Friday, August 26, 2011

...learning new things

When I got up this morning and saw that I had no internet access I was bummed. That's not so unusual--the connection comes and goes.  So while I waited around for the little yellow triangle to disappear I made some coffee and fixed breakfast. (I felt too lazy and antisocial today to go down to the dining room.) Still, no internet. Rats.  I puttered around, made a call to Katie (Hi Katie!), then checked again.  This time I clicked on the icon, and up popped a message from the hotel asking me to sign in once more.  Oh yeah, the internet is only good for a week at a time and today is the first day of my fourth week here.  Who knew one could get tired of living in a five star hotel? But, I'll have to continue to make the best of it, because this is going to be my home until September 4th, and possibly longer.  All government offices are now closed for the last week of Ramadan, and people are preparing for Eid, a very festive time.  The malls are decorated in a manner very similar to how we decorate for Christmas.  The stores are busy in the evenings with people shopping for gifts and new clothing.  I was in Carrefour last night, admiring some beautiful gift baskets filled with chocolates and dates, when an Emirate woman spoke to me. I was delighted--this was the first time that someone had initiated a conversation with me.  Her name was Amal, and she works for the official Tourism office.  She was so friendly, and graciously answered my questions about Ramadan and Eid.  She even gave me the phone number for her office and her personal mobile number. 

Because the offices are all closed, I still don't know where I will be living and teaching.  I can't even be sure that I'll be somewhere in Al Gharbia.  Jo was also told via email that she would be in the western region, but when she asked for more specific information she was given the name of a school here in Abu Dhabi.  She is disappointed because she would have preferred a more rural setting. Katherine knows that she will be clear out in Sila, close to Qatar, so I am the only one of our trio who has no idea.  I sent an email late Wednesday evening, hoping that I would get a reply before the end of the work day yesterday, but no such luck.  I knew ahead of time that patience and flexibility were the two most important attributes needed for living and working here.  I'm finding that I'm learning patience at a whole new level!  We have lots of free time coming up, but can't rent a car just yet.  I think Jo, Katherine and I are going to hop on a bus and do some exploring this week.  I need to do some research online to find out if the places we want to visit will be open.  Let's hope so! 

I've been here long enough now to have learned a few things.  Exact change is not always given, nor expected.  The coins, fils, are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50.  If the change is 15 fils or less, it usually isn't given.  Before I realized this, I asked the clerk for my change and got an exasperated look in return.  Then I did the math and understood that the smaller fils are almost worthless. It did makes me wonder though, if they have to balance their tills at the end of the day.  Maybe "close" is good enough. 

I learned the hard way that produce must be weighed and labeled before one leaves the produce area. There are no scales at the cash register.   Luckily, I made this mistake on my first night here, and the small grocery store was not busy.  A bagger ran back to the produce department to do it for me.

I've figured out that lining up and taking turns is not done quite the same way it is back home. Once I understood about having my produce weighed I would politely stand in line and wait my turn--only to have people come from all sides and go in front of me.  I've learned to ease my way toward the front and place my bags on the counter.  They will eventually be weighed and tagged and handed back to me. I do try to time it so the counter isn't too busy.

The grocery stores are so fascinating to me.  It's like walking through a giant Trader Joe's on each visit.  I want to look at everything and try new things.  One of my former students expressed concern about what I would find to eat here.  I need to write to her and let her know that I am in no danger of going hungry! (The opposite is true.  Good thing there's a gym in the hotel!)

I get overwhelmed at times by how difficult it is to do even the most basic things.  Getting a mobile phone, signing up for online banking (error--please contact the bank), and getting my US bank's swift number for transferring funds...the list goes on.  I look forward to the time when it all seems familiar and "life as usual."

My friends back home have been in their classrooms for the past couple of weeks, getting everything ready for students on Monday.  I am used to the feeling of urgency at this time of year--so much to do and so little time to do it in.  Did I say I'm learning patience? I wandered through the school supply section at Carrefour last night and was glad to see such a wide variety of supplies.  If my school doesn't have something I need, then I know where to go.

Here's something that made me laugh:

 "...a composition very similar to that of human body fluid..."


Arlene said...

Before you know it, you will be in your class and home and setting up your own routines.

Wax on Wax off :)

Janie said...

Deep breath!

We are indeed deeply in back-to-school mode. Chris has been in the classroom almost every day this week and Liam ask me every day if he can go to school today. At this point I think he thinks it is just another place to play, but we shall see.

I was at UHS on Wednesday afternoon to lave Liam with Chris and felt an almost overwhelming urge to poke my head in your door to say hello. :( Miss you.