in the last 36 hours. We checked into the hotel around 4 am or so, I did a quick Face Time with my mom and my sister, and then I slept.....for about 4 hours. I'm in Abu Dhabi people!! I needed to get up and explore even if I was dead tired! I got up, met a bunch of people from the group that had arrived a week prior to us, and enjoyed the free breakfast.
     Maureen, Irma, and I joined up with some wonderful ladies from group A and they were kind enough to lead the way to the Madinat Zayed Souk. We took our first bus ride to get there and city friends, you'll get a kick out of cost 1Dhs, which is equivalent to $.27!! Women ride in front. The men have to drop their coins in the front, then dash to one of the back doors to get into the back of the bus. If the women are smushed, the men are sardines! It seems comical at first, but then you just feel sorry for them. 
     Anyway, once at the souk, we hit the ATM, shopped for abayas (I wound up empty handed), and grabbed lunch. The lunch was delish, cost $8.44 (31Dhs), and was enough to bring home for dinner! I was also thrilled to get a sim card for my phone. There is something awful about not having a phone number! Even though my service didn't kick in until 24 hrs later, it works now, and I am so happy to have a phone. It has helped me find stores, make plans, and stay in touch with the other teachers here. I love my 4s! (Ok, ok, I'm done with my shameless Apple plug.) 
     We also took our first trip to Lulu, which is a chain that can be likened to Target or Walmart. They have everything you could possibly want and are pretty reasonably priced. Nina, one of the ladies from group A, introduced us to Shareeah, who has been here for several months now. She has been very helpful as far as providing information on what to get done before leaving, and what to expect once here. She is also the one who told us how to navigate Istanbul! She was so sweet and I hope to run into here again soon.
     That was pretty much it for day 1. I can't believe that I ventured out as much as I did. I was really happy to get my feet wet and spend the day with such sweet people. I only hope that I can be as helpful to group C as group A has been to me! Inshallah!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Come To My Family Shop...We Do Small Business!

     My travel buddies and I arrived safely in Istanbul at about 9 am on Tuesday morning. Sure, I had only slept a measly 45 minutes on the plane, but that wasn't going to stop me from exploring this city during our 11 hour layover. We paid $20 for our Turkish visa, got caffeinated at Starbucks, threw our luggage in lockers and hit the metro. With directions to the Hagia Sophia in hand, we were off!
     At least we thought we were. We had to watch a few people use the metro coin machines before we figured it out...then we were off! It was a relatively easy trip into town. We went about fifteen minutes by train and another fifteen or so by tram, and found ourselves right in the center of the city. It was truly beautiful. We got quite lucky with a bright and sunny, albeit a bit chilly, day. There were gorgeous lanterns hanging from the store fronts and delicious looking pastries in ever other window. Istanbul is a seriously cute, quaint little city!

Hagia Sopia
     As we were marveling at the day and the fact that we had just been at JFK a mere 10 hours ago, we happened upon a friendly local businessman that was willing to point us in the right direction. Well I guess we must look like new homeowners or something, (or maybe just dumb Americans), because we found ourselves in a carpet store. Now, let me be clear, we knew this is where we were headed. It just felt impolite to say no, even knowing full well we had no intention of purchasing any carpets. So, we wound up in a shop full of beautiful hand crafted rugs with a man telling us he'd like to do 'small business.' This was apparently the least we could do as he had, after all, walked us toward the hugely obvious Hagia Sophia. (i.e. We did not need to be shown where it was.) There we awkwardly stood, surrounded by carpets until we could convince him that we would definitely not be making a purchase.
Ceiling of Hagia Sophia
Maureen, Ben and I
      Finally, we made it out of the shop and headed down the block to the amazing Hagia Sophia. This breathtaking piece of architecture was originally a Greek Orthodox basilica, which was turned into a mosque and then finally turned into a museum. I can't really express how gorgeous it is. All of the art and designs meld together and it is sometimes difficult to discern the Greek influence from that of the Muslims. There were some portions I was certain must be original to the structure, but then later realized upon visiting the Blue Mosque, were in fact Muslim. It was really interesting and every nook and cranny had some intricate art work on it. I think the mosaics were my favorite portion. It was particularly interesting to see photos next to half covered works, showing what it should look like if had never been covered up when the building was converted into a mosque. I also quite enjoyed how some pieces of the ceiling were ripped away to reveal the original Greek artwork underneath the layers of (I presume) plaster that the Muslims had covered it with. I found it really interesting how close the artwork was, especially in the archways. I'm no art history buff, so I could only tell which was which by seeing the layer on which it was painted.
Cat 'sunning' himself in front of the steps that
are in fact a Muslim influence...who knew?!

Half covered mosaics

On the balcony

Chunks of ceiling. This is part Greek, part Muslim.
Outside Hagia Sophia
Blue Mosque
     After we had our fill of the old basilica, we ventured off for a quick walk through the Blue Mosque. It was almost prayer time, so we had to scoot through pretty quick. When we got in the courtyard, we once again must have looked like dopey Americans.  A kind young man informed us that the non-Muslim entrance was around the back. He was friendly enough to walk us toward the correct door and told us that once we were done we could come around back to his family store to look at, you guessed it.....CARPETS!!! Well after that we officially learned our lesson and stopped talking to locals altogether.  The Blue Mosque was quite beautiful and although most people did take pictures, there were signs everywhere saying not too, so I chose to respect that, perhaps stupidly, and only took pictures outside.
     Upon finishing our quick romp through the mosque, we realized we were pretty famished. We wandered back up the street and found a cute little shop that had lots of tasty stuff. They had baclava, so Ben was happy! The men working there were quite funny and flirty. The chef wouldn't let go of my hand and referred to Maureen as his "Turkish beauty", so it was amusing and tasty all for the price of one! After food we realized that we were actually pretty tired as well. We headed back to the airport and along the way saw some beautiful lanterns. I think I will go back for one eventually. We didn't head back a minute too soon, because once we found a place to sit near our gate, it was all I could do not to fall asleep. We managed to get wifi and then I was able to doze off for about and hour and a half.

Flirty chef
     Once we woke up, we met up with some more travel buddies. Irma, Sherry, Safiah and her husband joined us on our flight to Abu Dhabi. It was nice to have a larger group together so we could start putting more faces to names. So far, everyone was very friendly! Soon it was time to board, and then we were really about to start the adventure....Abu Dhabi, here we come!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leaving On A Jet Plane!

     After all the waiting, I finally flew out of JFK on Monday the 20th at 4:45 pm. It was very surreal to know that I was actually about to leave the country and fly half way around the world. As nervous as I was after getting my ticket, my last couple of days were surprisingly laid back and relaxing.  If not relaxing, because if you know me, you know that I never fully relax, then at least they took my mind off the fact that I was leaving.
     My sister drove me up to NY from MD, so I got to spend my last night in my favorite state...NY! (Only narrowly beating out Wyoming, which is an insanely close second.) We spent the night with my sister's friends and it was really great to just relax, eat, drink and laugh before I had to go to the airport. As fun as hanging out was, it hadn't relaxed me enough to sleep on Sunday night! I was up stressing about baggage fees and if I had packed all of the right things. I managed to squeeze in a few hours and then I was up and at 'em!
     We spent the morning at a bounce house place watching the girls tumble around on a bunch of inflatables, and then it was time to head towards the airport. Our last stop was Olive Garden, to grab lunch with Cathy and Annie before I flew out. I am so happy they were able to come see me off!
     Now for the hard part...facing the inevitable goodbyes at the airport. It was great to have so many lovely ladies see me off, but really sad to say goodbye to them. I know I will see them again soon, but in the moment, I felt so uncertain about what I was doing, I didn't really want to let any one of them go. But, I had to, so we took lots of pictures and I went through security, only to keep turning back until everyone was completely out of sight.


       Very luckily, I found my two travel buddies, Maureen and Ben, within about five minutes. If not for them, I probably would have sat blubbering at the gate, wallowing in loneliness! Yet, there they were, fortunately looking exactly like their Facebook picture told me they would. Both of them are awesome and we all sat close enough to each other to keep track of for when we disembarked in Istanbul.
      Once on board, I settled back and prepared for my last views of New York for five months, and prayed that no one would take the seat next to me so I could spread out. Prayers answered! The middle seat remained empty...and, oh yeah, we had a safe flight too. Not only safe, actually pretty comfortable as well. I was pleasantly surprised by the food too. I was brave and, when given the option of pasta or fish for the main course, chose fish. I know, right? Salmon, on a plane, what could I possibly have been thinking? I'll tell you, it was delish! Not fishy at all, and served with a bunch of tasty stuff. I even ate all of my vegetables. (Insert pat on the back here.) We also had a good breakfast, so no complaints here.



     As for entertainment, I watched the movie Flipped. Based on a really cute, late elementary level chapter book, I probably never would have seen it otherwise. It wasn't half bad, really. I also watched Unknown, with Liam Neeson, but unfortunately missed the last twenty minutes, due to to landing earlier than anticipated. Oh well, I'll see it eventually and figure out how it ended.
     Overall, a pretty good flight with tasty food and decent entertainment. I would have preferred a little more sleep and a few less air pockets, (i.e. none), but still good. We touched down in Istanbul and I was ready for my first big adventure! Stay tuned!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Will Miss You!!

     By 'you', I of course mean my incredible friends and family, but also places, and things. I've said a lot of goodbyes in the last two months. Many people have gotten repeat goodbyes, since I was lucky enough to squeeze in lots of visits before I left for good. It didn't quite hit me just how much I will miss everyone, until I got my actual ticket. I couldn't really wrap my head around the fact that I was leaving, since, well, I wasn't really leaving.
     This resulted in me seeming cold and heartless, as some of my friends and family cried when seeing me for last time before I was shipped down to Lisa and Brett's in Maryland. It just didn't feel like goodbye when there was no plane, let alone ticket, in sight. Now it's in sight, and I will probably sob like a baby when I have to say goodbye for real to my best friend, sister, and nieces. We'll see if I can hold it together. Until then, here are some of the other things I will miss. 
     I will miss my house. I can't wait to step back into it and get that first whiff of home when I walk through the door in July. It was hard leaving my little mini apartment, but I am trading it in for an actual apartment plus furnish allowance, so I think I'll be okay for five months. Here it is in all its glory. Hope it is this neat when I get back!

     I will also miss Brooklyn! I know, I know, I live upstate, but I lived in Brooklyn for two glorious years, and I love it. We drove through today on our way to Long Island and took pictures of two of my favorite things about Brooklyn: the Verrazano Bridge, and the Belt Parkway Promenade. I loved going to work each morning on 92nd and 5th and seeing the Bridge in the near distance. I especially loved when it was engulfed in fog on those muggy spring mornings. Cathy and I walked that promenade pretty much every day in the '07/'08 school year from Owl's Head down to the bridge and back. I don't know what was better -walking toward the view of the bridge or walking back toward the Manhattan skyline. Both were great, and something I love, love, love.

On the Verrazano

View from promenade
     Like I said, I will miss all my family and friends, but I will especially miss these three little monkeys. I have had the pleasure of spending the last three weeks with two of my adorable nieces, and had a nice long Face Time with my youngest niece today. Friendly reminder to my brother and sister-in-law, all I want for my birthday is for Cora to say, "Happy birthday Aunt Bethie." I think it can be done in the three months and one week until my big 3-0!
Ella enjoying a walk!

Ava focusing on the DVD player!

Cora enjoying bath time!
     I know that I will meet a lot of great new people and see lots of spectacular new things, but I will miss home and everyone here. It will be great to see everyone in July! Until then, keep following my journey here on AbuDummy!

Beth's Last Night In Town

     If you like Ben Folds, then perhaps you know the song 'Steven's Last Night in Town.' My life was starting to seem an awful lot like that song. YouTube it! I kept telling friends and family that this was for sure, the last time I would be seeing them, only to see them again days later. Was I ever going to leave the country? Or had I lied about moving across the world in an effort to trick people into buying me a free drink or two?? I was beginning to wonder myself.   
     Until.....I GOT MY TICKET!!!! Holy amazeballs, I am actually doing this. I am uprooting and moving to the opposite side of the world. What was I thinking? This is crazy, nuts, certifiable, who does this?? (Insert panic attack, complete with call to Gill to talk me down from my ledge.)....and, "Oh yeah, I do this, and I feel pretty awesome about it." Sure, it will be a little scary at first, but mostly it's just a completely amazing, exciting adventure that I am finally about to start.
     Really, the panic came because I had gotten so comfortable and laid back about waiting. After all, I was exercising all that patience and flexibility I would be needing upon my arrival and will continue to maintain throughout my stay in the UAE. (No promises about how it will hold up upon my return to the states.)  I had totally and utterly resigned myself to the fact that I would fly out while my sister was in Florida. I just knew that I would definitely have to drive myself to the airport and would have no family to see me off as they had all ruthlessly left me for the sunshine state. Just  as I was about to plummet into a state of full-on wallow and self-pity, I woke up around 8:30 on Saturday and checked my email. I was fully expecting to find nothing. After all, I was leaving in two weeks, right? I would look at it and roll right back into dreamland. NOPE! There it was, an e-ticket with my name on it, delivered at 2:07 am. I had gone to bed at about 1:58. Thank goodness I missed it, or I would not have slept a wink that night.
     So I went upstairs and told my sister that we would not be enjoying free admission at Mount Vernon in honor of Presidents' Day on Monday, because she was driving my toosh to JFK!!! We were all very excited, and I of course, told everyone I know and posted it on FB for the whole world to see...I got the golden ticket!!! And now my adventures can really begin. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Once You Go Mac You Never Go Back

If you know me at all you know that it is physically impossible for me to do one thing at a time.  This problem has only been compounded by the fact that I received an iPad for Christmas. I've  had the thing for two months and I can't get my nose out of it. Of course it doesn't help that I need it to obsessively check my email while waiting for that ever elusive plane ticket to Abu Dhabi. My brother in law is certain that I have an addiction, but I am confident that once I actually get that ticket I'll be too busy with work and exploring my new home to be attached at the hip to  my technology. We shall see....

Although I've had an iPod for about eight years, my Mac addiction truly began with the purchase of my MacBook in 2008. I was a hard sell. With  my brother harassing me for years that apple products were in fact better, I finally took the plunge when my Dell was on its last legs and it was time to get a laptop. That was it, I was done, I was on the Apple train and I wasn't getting off.  Flash forward and now that I have the iPad, I want a new laptop. That of course will have to wait until I actually have money again. (i.e. my job starts and I get to collect a paycheck again.)
I know I must wait for the new laptop, but I was dying to get an iPhone and when I heard that Verizon would unlock a 4s for people living overseas, without incurring the apple store price tag, it was all I could do to keep from tripping over the suitcases strewn about my room to get to the phone and order it. Buying it in the UAE would mean that things like FaceTime would be disabled, so I was quite happy to get it here instead. I have to pay $5 a month to maintain my number at home, but can get a new sim card/ local number once over on the opposite side of the world. This makes it easier to communicate with everyone over there and still be able to communicate with everyone at home when I come back for summers and whatnot. Okay, that was my little plug for Apple. Now, go buy one!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Authentication process

     As I said in my intro, I hope that this blog can serve as a useful tool for people considering the move abroad. To that end, my first post is dedicated to the paperwork process I had to go through in order to work in the UAE. This is my process, as a single, upstate New Yorker. It varies state to state, and involves a lot more if you are married, have children, or are divorced with children. I know that I found it very helpful to read everyone else's experiences as I was going through the process, so I guess I am trying to add to the wealth of knowledge that is the internet. 
     First things first, make color photocopies of everything you want authenticated. (I actually scanned them in to my computer after each step.) You don't want to mess up your originals, or God forbid, have them get lost in the mail at some point in this process. In my case, I only needed my highest degree and teaching license. If you are married or have children, you will need marriage licenses, birth certificates, or letters from the  other parent stating it's okay for you to take your child out of the country (if you aren't still with them). You may need some other things too, but your recruiter should be able to fill you in based on your specific situation. I was recruited through Teach Away and found them very helpful in answering questions relating to authentication of documents.
     Once you have your photocopies, you need to get them notarized. I had to get my degree notarized at my university.(Free, but I can't promise that yours will be.) Luckily, I live a mere twenty minutes away, so it was no big deal. The signature being notarized is the person who signed your diploma. I was very confused about this and thought I was signing it in front of a notary to verify its authenticity. Well, I tried it at my bank and they flat out refused to sign off on that idea. So off to Binghamton University I trekked! That being said, some people were able to go to any notary and get them to sign off on their degree, so you may or may not need done by your university. As far as my teaching license goes, I didn't need that notarized. This is because my "foreign use stamp" was being issued from the same state office that my license was issued. They were able to verify that the signature on my license was in fact that of the Commissioner of the Education Department. So the Secretary of State essentially served as notary and SOS for that document. This is the part where I'm going to make a plug for contacting each department you are dealing with. I spoke to the NY SOS, the NY Department of State in D.C., and the UAE embassy in D.C., just to make sure I was doing everything right and wouldn't wind up having to repeat any steps, or spend more money. They were all EXTREMELY helpful. Call them. You'll be happy you did.
     Moving on, with my notary stamp in hand, I then had to hike over to the County Clerk's office. This is where they attach their signature of approval and state that the notary is in good standing and has the authority to be handing out said stamp. ($3, but prices vary here too.)
     Now my documents are ready to go to the Secretary of State in Albany. So I went to this website,, printed out my form, sent my documents and return envelope, and waited about a week to get it back in the mail. ($10 per document, at least in NY.) UAE does not accept an Apostille, and they know that. They should issue the Certificate of Authentication based solely on what county you say you are using it for, but to be on the safe side I did make a note stating I needed that versus the Apostille. 
    I received my things back in exactly a week. This is the part where I held on to them until I also received a job offer. The next steps are quite costly, even more so if you have more than the two documents I had. Some people opt to keep going with the process because it can be lengthy, but I figured the the extra week wouldn't make that huge a difference. I know that people living in Canada seem to have a longer process, as they do not have the ProEx courier service. So, if you live in Canada, you may want to get a move on right away. 
    Finally, the last step!!! I contacted ProEx, again very helpful, and they told me everything I needed. Here's what I enclosed: 

-Money order for $240. ($125 for ProEx, $39 to use their FedEx account, $8 per doc. for the  
 Dept. of State, and $30 per doc for the UAE Embasy.) They email you the label if you ask to  
 use their FedEx.
-Letter to ProEx explaining the intended use of my documents. (Working for ADEC)
-I also went online and found out what the Dept. of State and Embassy required and sent    
 that along too, although ProEx said the letter to them would suffice. I say better safe than 
-Self- addressed return envelope. (Your address should be both sender and recipient.)
-And of course, my documents!

    I sent it out on the 5th of December and got it back on the 15th. Some find ProEx too expensive, but I think it was well worth it for the service they provide. =)
     So, that was my authentication process. Certainly not the most exciting post you'll ever read, but hopefully a helpful one!