Tuesday, July 10, 2012

...the end of the year

Tomorrow is the last day of my contract for this year.  I made it.  Whew!  There were times that I wondered just what in the world I had done to myself, but overall it has been a good experience.  There is really no reason for us to be at school this last week. We are all just sitting around, drinking coffee, talking, reading, and playing on our computers. I laugh at myself because even right up to the end I expected different outcomes.  I thought we'd have these two weeks without students for planning and preparing for next year.  But when I came in last week and saw that our computers were boxed up, ready to go into storage I knew that our work was finished. 

It appears that no one in our English department has been transferred--a very good thing.   I am grateful for the women in my office--they are kind, generous, and funny. We make a good team and work well together. I look forward to next year--there are even rumors of us having our very own classrooms!

As positive as the year has been, I am ready to get out of here for a bit.  Next stop--Paris!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

...working out

I have been going to the gym at the hotel out where I work on a regular basis since September. When I first went I asked where the ladies dressing room was, and was directed to a room clear across the courtyard. I was put out and argued with the guy--wasn't there anywhere closer? Nope, ladies must go across to the ladies room. So I adjusted, and every day walked across to change then back to the gym to work out. They saw me. They knew I was there most days. Then, last week, out of the blue, the door to the ladies room was locked! So I walked back to the desk and asked what was going on. The young man, with a big smile on his face, said, "Oh! We're getting massage!" (Like that was great news for me! And no one thought to tell me the room would be locked?) I asked where I was to change my clothes and he pointed to the mens' room. Really? (Very few men came all year, but lately there have been more guys.) I said I wasn't comfortable changing there, now that so many men were coming. "Hmmm," was his response. 

He had no solution for me, so I walked down the hall to the restroom by the restaurant. (Cool, diners get to see me in my workout clothes!) The next day I changed at school before leaving, but that isn't convenient either--I like to run errands while I am still in my dress and abaya. So I argued with the guy at the desk some more. He still had no solution. 

The next day he wasn't at the desk so I knocked on the mens' room door and went in. I opened the door to the restroom area (where there are locked doors and privacy) and saw there was a man sitting on the john! Gaaa! (He was behind a closed door, but seriously, there was no way I was going to saunter into the next stall to change my clothes while he was there.) I immediately went to the main desk of the hotel and spoke to a woman there. She was horrified that there was no changing room for women and said she'd speak to the manager. I went back to the gym and the young man assured me that he would be there each day to make sure the coast was clear. Each day I get there and he either waves me in or I knock loudly on the door before entering (because he's not always there as promised). It makes me shake my head. They go to such lengths to keep men and women separate here--why would they think it's ok for us to share a locker room??? Crazy. I guess the massage room is almost finished and I'll be able to go back to changing in that restroom once it is.

Update:  I have permission to change in the ladies room once more. I laughed out loud when I entered--not a thing had been done! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Living and teaching here have gotten easier with time, but I'm learning that the final trimester is more stressful than the other two.  Not only is it getting hotter than heck, it's also time for evaluations, and folks are worried about having a job next year.  The eval process is different than at home, although they're trying to Westernize the process.  I was told to create a folder of evidence for my meeting with the principal.  No problem.

What I didn't realize was that we'd also have to create a department folder to give to the principal for her meeting with whomever is doing her evaluation.  Today was pure craziness.  The amount of stress in our little office was through the roof as we scrambled to pull "proof" from our own folders, make copies, and create a (redundant) department file. 

Someone on a FB page recently suggested that we write haikus about our experience here. This was my contribution: 

Shifting sands of gold
Glowing in the morning sun
Fill me with delight.
This morning's situation didn't inspire such sweetness and light.  Here is the "hai-cuss" that a coworker and I came up with:
Assembly report,
PDs, activities too,
 I cuss all day; sh**!

Whatever it takes to keep us sane, right??  :-)

Here are a few more that I wrote for the FB group:
I have finished, Miss!
Me!  Pick me! Meena?
Shoo?  Shiani…? (shrug).
(Meena is the name of a student, shoo = what, shiani = how do you say.  Meena often shrugs off my attempts to involve her in class activities.)
Adventure brought me,
Frustrations, daily: Khalas!
Girls tug my heart; “Stay.”
(Khalas! = enough! or it's/I'm finished.)

Two suffocated!
But treated for running tears
Were released, healthy?
(A news article about a chemical leak at a school had me in stitches.  While it's not funny that two people had their respiratory systems compromised, the English(?) that was used to describe the situation cracked me up. Uh, doesn't one die when suffocated?)

And just for the heck of it, one last poem about those darned files:
Stuff, stuff, stuff that file!
Pictures, reports, data too.
Proof we’ve done our jobs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

...a jersey I have no use for (right now)

I was in a cranky mood when I came home today. The girls are not the problem--teaching in a different system with insane paperwork (from which I had hoped to escape) got to me. I sat down to read emails and opened one from elevengear.  They have a fun new jersey printed with haiku that customers have sent in.  I want to buy it just to see if mine made the cut. I have no need for anything related to cycling at this point in life, but puttering around on the elevengear site was a nice distraction. I feel better now.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

...things that make me smile

I am really behind--in several areas of my life--and the blog has suffered. I promise a real posting soon, but in the meantime, here is a list of things that make me smile.  I'll try not to repeat anything from earlier "things that make me smile" posts, but if I do, it's because they make me smile on a consistent basis.  Here goes:

  • Interrupting a game of street cricket on the way into my neighborhood.  I have seen street football, street soccer, street baseball, and street hockey, and now...street cricket.  Game on!

  • Having two weeks off for spring break.  It means our school year extends into July, but those two weeks were sorely needed.

  • Traveling to Istanbul during spring break.  (I know, I know I should have written about this already, but I've been busy, ok?)

  • Experiencing a traditional Turkish bath at the oldest bath house in Istanbul.  Wow.

  •  Spending time at the beach in Dubai. The hotel behind me in this picture charges about 10X what I paid for my budget room.

  •  Skype. Have I mentioned how much I love Skype?  My internet was down last weekend and my sister and I had to resort to an old fashioned phone call.  Thankfully, the internet is working this weekend.  Two planned calls down, one to go!

  • Planning our much-awaited trip to France and Italy in July.  We have been saving for this for over 5 years, and this is the year!

  • A totally unexpected, late-night downpour, complete with thunder and lightning!  I woke up with a start, thinking that one of my hot water tanks had burst a hose again (they do that on a regular basis) but soon realized the noise was coming from outside.  I got up and sat out on my patio ledge for a bit to enjoy the show.  It has been overcast and cool all day today (after being in the 90s this past week).

  • Snail mail. My mailbox was full this week--graduation announcements, Easter cards, newsy letters...ahhh...feeling the love.

  • Picking up an apple at the local store and seeing the familiar "Washington Apple" logo.  Many of my former students and their parents work(ed) in those orchards.

  • Ten weeks of student contact time left. (This also causes some anxiety--so much to accomplish in a short period of time!)

  • TurboTax.  Easy, correct information on how to file an extension and get the tax-free allowance for working overseas.

  • Audio books on my Kindle.  The 45 minute commute each morning and evening is no big deal now.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

...bookshop conversations

There are many "bookshops" here in Madinat Zayed, but don't get the mistaken impression that we have our choice of Barnes and Nobles-type shops in which to while away our time.  The bookshops are actually school supply stores--selling paper, notebooks, markers, folders, etc.  They are all about the same, although one might have a certain item that I'm looking for that the others don't carry.

What distinguishes one bookshop from another is the level of conversation one is able to have with the proprietors.  The owner of the shop that carries colored index cards doesn't speak English.  We communicate through acting things out, pointing, and the calculator.  He has a broad smile and produces the desired objects with a flourish. We are both delighted when he understands me.

In another shop is a well-educated young man who is working in his family's business just until he finds a job in his field of engineering.  He speaks Arabic, English and German.  His English is excellent and he loves to talk about languages. We talk long after our transaction is complete, and probably longer than would be considered proper.  How nice it would be to sit and drink coffee together and talk about cerebral things--but it can't be done. Not out here in the rural area, anyway.

I don't go to the third shop often, but when I do the conversation goes something like this:
Clerk: Hello, how are you?
Me:  I am well, and you?
Clerk:  Germany?
Me: No, I'm from America, but my grandfather was German.
Clerk:  How many years you have--30?
Me: You think I'm 30? Thank you, but my son is 28, so that isn't possible.
Clerk:  You much little.
Me:  You think I look young?  Thank you!
Clerk:  Where your wife?
Me:  My husband? He's in America. (Lying through my teeth, but it must be done!)
Clerk: Oh too bad, much problem.
Me: Yes, it is too bad. (Not really, since he doesn't exist!)
Clerk:  You go Dubai?
Me:  Sometimes.
Clerk:  You go Abu Dhabi?
Me: Yes, I go to Abu Dhabi sometimes.
Clerk: Dancing?
Me:  No, I don't go dancing. Do you?
Clerk: Oh, no, no, no.

Then we smile and nod and he shows me my total on the calculator.  I enjoy these exchanges so much that I purposely wait awhile before going back--he doesn't seem to remember that I'm not from Germany, and he hasn't figured out yet that my long-awaited husband still hasn't arrived.

Sometimes, for convenience sake, I pick up needed supplies at the department store in Abu Dhabi.  That's not nearly as much fun as going to the local shops.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Been there...

Done that...

And got the T-shirt!

Friday, March 2, 2012


I have never been a runner.  Never.  I remember in 7th grade PE in San Diego being exhorted by athletic Miss Zinn to "RUN!" and so I did, but she couldn't make me like it.  In 11th grade we moved to a small town in rural Oregon where everyone went out for sports--both for something to do, and because bodies were needed to field a team.  I have painful memories of those track meets--I had no idea what I was doing, and was the last one to cross the line, every time. 

It's not that I wasn't active--I was.  As kids we all had bikes and roller skates.  As an adult I hiked, walked, and rode my fat tired bike all over the place.  A few years ago a friend introduced me to cycling and I was hooked. I put lots of miles on my beautiful, cobalt blue Giant before coming here.  (She's the one item in my storage unit that I really miss!) I don't have a bicycle here, and not sure that I'll get one. 

When I first arrived, we spent an entire month in a hotel in Abu Dhabi. It had a good gym with plenty of treadmills and I went every day.  I started out walking, but with my son's encouragement, started to run.  Once we came out here to the Western Region, I asked around and found out that there were only two options--The Liwa Hotel gym or the Tilal Liwa Hotel gym. (Someone would make a killing if they opened a 24 hour Fitness Center here!)  The Liwa Hotel is in the town where I teach, and the Tilal Liwa is closer to where I live.  We had stayed at the Tilal for a few days, and the road leading to it has many, many speed humps.  I knew that I would never, at the end of a long day of teaching, make the drive over all those humps, to get to the gym.  So the Liwa Hotel it was. 

A couple of months ago I found out that a group of teachers met to walk or run at the local park every Friday morning, so I joined them.  One of the guys, who was also not a runner before coming here, told us about an upcoming 10K race.  It never occurred to me to sign up--after all, I'm not a runner.  Every week we'd meet and talk as we walked the first lap together.  They convinced me to sign up and give it a try.

By this time next week I will have my first 10K under my belt.  Yikes. I am nervous, but determined to finish, even if I'm still the last one to cross the finish line.

Oh, and there's another meaning for the word "runner" that is used here.  A "runner" is someone who, for whatever reason, packs up and heads to the airport in the middle of the night without telling anyone that he or she is leaving.  I just might be turning into a runner, but I'm not a "runner."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

...a visit with the boss

Our school had a surprise visitor yesterday.  Dr. Mugheer, the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Education Council and his entourage stopped by for a tour. (Director General is pretty much the same as our Secretary of Education.)  He visited several classrooms, mine among them.  My grade 11 girls were excited--I have never seen them get to their seats so quickly! Dr. Mugheer visited with the girls for a few minutes about upcoming changes and asked about issues they face at school. Their number one concern was the lack of substantial food in the canteen for their afternoon break.  They told him that by the time 8th period rolls around, they are too hungry and tired to focus.  He promised that the issue would be addressed.

While Dr. Mugheer was with the girls, I was talking with a linguist and a reporter about my word wall at the front of the room.  They were concerned that the Arabic translation wasn't quite right on some of the words.  They didn't understand that "close enough" was what we were going for in Arabic--it's the English that I am focusing on. I soon realized that they really weren't interested in a conversation, and decided that, while lovely, educated people, they are not teachers.

My conversation with Dr. Mugheer was much more pleasant.  He is soft-spoken and seems to be a kind man.  He gave me a condensed version of his discussion with the girls, and asked me how things were going.  I told him the truth--it is going well, the girls are learning, and they are a delight to work with.

Needless to say, we didn't get much accomplished after he left.  It's unusual to have men in the building, so to have such an important one, along with five or six others right in our very own classroom, had the girls all a-twitter for quite some time.

Oh, and at the beginning of the year I was told to wear a scarf around my neck at all times in case someone important came to visit.  But--as a non-muslim woman I am not expected to cover my head.  So the "wear a scarf at all times" rule is a puzzle. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

...ice cream

This afternoon my grade 11 girls were talking conspiratorially.  I couldn't get them to focus, so gave them a few minutes to get whatever was so important worked out.  Finally, Esraa looked up and said, "Miss, we want you to go to Baskin Robbins for us." 

My students are farm girls.  They live way out in the toolies and don't have the freedom to just zip into town for ice cream as American teenagers would. And even if they could, there'd be no place for them to go.  The town of Liwa has a grocery store and a gas station, but no fast food and no ice cream parlors.  The town of Medinat Zayed, where I live, is a big city to them.  Here we have the City Mall (a structure about the size of J. C. Penney's back home) with Pizza King and Burger Hut (no joke!) upstairs in the food court, and best of all, a Baskin Robbins just inside the front door.

After some discussion, I finally agreed that I would go and buy their ice cream this evening, put it in the freezer overnight, then transfer it to my cooler in the morning for the 45 minute commute.  I told them to write their order down, and to be specific.  They asked me how much the ice cream costs and I told them I honestly did not know--I had never been to Baskin Robbins.  There was a stunned silence, and then they were talking again.  Qummasha looked at me, puzzled.  "But Miss, we see you eating ice cream every morning!" 

I laughed and told them that it was yoghurt that they had seen me eating--ice cream wouldn't be a good way to start the day (on a daily basis, anyway!).

So right now there are eight tubs of ice cream in my freezer.  The clerk tried to convince me that a large tub would cost less, but I had my orders:  4 large dishes of chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and "nates" (nuts), and 4 large dishes of caramel ice cream, also with sauce and nuts. I think the plan is to put it in the freezer at school until breaktime, but I could be mistaken--it's just as likely that they'll be enjoying ice cream for breakfast.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

...being a creature of habit

There are no assigned parking spaces at our villas. Truth be told, there are no parking spaces, period.  No neat lines telling us where (or where not) to park.  But, for the past five months MY spot has been up close to the building, right under my living room window.  I've noticed that others are creatures of habit as well, and usually park in the same location day after day.  Lately however, someone has been parking in MY space, forcing me to park outside the compound walls.  In the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal...or so I thought.  I had to laugh at myself this afternoon--I swung wide to enter the gate and was triumphant to see that MY space was empty!  (No big deal?  Hmmm...I guess it was after all!)

Maybe I should borrow the traffic cop from school and tell the person in the dark Chevy to

taking my parking space! (As you can see, Katie made a new friend while here in December.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

...a carrot

I have been here for six months.  Six months!   August 4th, 2011 seems like an eternity ago.  Life has gotten easier in many ways, but school continues to get busier and busier.  It's mid-year and the push is on to get paperwork taken care of.  We were observed last week and heard through the grapevine that Teacher Portfolios will be checked this week.  (Just what exactly is supposed to be in said portfolio hasn't been shared with us--one of the many things we're supposed to "know" without being told.)  My observation went well and I expect I'll be told if my portfolio is missing something important.  The girls and I are having fun with our chosen theme this trimester (The Cinderella Story) but I still feel like I'm in that mid-year slump. 

It helps to have a carrot out there to keep me going.

My sister Arlene and I have been planning and saving for a trip to France and Italy for the past five years, and this summer is THE summer.  We'll be meeting in Paris on the 18th of July, spend two weeks traveling, then fly home together.  We have a house on a lake reserved for a week in Provence, and plan on going to Venice, Bologna, Pisa, and Assissi, if time permits.  To say that we're excited is an understatement.

My last day of school is the 12th of July and I've been wondering how to spend those days until meeting Arlene on the 18th.  I was thumbing through my Lonely Planet book today and something caught my eye: Fat Tire Bike Tours in Paris.  Yes!  Question answered. I am even more excited, if that is possible! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

...things that make me smile

  • Christmas cards in January. What fun to read all the messages from friends and family and know that they were thinking of me a month ago! I thought that using the school's PO box would be easy, convenient, and a money-saver.  Now I know better.  (Nothing is easy or covenient here!)  It did save me a bit of money, but the frustration wasn't worth it.  Mail is low priority here--the box gets checked only once in a great while.  (I now have my own PO box in MZ where I live, and check it once a week.)

  • Audio books on Kindle.  I just discovered that I can download audio books to my Kindle.  The daily commute just got a whole lot more enjoyable!  (Currently listening to "The Kitchen House."  I recommend it.)

  • Emails from folks at home. This week has produced a bumper crop of communication--long emails back and forth with Katie and a couple of good friends.  Ahhh, just what I needed! :-)

  • Skype.  What a wonderful (free!) invention.  I happened to come home early on Sunday (too pooped to go to the gym) and caught Arlene and Jadyn online before they headed out to breakfast.  

  • Homemade soup.  I made a bean, lentil, potato, vegetable soup on Sunday evening, put it in the crock pot Monday morning, and could smell it before I even opened my apartment door that night.  (Comfort.)

  • My students. They delight me.  They make me laugh out loud.  They puzzle and frustrate me.  They intrigue me and make me wish I spoke their language. (They are working hard to learn English!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

...a Pitiful Pearl kind of day

My friend Mr. Insomnia visited last night.  He hasn't been around much since I moved here and I was beginning to think that we were no longer an item.  But he had different ideas and dropped in for a quick visit--only keeping me awake until about 1:00 a.m.  Not terribly late, but late enough to make me drag today.  I got up late and raced through my morning routine to make it to school on time, skipping the cursory application of makeup.  It's been unseasonably cold here, so today I wore my jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, covered by my abaya.  I drove a little faster than usual and made it in time for assembly.  I headed up the stairs to stow my bags but forgot to hold up my skirt so I wouldn't trip.  Bam.  I pitched forward and caught the full weight of the fall on my left hand.  Not fun on marble stairs!  I picked myself up in a daze, went to the office and sat down. A sweet, kind coworker asked if I was ok.  I was trying to keep it together, but burst into tears and bawled, "No, I'm hurt!"  She called the nurse for me who gave me Pandadol (same as Tylenol) and checked for broken bones.

I've felt out of kilter all day--both from Mr. I. and from the fall. My hand is stiff and sore, but nothing appears to be broken. (Alhamdullilah!)  My grade 11 girls asked if I had been crying. I explained that I hadn't slept well, got up late, didn't put on makeup, and then had had a mishap on the stairs.  (Clumsy was one of our new vocabulary words from the story we're reading! Miss Sue--exhibit A!) Maitha R. asked, "Miss, how you say I hope a person feel good?"  I wrote "I hope you feel better" on the board and then they all chimed in with their wishes for me.  (Have I mentioned how much I love these girls?)

Bedtime will come early tonight and I'll take something for my poor, sore hand.  Tomorrow is a new day, and it's good to be reminded that I am surrounded by caring people.

One last whine:  This sight doesn't make me smile.  The construction out my kitchen door is moving ahead at a brisk pace.  The view of the city lights from my perch outside is now blocked and I can no longer see the sky while in my kitchen.  Rats. So it really has been a Pitiful Pearl kind of day.

Monday, January 23, 2012

...a wedding

Meena invited me to attend her uncle's wedding last week, and I was delighted.  I ask the girls about customs--should I bring a gift?  What should I wear? What time should I show up?  They said not to bring a gift--no one does, and to be there about 8:30 p.m.  As for what to wear, they were quite adamant.  "Miss, wear a dress, do your hair, and put on some makeup!" I said I would do my best.

The wedding was quite an experience.  I got there a bit late because I couldn't find the hall, but was warmly welcomed when I arrived.  I didn't recognize Meena when she came up to me.  At school Meena wears her hair pulled back off her face, no makeup, and dresses in her school uniform with chucks on her feet.  The young woman before me had eyeliner galore, hair styled and hanging down past her waist, and a form-fitting sequened gown on.  I gasped; she laughed.  Meena led me to a table where other students from our school were sitting.  I sat down and looked around in wonder.  There were about 50 tables in the hall, and each one had a huge platter of rice and (goat? lamb?) meat on it.  Even though I was late there was still plenty of food.  This hall was for the ladies only, and I imagine there were as many tables laid in the men's hall.  The women were dressed much like Meena--over the top hair, makeup, and dresses.  I have never seen Emirate women in anything but their black abayas, so this was an eye-opener. 

 I was in time to see the bride come in--by herself--for a photo op.  She then sat down on a throne on the stage and waited.  Soon, a black veil was draped over her head, and the women started putting their abayas and shaylas on.  I knew this meant that men would be coming in. The groom arrived with the men in his family.  They danced with their canes down the center aisle, stopping to greet guests along the way. The groom's father (and Meena's grandfather) was a wizened old man who cried as he made his way up the aisle. It was touching to see.  This part of the pageantry felt very ancient to me. I can imagine Bedoins with their tents set up side by side, then the men of one family coming to claim the new bride for their family. The men finally made it to the stage where the bride was seated and they continued dancing.  Women from their family (close relatives who did not have to cover their faces) joined in the dance.  After some time the groom sat down next to the bride and the veil was removed from her face.  He saw his new wife's face for the very first time.  There were many, many photos taken, and then the couple processed out of the building.  Once all the men were gone, the women removed their abayas and shaylas and started dancing.  Do they ever move!  I left soon after that, but not before one of the girls made me go out and dance with her!  It was a delighful experience, and I hope to be invited again sometime.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

...a disaster

Don't worry--this disaster was not life-threatening. No, this was the kind of disaster that makes me laugh each time I think of it.  Last week our English department was asked to bring something to share for the Professional Development meeting on Thursday.  The school was providing some of the "hospitality" but more food was needed. Hospitality and generosity are big here, and since we were hosting the meeting for several schools, it was especially important to do it right.

We had a discussion in our office about what each of us would bring, and since it was the end of the work week and we were tired, most of us agreed that we would just be stopping by the store after school to pick up something ready-made. That was my intent as well. I don't have an oven for baking, and use a microwave and a two-burner hot plate for any cooking I do.  And, I haven't accumulated a lot of kitchen "stuff."  (Remember, the place was absolutely empty when I moved in--I have had to buy every single item.) But, I have a saucepan, and a glass tart dish (I had intended to make a blueberry pie at Christmas and the tart pan was the closest thing to a pie plate that I could find.) So, I had the great idea that I would make a flan-like dessert to take to school. (I also bought a tin of cookies as a backup plan--just in case I didn't have the energy to slave over a two-burner hot plate once I got home.)

I got home from the gym Wednesday evening, had some dinner, checked my email, then decided that I would go ahead and make the flan.  So I opened boxes, measured the milk (I now have a measuring cup!), and stirred and stirred.  I spread the packet of carmelized sugar in the bottom of the tart pan, and when the custard came to a boil, poured it in.  I popped it into the fridge, cleaned up the mess, nibbled a few cookies with my tea, and went to bed. 

In the morning I was happy to see that the flan had set up nicely, but realized that I had nothing with which to cover the pan--no plastic wrap, no aluminum foil, not even any wax paper.  Now if this had been a regular custard or pudding, there wouldn't have been a problem.  But, that carmelized sugar at the bottom of the pan made the whole concoction slip and slide whenever it was moved.  How was I going to get it to school?  I grabbed a roll of paper towels (that I had on hand because I mistakenly thought I was buying bathroom tissue) and carefully placed the pan on the floor of the passenger side of the car.  Carefully, carefully, I drove over the umpteen speed humps to get out of my neighborhood, and carefully, carefully pulled out onto the highway.  So far, so good.

As luck would have it, this particular morning was a foggy one.  (What a surprise to have fog in the desert!) This wasn't the first foggy morning I've experienced, so wasn't terribly concerned.  I drove slower than usual, both because of the fog and my wobbly passenger on the floor.  I kept one eye on the flan and was happy to see that while it did jiggle a little, it was still contained in the pan. Then all of a sudden, the fog got worse, and at the worst possible location.  I had just entered the roundabout in Liwa, about ten minutes from school, and realized that I could not see a thing.  Nothing.  Thankfully, other drivers in the roundabout were tapping their horns to let others know they were there.  I made it safely through the roundabout and immediately pulled over to the side of the road to wait for a bit.  There was no need to rush to get to school--everyone would be late this morning. 

But--the fog distracted me.  When it finally appeared safe to forge ahead, I had completely forgotten about the flan.  I was driving along, knuckles white with stress, when I happened to glance down. Liwa is very hilly, and at some point the flan had splooshed out over the edge of the pan, deposited a chunk of itself on the carpet, then settled back down for the ride.  Oh dear.  Well.  I pulled over to the side of the road again, and assessed the damage.  Hmmm, not pretty, but not horrible, either. I cleaned up the carpet, wedged some paper towels under the pan to try to stablize it, and started out again.  Another hill, another "sploosh" and another chunk on the floor.   There was no way I could serve this to the workshop participants.   I wasn't too far out of town, and a turn-around point was coming up, so I did a U-turn and went to the gas station where I bought some chocolates to share. (Why had I opened the cookie tin last night? So much for my backup plan!)

Back on the road, I headed up and over the hills to school.  I glanced down at the flan and saw that things were going from bad to worse, and I realized that there was no way I could even offer it to the ladies in my office.  So, I pulled over to the side of the road again, intending to get rid of the evidence.  I gave that flan the heave-ho...but it had the last word.  As it landed with a resounding PLOP! it sprayed droplets of sugar and sand all over my black slacks.  By this time I was laughing so hard that I'm sure I looked like a crazy woman to anyone passing by. 

(I think I'll just buy cookies the next time and leave them in the car.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

...things that I will miss

A while back I posted a list of things {from my old life} that I miss.  I wondered if there would be anything {from my new life} that I would miss once I returned to my {new} old life.   There is.  Are.  And surely the list will continue to grow the longer I live here. 

I will miss the little salon behind mirrored doors, in the city mall.  Or, more accurately, I will miss the nine young women from Pakistan and the Philippines who work there.  They don't have an easy life--they work from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Friday when they have a few hours off.  They all live together in a two bedroom villa with one bathroom. (Um, yeah--I have been provided with a two bedroom, two bathroom villa. Ouch.) They are not all friends, but they make the best of it.  These young women are always kind and friendly and ask about my children. (They met Katie, but not Nate since men are not allowed inside.) I always leave feeling renewed in body and soul.

I will miss working with one of the most incredibly talented teachers I have ever met. I am humbled by what she is able to do with her students in such a short amount of time.  (I feel like a child again, watching my mom work in the garden.  She made whatever she was doing look easy, so I would ask to use whatever tool was in her hand.  Once it was in mine, however, it wasn't easy at all.)  So I pick A's brain and marvel at her innate ability, knowing that there is no way I can come close to replicating what she does.

I will miss the exquisite yogurt that is sold by the gallon.
I will miss the endless sky and gorgeous sand dunes.
I will miss seeing camels in the back of trucks and along the road.

I will miss the people who are helping me to grow into who I am meant to be.

Monday, January 16, 2012

...sharing photos

I haven't been keeping up with the blog as I had hoped to do, and I know people back home (who are not on Facebook) are wanting to see pictures from Nate's and Katie's visit.  So...here's hoping this works:


p.s.  We had a wonderful time!