Friday, September 9, 2011

...what to wear

Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I was in a bit of a dither about what to pack before coming here. The question I was most often asked was "will you have to wear a burka?"  My answer was always "no, just long skirts."  Beyond that, I didn't really know.  Information from Teach Away, the recruiting agency, was vague so I talked to my friends who were already here, did some research online and scoured the Teach Away site on Face Book for guidelines.  I bought long skirts, dresses, and jumpers, then fretted about them being loose enough and long enough. I bought one abaya online through East Essence just in case I'd need it.

I got to visit my school yesterday and met some wonderful people with whom I'll be working. So many beautiful scarves and abayas!  The good news is that our principal is liberal when it comes to how we dress. We can wear slacks as long as they are loose and the blouse is long enough to cover the bum. Our dresses and skirts don't have to trail on the floor--it's OK if they hit at the ankle. Our shirts and sweaters can have 3/4 length sleeves. She did tell us to wear a scarf around our necks, just in case men come into the building or someone official comes to visit. It's not her mandate, but comes from higher-ups.

It's a relief to not have to wonder anymore about what to wear. Now I can focus on preparing for the first day. Lesson planning? What's that?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

...a range of emotions

Things that make me smile:

Yummy snacks with a funny name,
a fish tank imbedded in the wall,
 the children it attracts,
and connecting with family and friends on Skype.

Things that make me laugh:

Sinatra, live, at the Yas Hotel,
 friends who are also easily amused,
and a taxi driver who cranked up his rap music for three middle-aged women, and either had an itch, a twitch, or was gettin' down to the music (sorry, no photo available).
Things that, if I don't laugh, might make me cry: 
We spent the entire day at the main office only to receive a single sheet of paper that had our names, the name of our school, and, if we were one of the lucky ones, a phone number. I already had that information and was hoping for something more. However, it does confirm that I will be going out to the western region as I was originally told.  I wonder when that will be?
Maybe it's just as well there were no forms under this sign!

Friday, September 2, 2011

...the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

My friends and I had been wanting to visit the Grand Mosque and decided to go before the end of Ramadan and the Eid celebration began.  The exact date for Eid was still to be determined, but we decided to go on Monday the 29th of July, in case Eid began the next day (which it did).  Jo and I were able to climb the steps to the mosque dressed in our capris, but Katherine's were just a bit short.  We had to go up and get an abaya and shayla for her before she could go in.

What an absolutely beautiful place!  Visit this website to learn more. Their explanation is much more complete than mine would ever be, and I'm sure their vocabulary is more extensive than "Wow! Gorgeous!  Awesome!  Breathtaking!"
 The flowers in these pillars (about 100 of them!) are all inlaid semi-precious stones.  My head scarf wouldn't stay put, and our guide reminded us all to keep our heads covered.  (Oops!)
We were split into three groups for the tour.  The first few minutes were outside in the corridor area. It was cooler in the shade than out in the open, but not by much.  There were tourists from all over the world visiting.
Our guide had us go out into the courtyard and feel the difference in temperature between the white marble and the green stone used for the leaves.  It was amazing how much cooler the marble was!
What a welcome relief to step inside to the rush of AC!  Here, our guide is pointing out details in the ceiling.  There was so much to see that it was hard to take it all in.  The carpet was made in one piece then cut into three (or was it four?) sections to enable them to bring it inside.  Master carpet weavers then came and pieced it back together.
We were among the last ones to leave because we stayed and asked our guide questions.  She was a delightful young woman who spoke English very well.  She is from Yemen and is here going to University, studying urban planning.  She works at the mosque part-time. 
I took this picture to show perspective.  It's difficult to tell how large the flowers on the walls are from a distance. My hand span is about 8".
Since we were among the last to leave I was able to snap this picture of one of the empty prayer halls.  The flower above is on this wall.

I could easily visit again and look forward to having visitors--this will definitely be on our list of places to go and things to do!  From a purely architectural/artistic point of view, it is phenomenal.  And, much like in the cathedrals we visited in Italy years ago, there was a sense of reverence.  Everyone spoke in hushed tones and there were no children running about.  I would like to experience the mosque during prayer, but as I remember we were told that non-Muslims may not visit at that time.