Monday, October 24, 2011

...speed bumps

I’ve encountered many speed bumps, both literal and figurative, since moving to Madinat Zayed, being assigned an apartment, and starting school.  While it was wonderful to finally have my own place, it meant that all at once I needed to start cooking for myself, acquire transportation, and buy furnishings. Meanwhile, I also had to learn a new way of “doing school.”  Forget the pipe dream about less paperwork. To my dismay, there is more shuffling of papers here than what I dealt with before. (Be careful what you wish for, right?)  Thankfully, I am at a wonderful school.  The five ladies with whom I share a small office are all very kind and helpful, and I am grateful to have landed among them.  (I have heard stories from other teachers who have not been as fortunate.)
Time is passing very quickly—I can’t believe that we’re already into week seven.  My students are beautiful, intelligent, and kind,  and keep me grounded.  I wish I could do more ESL type activities with them, but the structure of the curriculum doesn’t allow it.  Actually, “curriculum” is a very loose term for what has been provided.  It’s actually more of a framework with criteria, and then we find our own materials that fit the theme.  It was crazy-making to not have internet at home nor a printer at school.  I would search for materials during free time at school (when I could find a quiet corner with a hot spot), try to save what I had found on my laptop, then go home in the evening and reformat and print things off.  It was exhausting.  Now I finally have internet at home and purchased another small printer for school—I almost feel like a real teacher again! I never expected to have to spend my own money on basic materials, but it is worth the peace of mind to be able to do the job.

The road system here is something else.  There are miles and miles of four lane roads, divided by fenced medians down the middle.  Every so often (or not so often!) there is a place to make a U-turn.  To get to school in the mornings I pass it on my left, go for a few more miles, then make a U-turn to return to it.  If you happen to miss the turn-off (as I did one horribly foggy day), you just keep driving several more miles until you reach another U-turn.  The city is laid out the same way.  There are not city blocks as we know them, but long stretches of two or three lanes on each side of the median.   Every major light has a U-turn lane.  Running simple errands after school becomes a chore—having to loop around and around is exhausting.  I’m learning to lower my expectations about what I can accomplish in a given amount of time. I might make a list of four things that I need to do and checking one of them off is considered a success. I mentioned speed bumps (or “humps” as they’re called here).  Every residential area has several humps, and they’re not all uniform in size.  Too often, no matter how slowly I creep over them, the car scrapes on the bottom. (I wonder if the rental company checks for damage there??)

Living in a new country is very different from traveling as a tourist.  It gives me a new appreciation for my former students who had the “deer in the headlights” look for the first few months upon arrival in the US.  Figuring out the banking (online doesn’t work for me, no matter how many times I’ve tried to resolve it), wiring money home (nope, that’s not happening right now either), and making sure that the 6,000 dirham overcharge for the refrigerator is credited to my account all take time and energy. 

In spite of it all, I am glad I came.  This experience is going to make me grow and stretch in ways that I never even thought possible.  If I can do this, then I can do anything.  A few weeks ago I heard that a neighbor of mine packed up and went home already.  It occurred to me that as difficult as this experience is, it has never once crossed my mind to give up and leave.  In spite of the speed humps that often feel like brick walls, in spite of the homesickness and loneliness, I am glad to be here. I am meeting wonderful people and having fun with my students.  I am learning new things at an incredible rate (insurance against Alzheimer’s, if the stress doesn’t kill me first!).  I look forward to next year at this time when it will just seem like business as usual, and not be so overwhelming.
Sunset at the last roundabout, just as I'm getting home in the evening.

P.S.  I forgot to mention...I live in a place where I can buy baklava any time I want, for very little money. Now that's hard to beat! :-)

10/25/11 update: The money that I transferred to my bank back home finally made it.  Whew!  It took much more than "3 days" but it's there.  I was back on the phone last night with the online banking helpdesk, and thought maybe, maybe, this time the issue would be resolved.  One last step was for the technician to transfer me to an automated system and have me follow the steps on the recorded message.  Once he transferred me, that was it--his part was finished and I wouldn't be able to get him back.  I thanked him and waited for the call.  It came through all right...but it was all in Arabic.  sigh.


jeff said...

It's wonderful to hear that you're doing well. I think the baclava comment was an attempt to get folks to visit. ;)

Arlene said...

Oh yay, I have been checking your blog every day since you got internet. I'm glad you are not giving up. You are a strong woman, and Inshallah will make you stronger.

I put the swift # info in a message on FB. I hope that will work.

Baclava? Baclava? How can you say such a wonderful word and not share. Hmmm, guess I will just have to get busy and make some.

Kat Ballou said...

Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure. Does Air Cananda fly there?

Kat Ballou said...

Just in case you don't know Moira is Kat Ballou.

Janie said...

Wait a minute. Arlene makes baclava? Let me know, Honey, I will be right over.

Sue, endeavor to persevere. Grow and learning is always a good thing. I know you can do this and obviously you know it too!

Doozyanner said...

Jeff, I hope it works!
Arlene, whew! What a crazy life this is. I hope there's more time for blogging on a regular basis. You will love the baklava (pronounced baklawa) here.
Moira, there are many Canadian teachers here, so there must be an airline that flies here!
Janie, thanks--I will hang in there. Just hit a few too many speed bumps and was feeling very out of sorts.

Arlene said...

Janie, I haven't made it in a while since it is a bit labor intensive, and makes a lot. I'll let you know when I get ambitious.