The Big Move to Costa Rica

July 9 was move day. With all the negative experiences people have been sharing about the airlines lately, it was a big concern. My flight had been changed prior from a PHL departure and short layover in Miami to a layover in Boston, then a longer layover in Miami with a next day arrival. This was not acceptable so I cancelled that flight on Jet Blue and rebooked another on United, non-stop to SJO from Newark Airport. There were some discrepancies on the weight and size limits of the baggage that I could take but in the end I used the information given to me over the phone by a representative. We were allowed a max of 2 checked bags, that we had to pay for, and 1 carry-on and personal item for free. At the advice of some other expats in a FB group I joined, I purchased some totes for odd shaped items. In total, I packed 2-62.4 dimensional containers, purchased from Lowes, 2 large suitcases, 2 medium suitcases, 2 small suitcases for carry-on and 2 backpacks as personal items. Darryl and I left with 10 total pieces of luggage, 8 which were mine. I paid $440 in total but I didn’t mind because I would be reimbursed by my job for relocation costs. A very nice United Airlines attendant helped us at the airport with rearranging our seats so that we were sitting together and in spacious seats. (Advice: wait to get to the airport and ask for seat changes rather than paying for them online)

We had to present proof of return flight, within 90 days, since we were going on a visit visa, which we would obtain on arrival. This is a Costa Rican rule. I cannot obtain my work visa until my FBI apostille comes back from Washington. The only two documents I was required to get authenticated for work in Costa Rica was my birth certificate and FBI background check. The Birth Certificate authentication is completed at the state office building, Harrisburg in my case. That was a simple task of simply driving up there, walking in and paying a small cash fee of $15.00. The FBI authentication is completed through the national office in D.C. and walk-ins are not accepted. I used the third party company ProEx again; the same one I used to get my documents authenticated for Qatar. Their services cost me $150 and takes approximately 4 weeks. I still plan on flying back home for the October break rather I have the document within 90 days or not.

Our flight departed only a few minutes late and was rather pleasant. Five hours is a whole lot less than the 12.5 hour flight I was used to taking to get to Qatar. Getting through immigration was easy. They simply asked where we were staying, stamped our passport and whisked us through. There are nice gentlemen in green shirts at baggage retrieval that can help you with your bags for $20. Containers like totes come out of the area marked with the number 1 all other baggage comes out of different baggage carousels. Minus 1 missing tote handle, all of our things arrived safely. Thankfully Darryl had the bright idea to zip tie the totes as extra security. The lines for customs was disheartening, however they moved quickly and we were out of the airport in under 30 minutes.

My new VP picked us up from the airport and she had a vehicle big enough for all of our stuff. She drove us to the Aloft hotel, where we would be staying until we found housing. In our room was a small gift bag with coffee, cookies and snacks from Costa Rica, cash of ¢150,000 ($215 approx.) and a prepaid phone with ¢30,000 ($43 approx.) credit for our use for the first few days.

After dropping off our baggage, Mrs. VP and family took us around the neighborhood and then to get something to eat. The restaurant is where I learned my first lesson about Costa Rica: I need to learn Spanish and fast…

10 Facts About my Next Home

Quick Read…

Written before the move…

Within a few days, I will be off to my new adventure. This summer was super short. I literally had 3 weeks off. I spent most of this time preparing for the move. In between, I did get in a 5 day trip to Panama (more on that coming up in a future post), some quality time with family and a little down time to do some research.  So, here are 10 facts about my soon to be new host country. 

  • A lot of people think Costa Rica is an island but actually it is not.  It is a part of Central America and borders Nicaragua on the north and Panama on the south. However, it does have several uninhabited islands.  Can’t wait to explore them. (costarica.org)

  • Costa Rica does not have a military. The Military was abolished in 1948, and money was reinvested in education, social security and health care.  The standard of living has been steadily on the rise since then, the country’s literacy rate is 98%, and the infant mortality rate is the second lowest in the region.  (ticotravel.com)

  • It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 5% of the world’s biodiversity and 500,000 species of wildlife.  (trafalgar.com)

  • Costa Rica has a high life expectancy and is home to one of the 5 blue zones in the world, Nicoya.  (asuaire.com)

  • You can see the sunrise on the Caribbean side and sunset on the Pacific side in the same day (visitcostarica.com). It is possible to drive across the entire country and catch them both.

  • There are about 750,000 species of insects that live here, including 20,000 different spiders, and 10% of the worlds butterflies. (bahiaaventuras.com) I almost declined the offer to move here because of this fact .

  • There are more than 121 volcanic formations and seven active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are in the northern part of the country. (bahiaaventuras.com) Costa Rica’s soil is rich in minerals due to many eruptions over the past millennia.

  • The country is about the size of West Virginia or slightly smaller than Lake Michigan (puravidamoms.com)

  • It is the most visited country in Central America due to its rich biodiversity and ecotourism. (worldstrides.com)

  • Costa Rica was ranked one of the happiest country in the world in 2012. (hidden lemur.com)

Hopefully you enjoyed reading some facts about Costa Rica and learned something new. Do these facts motivate you to visit this country?

Chapter 2- Where to Next

If you never try, then you’re always left wondering…

Just because I left Qatar doesn’t mean I’m done.  And now that I’ve closed that chapter of my book, it’s time to start a new one.  So where is the setting of chapter 2?  That is the question.  Well it begins in another country, a little closer to my original home.  But before I get into that, I have to tell you where and how it began so that if you’re considering being adventurous like me, you will have an idea of where to begin. 

When I resigned from my job in Qatar, I actually had no idea where I was going.  I knew I didn’t want to stay in that country and apply to another school.  I just knew I wanted a change of scenery and a change in my position.

So I created a profile on Search Associates and was prepared to pay a fee for this but I lucked up with going through the UK division because it was free.  Creating a profile through them is relatively easy and you’re assigned a contact person.  Through Search Associates, I was able to see postings from schools all over the world.  For some I could apply directly through the website with just a cover letter and directing the hiring representative from the schools to my profile.  For others, I was directed to apply straight through the schools website.  I knew that finding a position in leadership would be more difficult than a typical teaching position and it proved to be very competitive.  Apparently a lot of teachers were displaced during Covid and were now seeking new opportunities.  Sure, I have a pretty good resumé with a competitive educational background but I lack in leadership experience within a school setting.  Most schools, I didn’t even hear back from.  I was only invited to a couple of interviews in leadership and wasn’t offered a position.  I even interviewed for a classroom position in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, if you call a virtual interview where you answer 3 questions and are recorded, an actual interview.  Needless to say, that didn’t pan out and it was probably for the best, as it wasn’t what I really wanted.  I only interviewed there because the pay was impressive and I have friends there.  Feeling defeated, I had resolved to go back home and take some time off.  I had been out of the interviewing game for a while, was making mistakes and was not used to hearing no. 

I was tired of applying and I was excited about going home for some respite and quality time with loved ones. 

But then, I saw this position with a significant lower pay than what I was used to but in a country that I’d considered retiring.  I didn’t know much about this country and still don’t really but I’ve heard some wonderful things.  I also did not know much about Qatar but that didn’t stop me and look how that turned out.  Not feeling very optimistic, I decided to apply.  Within a few days, I received a response from the Director of this school and I instantly had a good feeling.  We met on Google Meet and talked about the position, school, country, pay, etc… Next I interviewed with the Principal and Vice Principal.  The Vice Principal who happened to work in Qatar just a year prior.  Following this interview, I also interviewed with a panel of teachers.  This impressed me.  An organization that values the opinions of all, even those not in leadership, I wondered if this was real or just a facade.  Within a few weeks, I was offered the position of ECE Coordinator- Early Childhood Education Coordinator.  I went back and forth with my decision to just go home and take some time off or accept the position.  In the end I decided to accept.  This position may not come back around for me again, and if it doesn’t work out, then I can go home.  If you never try, then you’re always left wondering.

The pay was an issue too, but during my time in Qatar, where I was making significantly more, I spent most of that money on paying off bills which put me in a good position.  A position where I can accept a lower pay.  A position that I desire and can possibly catapult my career in different directions where I will be able to make more money later, if I desire.  Besides, this almost felt fate-like.  I was ready to give up and it showed up out of nowhere. The process was quick and I got a good feeling in my gut. I love this part of the world and now I will live in it.

Chapter 2 will begin in…

Stay Tuned…

I am not a Tree

I cannot believe that it has almost been 1 year to the date that I last blogged. This past year has been filled with ups and downs, mostly ups and as I have slipped into other social media platforms as a low-key beauty influencer, I have neglected my page. However, we always come home. And sometimes we move.

Since it is official now, I can finally make the announcement public that after 6 years in Qatar, I resigned. This will be my final school year here in this country. My intent was never to stay here forever nor was it my intent to stay for 6 years but here I am.

I have chosen to leave because my conscious has strongly suggested I do. My inner voice has been telling me for some time that it is time to move on and listening to it, thus far in my life, has proven fruitful. I listened to it when it told me to go back to school. I listened to it when it told me to leave my previous job in Philadelphia. I listened to it when it gave me the confidence to move to an Arabic country, despite “neigh-sayers”. And I will listen to it now.

It has been an amazing 6 years of self-growth, exploring, learning, partying, traveling, teaching and so much more. Just to clarify, leaving is a choice just as coming was. Coming here was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. I have made friends that will be a part of my life forever. I have had experiences that no one else in my Philly circle or family have. I will not go into details about all the things I have done here, you can read my past and future posts for that. But I would advise anyone reading this, contemplating moving overseas to a foreign country, to “DO IT!”.

Where am I off to next? Well, that’s a good question. Let’s just say, I am not a tree. I don’t have roots and my branches sway in the direction of the wind and it’s pretty windy out right now!

Thank you for following my adventures in Qatar. It is time to move on to the next chapter. Am I nervous about this next chapter? YES! Will it stop me? HELL NAH!

(And for my husband’s stalker-ass ex-wife (Mt. Edna, and yes Mt. is short for mountain), who is reading this and digging for fuel, I hope you enjoy living vicariously through me and I hope my glamorous life gives you sleepless nights. I see you and your pathetic.)

Grateful

I think life showed us that we needed a rest…

It has only been a month since my last post but it feels like way longer. Honestly, I haven’t had many ideas to blog about lately and I’ve been pretty busy between work, work, and well being lazy. But life is good. I am beyond grateful for where I am in my life right now. I am alive, healthy; my family is strong and healthy. You know how they say, your body tells you when it needs a rest, I think life showed us that we needed a rest. Sometimes our lives are so fast paced that we forget to take a moment and be grateful. I have a good job, with minimal stress. My bills are paid. My retirement fund is growing as is my savings. These past months, I’ve been spending time on the phone with my family and at home with my husband. My mother and I reconnected. I even treated her to a hotel stay back home. Some people that I am close to have suffered some real hardships this past year and I am grateful that I have been able to be there for them in some way. Life is so precious and I believe that once Covid-19’s death wish slows some, people will appreciate some things a little bit more. At least I hope they will. I don’t believe that life will ever quite be the same though. Most of us will look at things differently and choose differently. I can’t even watch a food tv show without cringing about something or look at past pictures. Like how my husband and I went to Sri Lanka 2 years ago and ate street food from street vendors. It’s a miracle that Covid-19 didn’t come sooner.

Yesterday, I received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s free in my host country. I feel okay, minus the sore arm. I have to go back for my second dose in 3 weeks. I was nervous about getting this vaccine however, I want to get back to traveling. Most importantly, I want to go home to see my sons and the rest of my family. I miss them dearly. If getting the vaccine will make that easier, it’s a risk worth taking.

Today is a good day to be alive and to be grateful.

A Review of my Stay at Al Messila Resort and Spa Doha

Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

It is winter break over here in Doha for teachers and children and in light of Covid-19, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that I opted out of traveling. I did, however, choose to do a short staycation to see different walls than the ones in my flat. My friend Jennifer and I decided to book a room at Al Messila Resort.

Al Messila is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha. It’s nestled right off Doha expressway and across the street from the U.S. Embassy. We got a great rate as Qatar Foundation employees and I had heard good things about the resort. Jenn and I were really looking forward to some rest and relaxation.

Although the front desk consists of a few podium desks behind plexi/glass shields, the lobby is beautiful. The high ceiling is grand and the chandeliers majestic. There are several areas to sit surrounded by gold and beige decor. Your bags are checked by security and your temperature and etheraz apps are checked upon entry.

Although we requested two beds, the confirmation did say 1 King (which I should have checked prior) and changing to 2 beds would include at least an hour wait. We didn’t feel like adding an additional hour to our already rather late check in time of 4pm. Since we have traveled together before and are pretty good friends, we decided to share the bed.

We stayed in a deluxe room which was very spacious. I really appreciated the 6 piece bathroom including a separate shower and tub behind the same glass door within the bathroom, the rain shower head and double vanity. The room had a rather long hallway from the door to the bedroom, a wall mounted television, coffee maker, mugs, tea, King bed with 4 rather flat pillows, a table, 2 chairs and a chaise. Our room had a balcony facing the front of the hotel and highway. Next time, I’ll be sure to request a different view. The room was very clean with the exception of a nectarine which was under a chair on our balcony, upon check-in, and remained there throughout the duration of our stay. There were stains on our carpet and the bed was not very comfortable. In fact, my side felt very slept on and I had to move closer to the center of the bed to feel like I wasn’t sleeping on a slope. The Wifi was free though and it worked well. I am awarding the room 3 stars, for the great wifi, space, and wonderful bathroom; unfortunately, 2 stars were sacrificed due the bed, carpet stains and forgotten nectarine.

The hotel grounds are beautiful, with lots of greenery and a large pool. There is a pool bar as well and all of the bartenders and pool staff are nice. Happy hour starts late around 7pm. The cigar lounge was clean and Daniel makes very good drinks. The star of the resort, though, is the Spa. As a hotel guest we were able to enjoy the spa amenities free of charge. You can even catch a golf cart over to the spa. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still access the spa for 15o QR. Jennifer and I spent about 2 hours at the spa going from room to room. We took part in the hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation beds and rooms and even pole dancing and trampoline jumping in a pool. During our spa visit, we only saw 3 other guest, so we basically had it to ourselves. You can pay for other services as well, like facials and massages. I really wanted to experience a Turkish Hamam but due to covid, those weren’t on offer. Al Messila gets 4 stars for amenities. The only reason I deducted a star is because of the lack of dining options which unfortunately hits this resort in 2 areas. Let’s talk food and service.

Let’s get right to the point, in this large beautiful hotel, why is there only 1 restaurant? Firstly, breakfast was not included (*correction, breakfast was included, we were not charged) but the buffet is very reasonably priced at only 38 QR and even though breakfast is buffet style, you can not go up and get your own food, precautions put into place due to Covid. This is fine, however, no one informed us about this even after we were sat at a table and left alone for some time. Eventually we called someone over and they explained that everything would be bought over to our table. They were informed about my vegan and Jennifer’s vegetarian diet prior. It took a while to receive our food but I was able to ask for specifics like potato wedges and sauteed veggies. A menu of what’s available would have been helpful, saved time and cut down on waste. Nevertheless we walked away full and satisfied. For lunch we ate outdoors. The chef prepared some vegetable dumplings and french fries for me. The dumplings and several sauces were tasty. That was on our first full day. But the second day was a disaster. We made breakfast reservations for between 9:30-10 and arrived around 9:45. We were told to wait in the lobby as there was already a queue of people waiting. No one took our names down or gave us a number to be called. We waited about 30 minutes before Jennifer said something to the host and we were finally seated. The host seemed to have no idea about our reservation. The restaurant was getting hammered hard and it showed. We requested to just order specific items from the buffet so that everything did not have to be bought over. I ordered simple potatoes and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, Jennifer ordered avocado toast, and eggs benedict but forgot to tell them no meat, and they obviously forgot our dietary restrictions. They bought over eggs benedict on turkey and a side of meat. She re-ordered and I waited, and waited and waited. Then her fixed order came minus the toast, and I waited and waited. Then she finished and I still sat waiting. We pulled over someone who appeared to be a manager and told him the problem, that we were leaving and I was not paying, as I didn’t eat anything other than a piece of fruit. By this time, I am very upset. He apologized and insisted bringing over the food anyway. A few minutes later, he bought over a plate of mushrooms, sliced avocado and pre-packaged hash browns. The sight of this plate made me angry. It was not what I had ordered. It was not avocado toast. It was not cooked potatoes and the mushrooms were cold. By this time I am furious with the service and I didn’t hesitate in letting the hostess know. There were many complaining guest that day. The service and the food was awful. Knowing that it is winter break, people are not traveling outside of Doha like they used to, due to Covid, this hotel restaurant should have been better prepared. I left out of that restaurant very HANGRY and ready to leave the hotel altogether. I am awarding the restaurant/food and service, 2 stars due to everything mentioned. When I travel, food is high on my priority list especially because of the way I eat. If the food is not right, I usually don’t return.

Things worth mentioning: On our check in day, we received fruit and truffles delivered to our room. This was a nice touch. Later that evening, tea was also delivered. Unfortunately for every good thing, something not so good happened. For instance, after we enjoyed in-room dining on the first night, we called for the tray and dishes to be collected but no one ever came to get them and the room started to smell. On day 2, we saw housekeeping in the hall when we left our room but they never cleaned our room. We had to call down to have our room serviced.

welcome snack

Final thoughts and message to the manager of the Al Messila: This review is based on my experience alone. Everything is true. I travel a lot and write many reviews. Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

  1. Provide a menu for the breakfast buffet so that people can make choices
  2. Have a vegan menu available. The world is changing; more and more people are going green
  3. Prepare for busier seasons with more experienced staff and write down reservations
  4. Don’t bring people cold food- ever, unless it is supposed to be cold and make sure that everyone at the table gets their food
  5. Keep customers informed. A customer should not have to call downstairs to find out why their room was not serviced
  6. Ensure that room service collects in-room dining dishes or at least checks with the guest within an hour
  7. Flip mattresses
  8. Remove the nectarine off the balcony of room 3012 and get rid of the carpet stains
  9. Move up the check-in time. Half the day is gone at 4pm and with a noon check-out time that isn’t even a 24 hour stay.

Al Messila receives 3 stars from me- Beautiful but below basic in food and service.

***Update: After contacting the hotel manager, Mr. Mallah, he arranged for me to return to try out Al Mesilla restaurant again. There were some major changes made and the brunch is very good. They had a whole section dedicated to just vegans. And it made me wonder, if that will always be there or was that just for me. The service was much, much better. The drinks were good too and so was the food. After this new visit and changes, I may be inclined to stay there again. I appreciate that the manager invited me back to have a better experience. I kind of wish he had covered a night’s stay along with the restaurant visit.

A Review of Sultani Indian Cuisine

Qatar is filled with many undiscovered gems.

On 11/11, my husband and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary. I can’t believe it has been 9 years. We didn’t do anything big this year, due to Corona and money is tight but he did take me to a nice brunch. He is also in Culinary Arts school and one of his assignments was to take a field trip to a restaurant that allowed him to experience a different culture’s cuisine. We saw a deal on Qgrabs (sort of like a Middle Eastern Groupon) to this Indian restaurant and that is how we found Sultani Indian Cuisine.

Sultani is located within the Swiss Belinn Hotel in Al Sadd. Funny Fact: We were the only ones there. Although this is nothing new for Qatar, the manager said the night time is busier. The deal was for a Diwali tabletop buffet. Diwali, or Dipawali, is India‘s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians. (https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/diwali/)

My husband called ahead to notify them that we are vegan and would not be able to partake in all of the dishes. He also spoke to the manager, Madir (don’t quote me on that name), who was present the entire time, about our dietary restrictions. The manager was very accommodating and kind. The dishes were brought to our table as they were made, which meant that everything was hot, #winning.

Here is a list of all the foods we enjoyed, which was basically everything: Aloo Tikka, Channa Chaat, Kachumber Salad, Namak Para, Pani Puri, Onion Pakota, Vegetable Biryani, Pindi Chole, Garlic Naan and Fruit Platter. The Aloo Tikki was my favorite (that’s the featured image). My least favorite may have been the Biryani due to the vegetable cuts, too big. I have concluded that Indian food may be the most seasoned food I’ve ever eaten. We have been on a diet for 2 weeks and our stomachs could not hold all of the food. We were full half way through but made sure to taste everything. We had seconds of a few dishes too. Mr. Madir, was even nice enough to allow us to take our food home, #winning. This never happens at brunch. I give the food 4 stars.

The restaurant decor was colorful and clean. I really like that you can see the kitchen. The one to one service was amazing. I give the service 5 stars.

For the amount of food we received the price is a steal, 118 QAR for 2 people, approx $32. And there was way more available but because we don’t eat animal products, we didn’t get to experience everything. (Tandoori Chicken, Shish Kabob, etc… was also available) I give the price 5 stars.

In conclusion. We really enjoyed our little private lunch. It wasn’t until we were halfway through the food that I notified the manager that I was a blogger, so I cannot even say it was because of this that everything was so nice.

Qatar is filled with many undiscovered gems and Sultani is one. There is an array of International cuisine restaurants here. You just have to be willing to try something different.

A Feature Story in Undomesticated Mag

…simply put, I am not done here, not yet.

A few weeks ago, a young lady contacted me after stumbling across my blog. When this happens, the person sends you some questions about your experiences, you respond with your answers, they tweek the content and then put together a feature. Ms. Hawk did a great job of putting my thoughts together. I’ve pasted the interview below for your reading enjoyment. Interesting fact: the article came out on my anniversary 11/11. What a nice gift. If you fancy, subscribe to the magazine as well. There are some very interesting reads on it. Click here for the website.

International Careers: Kennesha Bell on Teaching in Qatar 

teach-abroad-qatar-kennesha bell-sand-dunes.jpg

Kennesha Bell lived her entire life in Philadelphia until at the age of 39, she packed up her family and moved to Doha, Qatar to teach first grade, satisfying a longtime yearning for travel and international experience. Four years later, she has no plans to leave. We talk about getting the assignment, adjusting to another culture, the challenge of being so far from family, and why she loves life in the Middle East.

You can read more about her experience at her blog American Teacher Overseas.

Undomesticated: What led you to teaching abroad? And why Doha?

Kennesha Bell: I applied to teach abroad because I needed to get out of Philadelphia. I felt like I was suffocating. It was sort of a calling, I guess you could say. I love to travel and I wanted to experience life somewhere else. 

Doha was not my first choice. In fact, the first time I applied to teach overseas I was turned down by Teachaway, the company I went through. I didn’t have enough experience at that time. Then two years later, I applied again, passed the interview with Teachaway but was denied by Abu Dhabi Education Council and never heard back from the school in Kuwait. I applied for a third time two years later, being the persistent person that I am, and received offers from Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. Qatar had the best benefits package for a family. 

One of the reasons I chose the Middle East was because of the mystique of this part of the world. I only knew what I heard about it through the media, which gives a very one-sided outlook. Also I had read that Qatar was, and still is, one of the safest places in the world, and it is smack in the middle, so what a great hub to travel to the rest of the world from. How could I resist moving to a place that is safe, pays great, is a travel hub, and a mystery to me?

Undomesticated: When people think of overseas English teachers, they usually think of someone recently out of college and single. You, however, were in your late thirties and married with children. How did that affect your decision and your transition to Doha?

Bell: It was not easy, but I was determined. Honestly, I thought it would be a good opportunity to give my children. They would have something I never did, travel experience and exposure to different cultures. I figured we could go through the growing pains together. The company I work for in Qatar was extremely helpful with the transition. My director even connected me to another mother who was in Qatar with her children. We talked via Skype before I moved. She put my mind at ease and she and I are still good friends. 

Undomesticated: What was the biggest surprise about your job? About living in Doha?

Bell: The biggest surprise about my job was the surplus of resources and help that was available to me. 

Also, the diversity of the staff was a surprise. When you come from a place where everyone looks like you, talks like you, and has had similar experiences to you, you get locked inside a bubble. Here I felt like it was the first time I stepped outside of that bubble and saw life for how it is supposed to be: Colorful and beautiful.

Undomesticated: What would surprise people back home in Philadelphia about your life now?

Bell: I feel 100% more safe in Qatar than Philadelphia. This surprises people because Qatar is in the Middle East. That stigma about the Middle East runs deep for people who live in the West bubble and have never traveled to this part of the world. I love it here and have no desire to return to my hometown outside of being with friends and family.

Undomesticated: How do people in Qatar react to you as a Black American woman?

Bell: Some people are surprised when I tell them where I am from. One person even said, “I thought only white people were from the United States.”

Americans are looked up to here and as an African-American, I have never felt discriminated against. The population here is so diverse. There are people from everywhere here. 

Women in general have preferential treatment in some ways here. There are lines just for women. Women are often allowed to go first. The commonality of separation of genders takes some getting used to though. 

teach-abroad-kennesha-bell-al-bidda-park-qatar.jpg

Undomesticated: What is the biggest reward of your job?

Bell: I feel appreciated as a teacher in this country. Most families respect you and look to you as an expert.

Of course, the money is great too. I’ve been blessed with being able to travel to many places, pay off debt, invest, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Undomesticated: What is the biggest challenge?

Bell: The biggest challenge for me was adjusting. Things are different here. Life is slower. I’m from a big city, where everything is rush, rush, rush. I’ve had to learn patience and humility. Things don’t happen on your timetable here; it happens when it happens.

Another big personal challenge was being without my husband for the first year because he was working and we had a house in the U.S. that someone needed to live in. And being without my kids for the following years. The issue with my kids is touchy and very emotional and I devoted an entire blog post to this.  My two sons are so different. My oldest son stayed with me the entire first year.  He does very well with change and is adaptable. We traveled and spent a lot of time together.  He returned to the U.S. when we went home for the summer and stayed there to finish his senior year in high school.  

My youngest son however, does not do well with change. I wanted us to immerse ourselves into the new culture, and I think it was too much for him. He did not want to stay, so almost three quarters of the way through the first year, he returned to the U.S. to live with his dad. Some may not agree with my decision but I truly believe that everyone deserves to be happy. Being here was not bringing him the joy I had hoped, so I let him go home.  

Some may ask why I choose to stay despite it all, and my answer is this:  Qatar is my home now.  I am happy here.  Life is more peaceful here. I have a well-paying job that has allowed me to pay off thousands of dollars worth of debt, save, travel to many places, and I’ll soon pay off my house back in the U.S. I wasn’t able to do these things while working and living in the U.S. Sure I miss my other home and my family most of all. Before the pandemic, I made it my business to travel there every year. But, simply put, I am not done here, not yet.  

Undomesticated: What advice would you give someone hoping to teach abroad?

Bell: Go for it but have patience. If it is your dream, do it; but don’t expect others to be excited about your dreams. 

Think of all the wonderful things that could happen, and live a life without regrets. 

Credit: https://www.undomesticatedmag.com/blog/teaching-abroad-qatar-kennesha-bell-


I got Tested for Corona

Do I have Corona? What if I do?

Last Tuesday was our first day with kids in the physical building but before kids were allowed back, every teacher was required to submit to a Covid-19 test. So last Saturday, I had mine done. I would be lying if I said it was painful but it was not comfortable at all and I would be okay with never getting that done again. Thankfully it was at the expense of my employer and scheduled by them. I also heard that teachers and students will be randomly tested throughout the school year, just like a random drug test.

So how was it exactly.

It was a drive-in nasal swab. A long q-tip like object was slid into my nose, all the way up to my brain (it seemed), a specimen was collected and then the q-tip was taken out. It seemed like it just kept going and going up and took forever to come back out. My nose burned some for about an hour afterwards but there was no blood or discharge afterwards. I did not want to take the test but I’m glad I did. All kinds of things went through my head while I waited for the results.

Do I have Corona? What if I do?

Did they just put a chip in my head?

Within 30 hours I had my negative results along with all the other teachers in the school. What a relief!

And for the first time in my teaching career, teachers are asked to stay home if they aren’t feeling well. And because I am asthmatic, if I’m not feeling up to it, I can work from home too.

Very few students showed up for school on week 1. Every two grades came in using the same entrance spread out throughout the school. No nannies, drivers, or parent are permitted to enter. They must drop their children off at the door where they are escorted in, and checked for mask and temperature. All teachers are required to wear a mask and have their Etheraz app checked upon arrival. Half of each class has school from 7-10, whether they are in person or online and the other half from 11-2. Tuesday’s are virtual for everyone. This is how things stand for now but a survey was sent to parents a few days ago asking them to vote on fully online or fully in person. So we shall see what happens. So far so good.

Each day the new daily number of people infected with Covid-19 averages around 220 and the total number of active cases has finally dropped below 3,000. This is nice especially since there was a total of over 100,000 positive cases in this country and 202 deaths. That number is high for this tiny country but Qatar has done well and way better than many other countries around the world.

We are in the final phase of phase 4 reopening of the country. Visitors are still not allowed but residents who left the country are allowed to return and join the general population after a covid test and set quarantine. The movie theaters have just reopened with limited capacity along with many other venues. Children are allowed in the malls again and I’ve heard it is crazy. I am not in a rush to join that chaos.

I am looking forward to the day that Qatar announces 0 new cases.

Did you have covid-test? What was your experience like?

The End to the Summer and the Start of a New School Year

Where do we draw the line between educating our children, and risking our lives?

Well it is that time of year again. I knew that no matter how much time I had off, it would still feel like not enough once this time came. It never does, even though this has been the longest summer break ever. It was never on my bucket list or my intention but I can now say I spent a summer in Qatar. Outside of my husband, I haven’t seen my family face to face in over a year. I haven’t traveled anywhere in over a year. And despite these things, I can’t feel anything but gratitude. The pandemic is still going on but so far my family has maintained their health and so have I. Sadly, many others around the world have not. I still have a job, while others have lost theirs and people who were offered jobs by my company and other international teaching companies, had those offers rescinded. Many people have had to endure pay and benefit cuts. Several people at my job have also been transferred to other schools or have had their positions changed. So far I am still at my school, with the same position and same pay and benefits. But I am not under any misconception that in a moments’ notice something could change. I feel truly blessed.

I find myself finding joy in the little things like finding a spray bottle at the local store and Lysol in the supermarket yesterday for the first time in over 6 months. And just in time to go back to work and around other people. The Fedex man is like my favorite visitor, even though he is just doing his job. I enjoy doing a full face of makeup just to take pictures and clean it off. I like waking up and talking to my plants that I have been taking care of since the Pandemic started. Traveling takes a lot of out of you, so this summer has definitely been restful and I have even found some joy in the weight I have gained. I actually have a little butt now, for real for real!

Things are opening back up here in Qatar and the other day I bought a gym membership for Darryl and I. I want to keep my butt but not my stomach. During this whole quarantine, Darryl enrolled in culinary arts school so he has been cooking up a storm. I have thoroughly enjoyed eating his assignments. Although this summer was spent totally different than what I had in mind, there is no one else I’d rather be quarantined with than my husband. He made it totally bearable.

I started tutoring again about 2 months ago and gained 2 new clients that will continue services once school starts. I will be hustling this year, working to pay off my mortgage and build up my investment. I did an interview with Expat Arrivals a few weeks ago; you can read it here. In the interview, I discuss life here ups and downs. My friends Britney and Quahn have been hustling too. They started their youtube channel. I’ve had time to watch all of their posts about their travels abroad. I even made the cut on their post about Capetown. You can watch it here; be sure to like and subscribe to their channel here.

This school year will be interesting with a shortage of staff and in the midst of a pandemic. I’ll admit, I’m nervous. Kids spread germs like nobody’s business. I’d rather we continued virtual learning but I’m afraid these kids will be so far behind, they’d have to spend years playing catch up and that is so unfair to them. But is it worth lives? I know we have to move on and learn to live with Corona for now, but at what and whose expense? Where do we draw the line between educating our children, and risking our lives?

%d bloggers like this: