Answers to Questions for Teachers Preparing to Teach Overseas

As several people prepare for their journey to Qatar or elsewhere overseas, I’ve been receiving lots of questions lately. I have decided to use this time to answer some questions…

I’ve connected with several people via social media in regards to teaching overseas.  I’ve tried to be as helpful and as transparent as possible by offering suggestions.  As several people prepare for their journey to Qatar or elsewhere overseas, I’ve been receiving lots of questions lately.  And now since I have completed one full year and will be beginning my second year real soon, some of my previous suggestions may have changed.   I have decided to use this time to answer some questions that I’ve been asked and maybe others have the same questions.  Hopefully this helps.

From Lauren:

1. So now that you’ve finished a whole year, looking back-what teaching supplies would you recommend someone bring?  Did you have all the supplies you needed for centers? Would you still recommend a new hire to bring classroom decorations?

I can’t speak for all schools overseas, but I can speak about mine in particular.  There is an over-abundance of material there from centers to curriculum items.  Much of what we use in the states is there.  I generally like to decorate my classroom with a theme so I did purchase some decoration for that but I don’t recommend it and I won’t do that this year.  I say this because, the classroom is not yours alone.  Four other teachers came into the classroom to teach in the course of one day, so they needed space as well, wall space to hang things and space to store things.  The space belongs to the kids so it was a waste of money and time to get hung up on decoration.  However, I would recommend purchasing and or bringing specific things you can’t live without as a teacher.  I like order, even if I’m sharing a room, and I run a tight ship of independence, so there are certain things that I like that makes this easy.  Some examples are: seat sacks and grouping items (same color folders, books, table caddies).  I also purchased plastic sleeves for name tags and labeling bins.  Butcher paper and borders were provided.  I will also bring specific workbooks and teacher resources that I like to use, eg..Words their Way, Sight word work and Daily grammar spiral workbooks.

2. Is it easy to transfer money into your American bank accounts?

It is very easy to transfer money into your American bank account.  Once you get your bank account set up overseas, you can set up automatic transfers or individual transfers online.  The first transaction can take up to a week but after a few transfers, it only takes about 1-3 days.  The overseas bank or your home bank may charge a fee.  Find out what that fee is for your particular banks.

3. …would you say that it is best to bring king sized sheets? Any other household items?

You can buy most of what you want in Qatar.  You may have to hunt around and it will take time but you can find it.  IKEA is in Qatar and they sell the same things as in America but you know their sheets and stuff fit their products best.  I prefer to bring my sheets from America.  The king sheets fit the king mattresses there.  I am very particular about my sleep comfort and I like 100% cotton sheets and pretty comforters with some weight.  So I spent too much money on having them shipped via Aramex from Bed Bath and Beyond and had my husband bring some sheets with him when he visited.  This summer, I purchased more sheets to take with me.  This summer I also purchased melting waxes from Walmart and floating candles from Amazon, but before I left Qatar I did discover some melting waxes at one of the malls.  I also found floating candles but not the color I wanted.  Much of these items are cheaper in America.

4. Was it easy getting around before getting your drivers license?

My school provided transportation to and from work for the first two-three weeks.  They also provided transportation to the supermarket and malls at specific times as well as government offices to take care of important matters.  Uber is everywhere in Qatar and most people carpool as well.

From Nancy:

5. For work, bag or purse? Do you carry a laptop around? Lots of paper?

We were provided with a laptop and laptop bag.  It is heavy and bulky so I use a big Michael Kors handbag to carry everything I need for work.  You won’t be bringing a lot of work home so you won’t carry around a lot of paper.

From Leslie:

6. Does ____ have a policy against open toed shoes?

There is a dress policy in place.  They prefer you not wear casual flip flops but most people wear open toed Birkenstocks or other open toed sandals.

Other recommendations:

Take at least one piece of apparel that represents your culture, favorite sports team, and something for wacky days eg…favorite storybook character day, mismatched day (polka dots with stripes etc).   Bring some hometown knick knacks for kids, they love to get treats from the USA, eg… treasure box incentive trinkets, small birthday gifts, snacks. Although, I have found many spices in Qatar, some I’ve never heard of, many people recommend bringing your own spices.  Personally, I would recommend fine sea salt and ground black pepper, oh and don’t forget Vanilla Extract.  You cannot find real vanilla extract in Qatar, something to do with the alcohol content.   Bring your medicines because although you can get medicine in Qatar, it takes a while to get used to the names, you won’t find the brand ‘tylenol’ but you will find an equivalent.  Take specialized toiletries with you.  I use Secret clinical strength deoderant and I haven’t been able to find it there so I stock up in America and pack it, enough for a year.  I also use Aveeno cream because I have eczema (Aveeno is very expensive in Qatar), so I stock up on that and I buy Shea butter and essential oils and make my own body butter and body scrub to bring.   Bring wash clothes, or get them at Ikea.  I have found hand towels but not wash clothes anywhere else except Ikea.  Also bring kitchen rags, same issue.  Buy work clothes and shoes before going.  The shoes in Qatar are European sizes and don’t fit me well but if you don’t have an issue with this than forget I said anything.  Also Qatar has many malls but I prefer to shop at places I know, like New York and Company and Venus for work clothes.  You won’t find these stores there. Do bring a few cold weather items, eg… sweater, jacket, rain boots, sweats; yes it is hot in Qatar but it gets cold for about 2 months and if you plan to travel, keep your destinations weather in mind when packing clothes. You know those bags of white cheddar cheese popcorn and peanut chews that you gotta have, well bring those, you probably won’t find them in Qatar and if you spot them there, you may never see them again.  So in short, bring the snacks you love, until you learn to love the snacks that are there.

Don’t take big electronics, in fact outside of your Personal laptop, phone, and IPad, buy your electronics there.  I can’t begin to tell you about the whole blowing things out, that I went through in the beginning.

That’s all I can think about right now if you have any more questions feel free to leave a comment and I will try my best to answer.

My advice: Have an open mind, try new things, be flexible and by all means enjoy yourself.

 

Did I Keep my Promise?

Remember the pledge I made to you….

Back in May 2016 I made this pledge to my readers, and I wanted to know your thoughts on how I did?

I promise to always be honest

I promise to not sugar coat what life is REALLY like for an Expat living in Qatar

I promise that despite how anxious I am about moving abroad I will always keep it real

I promise to blog at least once a month

I promise to include the pictures I am allowed

I promise that if I don’t like it there I will admit it

I promise that if I love it there I will admit it

I promise to share the good and the bad

I promise that one of these promises I will probably have to break

I promise not to get over there and forget why I am there

I promise not to get over there and forget who I am

I promise to keep an open mind and remember that Qatar is not America

I promise not to forget that I am a visitor to their country

I promise to try it for at least a year (as long as we are safe)

I promise not to forget that I am an African American Woman

I promise to return home at some point to visit

I promise that I probably forgot something and will add it later

More good things to know

Things I’ve discovered along the way.

Get the Metrash App for your phone upon arrival.  After you get your RP go to OOREDOO and register your phone with your RP.  After a few days, try to register on the Metrash app. From what I know so far, because I am still waiting for my phone registration to go through, there are several things you use Metrash for: request an exit Permit for your sponsored family members, find out if you have traffic fines, etc… Check a later post for more details on this. Also find out if the phone companies offer discounts for your company.

Update: I moved from mobile service with OOREDOO to Vodafone because they offered discounts to QF employees.

Update: You need Metrash, download it immediately.

Purchase the Entertainer app. You can also purchase the book but the app is cheaper and more convenient.  It’s $65.00 USD.  It is more beneficial to purchase this closer to the beginning of the year since it is good for the year.  It includes coupons for many things. I used two of the bogo dinner deals in one weekend.  It’s well worth it.  I made my money back in two days. I only wish I had began using it sooner. Update: I used it to book a two night stay in Dubai.  BOGO at the JW Marriott Marquis, a savings of over $200.00.  I am working on a BOGO deal for a room in the Maldives.

I went to the QDC (Qatar Distribution Center) for the first time on Wednesday around 4pm. It wasn’t crowded at all.  It is where you can purchase liquor and pork.  Here is the process (but remember it may be different tomorrow).   You have to request a letter from your employer (employee relations).  The letter basically gives permission for you to purchase liquor and states that they are your employer, and that you are not Muslim and how much you make.  Once you get your letter, you take it along with your RP to Qatar Distribution Company where they will send you upstairs.  Once upstairs they will take your picture and issue you a permit to purchase.  You have to give them $1,000 QAR deposit made through your debit/credit card. You can get your deposit back once you bring your ID back.  Darryl and I both were issued permits.  Since I am his sponsor, we only had to pay one deposit.  At the QDC, I purchased 1 bottle of Martini and Rossi, 6 Coronas, 1 bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey for a friend, Malibu rum, 2 bottles of Pinot Noir and 1 bottle of Pinot Grigio for a friend, 2 bottles of sweet red wine, and 1 bottle of pink moscato for me, 2 packages of pork bacon for the boys. The total was QAR 736.60 which equals $203 USD.  This after I received a 20% discount for purchasing 6 bottles of wine.  There is a lot of variety.  Not too bad ‘EY’.

Update as of Feb 2017: Now you pay a certain amount per year for your license, no more 1,000 QAR deposit.

Get involved in groups.  Doha Foodies is a good group on FB.  I work with the administrator and she is fantastic.  In this group are many suggestions of where to eat in Doha.  Another good one is Buying and Selling Doha.  Join Qatar Living online.  It is a very informative website and you can find vehicles for sale on this site.

Download Waze for directions.  You will get lost.  Download Uber to take you around. Download Talabat for food delivery services and Zomato for reviews.  Get a good conversion app, for obvious reasons.

Purchase shoes with thick soles.  I brought some flats here with me, but the soles have worn out.  I bought some Birkenstocks recently.  I caught a good BOGO1/2 price but they also offer discounts for QF employees.

You may have to shop at several food markets to get everything you want.  Géant is located across from the Villagio mall in the Hyatt shopping plaza and is pretty good.  Also the Megamart near C ring road, behind the KFC is also really good for finding American brands and vegan choices.  I’ve also heard about a place called Spinneys and Monoprix but I haven’t been to either yet.  Al Meera is close to me, so I go there for quick visits.  Lulu’s is big and sells veggie crumbles.  Also they don’t sell cilantro as cilantro; it is sold as fresh Coriander.

 

 

And on the 36th day of Qatar…

…I got paid.  And, it was everything that they promised with the exception of some of my shipping allowance which I will receive once Darryl and Zamir have their RP’s.  Btw this should be within the next few days.  They have had their doctor exams done as well as their fingerprinting.  This is great because everyone will have their ID’s.  This is bad because it also means Darryl will be leaving me soon.  I’ve also received almost everything I was waiting for, except for my license to purchase liquor.  I feel much better now.

Driving here is a nightmare.  I think I’ve mentioned that before, but it is worth mentioning again.  I think I hated driving in the states, well there is no comparison to here. Traffic is horrendous and it is all day except Friday mornings, prayer day (sort of like Sunday mornings in the States).  But many things are closed at that time as well so it defeats the purpose of no traffic.

Speaking of driving, the bank, QNB, is driving me crazy.  I have been locked out of my online banking for over a week and I am unable to transfer money to my American accounts, so I can’t pay my American bills.  It is extremely frustrating.  In American, you can call the bank and they will reset your account, no problem but this is Qatar.  In order to transfer any money, I have to go into a specific branch within The Mall (that is the name of this mall).  I went there, took a number, A12, they were on A01.  I walked around The Mall and went back 15 minutes later and they were still on A01.  Needless to say I left.  You have to go into another branch to pick up a bank card.  And still another branch for…. Well you get the picture.  They can’t even make the transfer for me over the phone.  They really need to improve the banking customer service here.  They told me they have up to 3 working business day to fix the problem.  Tomorrow is day 3.  Fingers crossed.

Anyway, work is good.  I still spend time lesson planning, but most of it is occurs at school. No staying late at school or up all night planning.  Most of my kids are GREAT too!  My parents seem nice and responsive as well.  My coworkers are great.  I even went to Zumba with a few of them last night.

Here are a few things I find funny here:

  • people running across the street like their life depends on it.  (it does) It reminds of me of the old Atari game ‘Frogger’
  • students wearing jackets and sweaters outside to recess (it’s like 200 degrees)
  • I haven’t lost my voice yet.  I don’t do much screaming and I always lost my voice within the first month of teaching.
  • I haven’t been sick either (with the exception of a 24 hour sinus bug) I always got sick teaching stateside
  • An old friend of mine sent me a care package and paid more for the shipping than the contents.  She paid almost $200.00 for shipping. Thanks Theresa Kelly!
  • Sometimes friends will have your back better than family
  • You can wear white all year here.
  • People leave their cars running and unlocked while they shop in the supermarket 
  • 90F is cool to me.
  • And the ultimate funny thing: It’s cold in Philly but I’m still sleeping with the AC on.

 

 

One month later

Everything is an adjustment here…

On August 17, we boarded a plane and headed to Qatar.  I had no idea what I was stepping or should I say flying into; I just knew I wanted out of Philly and to live somewhere other than the USA.  So how are we doing 1 month later?  Well I do not have regrets but there are days when I wonder was this the best idea, like the day a week had gone past after I was supposed to have been paid but wasn’t (and still have not been by the way, but I did receive an advancement so that’s a pretty good indication that I will be eventually).  Like the day I realized that my husband was not going to receive his Residence Permit and in turn not have his passport back in time to fly home next week and back to work.  And there were many days similar to these where I expected something to happen but it didn’t turn out the way I expected.  I often have to remember to not have expectations.  But then there are other days when I’m super surprised.  Like when I first arrived I sent an email to the supervisor of my housing compound about my mattress not being new; I didn’t get a return email about it so I bought a mattress topper from IKEA but then a week later, I got a knock on my door from the security guard with a new mattress in tow.  Or the time when I found Pine nuts and ground Flaxseed at one of the food markets after I had just about given up on them (that was just yesterday by the way). Everything is an adjustment here and it already feels like I’ve been here for a year.  But I am here now, I don’t plan on going back and there are some interesting things here.


Tomorrow I meet my new group of first graders.  I know students often have mixed emotions about returning to school.  Well guess what students, so do teachers.  I am nervous and excited.  Not only is this a new country, a new school, a new group of coworkers and administration, a new curriculum and new culture, not to mention I vowed to never return to the class as a elementary school teacher again.  So much for that.  And if your paying attention to the date, our first day is on a Sunday.  The work week in Qatar is Sunday-Thursday.  That makes Friday and Saturday the weekend.  I will be using the PYP curriculum this year.  I am excited about that.  It looks good on a resumé.  Each grade at my school has a helper.  I haven’t quite figured out the extent of their help.  So far I know that they sharpen the pencils for our kids, can cut out laminated paperwork, organize your cabinets, put up your bulletin boards and much more.  I am not used to this and find it difficult to ask but like everyone else I assume I will get used to it and will use my resources to make my life easier.  There is also maintenance persons who are always cleaning and are there for you as well.  Picture coming in to your class room on your day off and finding two young ladies in your room, scraping the old name tag adhesive off of the desks.  Then asking security to communicate to two other men working on the premises to come into your room and scrape old labels off of the outside of your cabinets.  Yeah that happened.  My classroom was also full of supplies and resources, including a leveled library and interest books.   My classroom has a smart board, elmo, projector, MAC, dry erase board, and chalkboard.  It is a small classroom and for the first time in my teaching career I felt like it had too much furniture in it.  Believe me when I tell you, American teachers would give anything for these luxuries.  On the other hand, the school is growing so much that it is running out of space and my students will spend almost their whole day in one class including lunch.  First graders get instruction in Language Arts and Science in English from me, and math from another English teacher.  They get instruction in Language Arts in Arabic as well as Islamic Studies and Qatar History. They also have specials like PE, Music, Art and IT in English.  It is a private school.

Sometimes it feel like nothing makes sense here or works right but maybe it just takes time to get used to.  I am getting used to using a 12 hour clock, but at first I wanted to take my new alarm clock back to the store because I thought something was wrong with it when it read 00:32.  I tried to take my new printer back today because it just doesn’t seem to work right but they wouldn’t accept it until I have a tech come out and reinstall it because of course it worked fine in the store.  It reminded me of when you go to the doctor’s because you are sick and when you get there, nothing is wrong. Don’t you hate when that happens?  But I didn’t know a tech would come to my house and do that.  My shower spout is too close to the shower wall and so when I wash the water goes everywhere including the bathroom floor.  Mind you all the bathroom floors have drains in them but who wants a wet bathroom floor every day. Well they came to fix it several times, and eventually even replaced the spout but water still gets on the floor.  I’ve gotten used to it now, besides it is so hot, it only takes a few minutes to dry anyway.  I haven’t been able to find shower liners here at all, but I guess they figure, what’s the use.  Oh and store hours, I haven’t quite figured out yet.  Many stores open up early, then close around 11:00 am and then reopen around  12:30 pm and others close ’til around 4pm.  Most times it’s best to shop early or late except on Friday or Saturday evening because it’s the weekend.  And don’t even get me started on the driving and construction here.  If you get a chance research slip roads and roundabouts in Qatar.  If you want to get to a store on the other side of the road, drive one mile and do a u-turn or at the roundabout take the 4th exit.  I actually like roundabouts now but boy do they take some getting used to.  It’s kind of like playing a real life game of Frogger.  And it may be a roundabout at that corner tomorrow but don’t get used it, because it might not be there tomorrow.  There is construction going on everywhere here.  They are really building this state up but google map and WAZE (another gps app) can’t keep up, so driving can be frustrating.  On the upside, I rented a car for a month and the last time I gassed up, it cost me (you ready for this) a whopping 38.75 QAR which amounts to $10.71.  I also passed my driver’s test on the first try so I was able to pick up my driver’s lic for 250 (it was either 250 or 150, I can’t quite remember) QAR once I received my RP.  That’s about $70.  And yes I also received my RP, which is sort of like your Social Security card/State ID.  Once I had my medical done, I had to get fingerprinted and a few days later I got my RP and I got my passport back.  The whole process took about a week, which surprised me because I had heard horror stories about people not getting their passports back for months.  We are still waiting for the boys and Darryl’s RP but I am hopeful that they will be here within the next two weeks.

I don’t know if I will be able to save any money this first year.  There are some expenses that I hadn’t really considered and I will have to get used to spending here. Tomorrow the boys start school and I had to find them a driver because their school is about 30 minutes away from our house and in a total different direction than mine.  Most drivers/companies that I spoke to want 2200-3800 QAR/mth, which equals to about $608-1,050.  I never read that in any of my research, so I want to share that because I think that is important to know.   I found one who quoted me 1950 QAR/mth which is about $540.  This is the cheapest so far.  A driver is supposed to come and pick up my boys tomorrow, take them to school and bring them home after school. Prayfully everything will go well.  I will then pay them for one week at the end of the week.  And food, OMG, is expensive here, especially if you want food that you are used to because that kind of food is imported.  I’ve been spending about 1000 QAR a week ($276) in groceries.  That doesn’t include what we spend on eating out.  For now I am renting a car on a monthly basis for around $550.  I plan on continuing this at least until I complete probation, eventually I will buy a vehicle and that is another expense. The good thing is it is pretty easy to get a loan here after a few months.  The bad thing is, it is pretty easy to get a loan here after a few months.  My job also gives 20% of the price of a new car (no older than 2 years old) and if you decide to stay and work for 3 years here, you won’t have to pay that 20% back.  Another good thing is that they give us a monthly transportation allowance, but my son’s transportation will eat that up alone.

There are 3 main food markets here: Al Meera, LuLu Mart and MegaMart.  Megamart is a little on the expensive side, sort of the Whole Foods of Doha but they do have a lot of American foods.  Al Meera is in between, kind of like the Acme and then there’s LuLu. LuLu is like Walmart supermarket.  It has everything but maybe not what your used to but if you see something good, stock up, because you might not see it there again.

Things to know about shipping.  It’s expensive to get things shipped here from stores. There is no way around it.  My sister sent me my first care package which was some things I had ordered and sent to my house in the states.  It cost her $31.00 to send a small box weighing 2 lbs via FEDEX (thru the USPS) but it got here in 3 days, which I thought was super fast.  It didn’t come to my villa, even though she put my address on the package.  Someone had told me to make sure she writes my Qatar phone number on the package or I might not get it, so she did.  So the QPost (the main post office here) sent me a text message that said I had a package and to pick it up. When I went to pick it up, we had to pay 15 QAR.  They said the fee was because I didn’t have a p.o.box. I didn’t know I could get a p.o. box.  You can, for 500 QAR ($138) for the year.  I haven’t gotten that yet, because this week was EID and everything shuts down for EID.  EID is like Christmas and the 4th of July all in one.  Anyway, I also bought an ARAMEX account.  It is a shipping company that provides you with a U.S. address.  You can ship things to that address and the company will ship the items here for you for a fee of course.  Come to find out that if you are a Qatar Foundation employee it is free to join Aramex.  I wish I had known that before I paid $45.  Recently I shipped quite a few things thru Aramex.  My heaviest order was from a teacher resource store and the weight is 29lbs.  It will cost me 963 QAR thru Aramex ($266).  Yes, that’s alot of money.  It should be here tomorrow.  We will see what happens.  Next I will try the p.o. box and see which shipping method is the most cost effective.

Okay I know this post is long but stay with me.  Here are a list of things I wish I had bought with me: Many times before I came I asked people what teacher supplies should I bring and most people just said Sharpies and Expo markers but as a teacher that likes to have specific things I am finding myself purchasing things that I had at home and could have just brought with me, which pisses me off.  Table caddies, specific decorations, name tag clear pockets, routine story books, seat sacks, etc… If you like your room a certain way, bring it with you.  Curriculum stuff, leave home.  Besides teacher supplies, I wish I had brought: shower liners, nutritional yeast (can’t find it here), snacks (little bites, skittles, my kids miss these, peanut chews, dipsy doodles, I miss these), shower curtain rings, grits, dryer sheets, stock paper, bed sheets, mattress covers (the kind that zipper), instant oatmeal, static guard.

Besides all of this I have had some fun too. I have taken many trips down to the Corniche- it’s like Penns landing x 2, Sand dunning in the

desert, img_2035

img_2047bowling, shopping, paint nite with Darryl

and two trips to very beautiful beaches minus the jellyfish. img_2004I even have a favorite store.  It’s called Centre Point.  It has lots and lots of aromatherapy products.

Well it is time to say good night.  My alarm clock says 22:06.  I think that means 10pm and I have to get up earlier than I ever have for work, 5am.

The first 7 days in Doha

So things aren’t perfect but I like it here.

I started this post days ago but when I tell you I’ve been sooo busy believe me.  And now, instead of it being 7 days in Doha, it’s more like, 8, no wait, 9.  Yes it has been 9 days in Doha.  My sense of time and days is all off.  I rise and sleep earlier than I ever have.  The sun rises around 5am here and it’s dark around 6pm.  I’m usually up before 6:30, sometimes by 5am and down by 10, sometimes by 9pm.  I’ve never been a morning person, but Qatar is turning me into a Grandmom, up early, down early.  Anyway enough about that.

I know that I have only been here 9 days but it feels more like a month because we have done so much and I owe that mainly to my new job.  I have experienced some wonderful things and some things that just don’t make sense to me but the good definitely outweighs the bad so far.  I have this new saying, “It’s Qatar.  Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t!”  It is my way of coping with some things that don’t always go as planned and that happens a lot.  For instance, I will be teaching First Grade instead of Kindergarten.  I found that out on the first day of work. (I actually think it might be a blessing in disguise). Another example: We waited 5 days for internet.  It was supposed to be fixed/installed for 3 days straight but everyday, “It’s Qatar. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t!” Fortunately it did on the fifth day.  And there were other minor occurrences but I won’t bore you to death with them.

I started work last Sunday and my family was able to go with me for the first week.  We received our orientation schedule for the next 3 weeks but were told it is subject to change. So within one week, I toured my new school, which is nice, I’ve met all the new staff, we turned in all our gathered paperwork, took several trips to the mall, arranged by our school, had an eye examine for my driver’s test, saw my classroom and was given time to work in it, had my medical exam, took a trip to Ikea, toured Education City, signed up with the bank, scheduled my written driver’s test, which is tomorrow, and took a trip to Sheikh Faisal’s Museum today.  I really appreciate my administration using this first week to take us around and get things done that will make our stay in Doha easier.  It also helps to ease us into work.  The children do not start for another 3 weeks.  Our second week begins tomorrow, where we will get into some curriculum things.

I really like my new coworkers (hopefully it is not just the honeymoon phase).  We are a diverse bunch.  I work with people from all over, South Africa, Australia, Jordan, Turkey, U.S.A., etc.. It is so refreshing to be around like-minded individuals. I hope the rest of the staff are just as wonderful.

There are malls everywhere here.  I love to shop but this is too much even for me. I’m not here to spend a whole lot of money and this definitely does not help my addiction.  And the Ikea is great including the food there.  I can only imagine what the mall of Qatar will be like. It will be the biggest mall in the world.

Last night my husband and I attended a teacher’s social event at the Hilton Hotel in West Bay, Doha.  It wasn’t a lot of people there for the event but the majority of the attendees were my coworkers. We had a blast.  I won some prizes and my husband recited Rapper’s Delight.  We even had a drink or a couple, okay, okay, a few.  Yes, you can drink alcohol here, at hotels and if you obtain a liquor permit, once you get your RP (Residence Permit), you can also purchase alcohol to consume in your home.

It is very hot here, but bearable in small doses.  When I say small doses, I mean like, walk from your house into the air conditioned car, out of the car, into a building.  A few days ago, we decided to walk around our neighborhood around 5:30ish in the evening.  I think we got about 6 blocks when I decided I had had enough.  I felt like I was being smothered, so we turned around and came back home.  I’ve also been experiencing headaches.  I think it might be due to the sun, or dust, not sure which. But I haven’t had any allergy attacks, so that’s good.  During the day, the heat is dry and the sun is so bright that my sunglasses fog up as soon as I walk outside.  In the evening, the humidity is so prevalent that you feel smothered.

Okay so here are some tips for my followers whom are considering working here:

  1. Bring patience and leave the chip on your shoulder home. Bring humility too.
  2. On the day, you are scheduled to meet with H.R. bring a packed lunch.  You will be waiting a while. Also keep a few copies of your passport photos. Don’t give them all to H.R. Believe me you will need them.
  3. Be sure to switch your cellular provider to Tmobile before you come here and download SKYPE and Whatsapp.  Tmobile provides you with free text and wifi calling and 2 Gs of data monthly while here. You can call back home for $.20 a minute.  You can SKYPE back home for free and use Whatsapp.
  4. Please follow this advice- Have a couple thousand dollars that you can access.  You will need to buy things for your accommodation, food and a Qatar SIM card if you want to get things done here, before you get paid. Remember you are starting over from scratch basically.  Bring some cash and exchange it for QAR and keep some in your American bank account.  Also check your bank to see how much are international fees when you use your card here.  You may or may not receive your first pay when you expect it.  I didn’t. But hey, “It’s Qatar…” you know the rest.
  5. Check the money you get from the bank before you leave America.  They will not exchange $50’s and $100 bills that have dates older than 2007 here.  I read that somewhere before I came but I forgot and they sure didn’t take $200.00 of my money.  But Ikea does take American money and they had no problem taking those bills.
  6. Be sure to make a copy of your passport because your job will take it until you get your RP and you need your passport to exchange money here.  Some places will take the passport copy.
  7. You can rent a car with a International Driver’s Permit until you get your RP, but I don’t know why you would want to rush to drive here.  It is aggressive and UBER works but that’s money again.
  8. The process to obtain a drivers license is crazy.  Do not come here with an expired drivers license or you will have to pay for driver’s school and it is not cheap. When you go to schedule your driver’s test, bring your American Driver’s Lic and a copy of it.  You will also have to pay a fee, but you can only pay it with your Qatar bank card.
  9. Here’s the kicker though, I tell you all of this but rules and policies change like the wind here, so tomorrow may be different rules. LOL!
  10. Most things you can find here, you just have to look for it.

So things aren’t perfect but I like it here.  I’ve also embraced my villa and my compound has some perks.  Smaller compounds usually do.  My husband and I have worked out in the gym together several times, which is literally 10 feet away.  My house is large and the air is the bomb.  My kids are adjusting well too.  Everyday is like an adventure.  I promise to post pictures and videos soon, but I have to get to bed.  It’s late and I have the written part of the driver’s test at 7am.

Update: I passed my test today!  Here’s the process to obtain a Qatar Driver’s License if you have an American Driver’s License.

Step 1: Pass your eye exam. Simple and is done in the mall.

Step 2: Schedule your written test, purchase a manual for 55 Riyals about $15 U.S. Read thru the manual.

Step 3: Take the written test (theory test) consisting of 20 questions. You can’t get more than 4 wrong.  You can download the app Qatar Driving and take some practice test. After you pass the written test, you can take the driving test or schedule the driving test.

Step 4:  Take the road test.

I have Step 4 scheduled for next Sunday. Wish me luck and stay tuned for the results.

Welcome to Qatar

Experiencing it is different than reading about it.

It’s almost been a full two days since my arrival in Qatar and honestly where do I start?  I often wondered, while reading other’s blogs, why they just drop off and why there is such a break in between their post and now I know.  1) You get so busy that it becomes difficult to make time for it or  2) You get so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start or 3) You are too tired to even care.  I am a mix between 1 and 2.  Let’s start with the journey…

The Journey

My sister, best friend sister and mother in law drove with us to PHL airport.  We needed all three cars as we had a lot of luggage.  It was sad saying good bye and I’ll admit I shed a few tears.  We checked in our luggage, which took some time because as I mentioned before, we had a lot of it, 8 pieces to check in to be exact and 8 pieces to carry on.

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The weight allowance for checked luggage on Qatar Airways, leaving from U.S.A, economy class is 23kg or 50lbs. You are allowed 2 free checked bags at this weight.  If your bags weigh more than this, but not to exceed 32kg or 70lbs, than you can pay $50 online up to 6 hours prior to your flight or $65 at the airport.  We knew that 3 of our bags were over the weight but did not pay online so we had to pay $195 at the airport.  We could have shipped our items but shipping freight to Doha is expensive, more than $1,000 for not much so we opted to just pay overweight fees.  It cost $200.00 per extra luggage, which still would have been cheaper but for 60 pounds over weight, 20lbs for 3 bags each, we still saved money.  Also they have the right to reject extra luggage so we didn’t go that route and plus the added cost of buying extra luggage just didn’t balance out. They also check the weight of your carry-on bags which should not exceed 7kg or 15lbs. You are allowed one carry-on per person and a personal item, which is really two carry-ons. Several of our carry-on bags were overweight but the attendant who helped us let us go.  They also requested a copy of our visas at the airport.  I have no idea why. I n all, I think we did pretty good with packing and the luggage in general.

Once we got our luggage squared away, we got our boarding passes and proceeded to security.  We waited in line for our turn only to be told to go back downstairs to the ticket desk because only our first initials were printed on the passes.  This was now 1 hour from boarding time and we started to lose patience.  We got that taken care of and got thru TSA without incident.  We found our gate and had only enough time to use the bathroom and then line up for boarding.

The plane was huge.

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It was the biggest plane I had ever been on.  The inside was beautifully lit with pink and blue lights.  The seats reclined.  The 12+ hour flight was ok. There was some turbulence but not too bad.  The flight attendants were nice.  They were always coming around with their carts offering beverages (including free liquor, even Hennessy).  They served three meals and even accommodated my vegan diet. (BTW you can select your seats and special diet online prior to your flight)  Even though we were prepared with jackets, blanket, pillows etc.., they also provided some of these things like a blanket, eye mask, ear plugs, compression socks, pillow and headphones.  My husband said they kept flashing messages on the tv to remind people to walk around, hydrate and moisturize to help with the long flight.  But I never saw those messages; that must have been while I was asleep.  They provided a variety of movies, tv shows and music channels to keep you entertained.  It was a long flight but it didn’t feel super long and I only slept about a total of 3 hours.

Upon landing in Doha, my husband and I were the only 2 people that clapped.  I always clap when I land, because I’m happy we made it safely and I clap for the pilots for a job well done.  Is that just an American thing?  Well, we exited at the back of the plane, strangely, on the tar mat and boarded a bus, which took us to the arriving terminal of the airport.  I prepared myself for extreme heat but it wasn’t too bad, maybe because it was 6:00a.m.  We went through customs and collected our items without incident.  I exchanged some U.S. money for some QAR (riyals) and purchased 2 Qatari SIM cards.  My Vice Principal met us and….

Don’t expect to get what you expected

…she told me that my housing had been changed.  The villa that I was told that we’d be living in and was looking forward to living in, close to my son’s school and the mall, with a maid’s quarter, 4 bedrooms, 3 living rooms, etc, etc… was not to be.  Instead we have been placed in a 3 bedroom villa with 1 living room, and no maids quarter,  30-45 min from my sons school.  It is one of the Beverly Hills Gardens compounds.  And although it is nice, it is not El Berr, as expected.  On a positive note, it is close to my job, the beach and the airport.  Also one of the teachers that I have been SKYPing with over here is now my neighbor and we work at the same school.  I only met 2 of my 16 neighboring families because most of them are still on summer vacation.  From what I have been told, there are several families with teenage boys that live in this compound. That is another added bonus.  We have a nice pool and small fitness center.  Our villa is furnished with older furniture but it’s not too bad. We had some dishes, an ironing board and iron, and some other things that the school purchased for us.  It’s called a soft package.  One of our neighbors and a school leader took us to the market to get some food later that day because none had been left for us contrary to what was supposed to happen.  When we got back, someone had dropped off some bread, milk, eggs, and jelly.   I was glad we went to the market, because who can survive off of that menu.

We were so tired that I really can’t remember much after that.  We took a nap, then were taken to a different market.  I had a headache that night, not sure what from.  It could have been from a number of things.  I took two tylenol PM’s and went to sleep about 2:00a.m.  I didn’t wake up until after 1pm.

I used the fitness center today while the boys swam in the pool.  It’s nice to have a fitness center in the front yard.  I can get used to that.  Tokitha (my friend from North Carolina) and I hooked up today.  She sent me a driver and we all went to the mall.

I’ve read many blogs and post online about the rude nature of some of the people here but…

Experiencing it is different than reading about it

… some people really do brush by you, reach over you, lean over you, stare at you and bust in front of you without a single word.  I just look up like WTH and keep it moving.  For the most part, everyone has been nice and Qatar is like a melting pot of many different cultures.

Neither our cable nor our internet works.  Thankfully our neighbor gave us her code so we can access the internet while sitting on our steps in our house.  It’s the little things.

Life in Qatar will take some adjusting and patience, I just hope I can stay positive and keep an open mind.

On another note, I completed my TEFL online course before I left the states.  I have obtained another certification.  It was completely online and done at my own pace and even though I already secured an overseas job, it still makes more opportunities available to me and I learned a lot.  And I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to complete it before I left.

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…So welcome to Qatar!

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39 is going to be a great year

One week to go!

Two days ago, I turned 39 years young.  Not everyone feels comfortable admitting their age or accepting it, but I am quite comfortable.  I feel good about it.  I look good for my age too so that helps. LOL!

Two days ago, I got back from my trip to Jamaica.  I absolutely love Jamaica.  There hasn’t been one time when I’ve gone and haven’t enjoy myself.  It’s usually just my sister and bf sister but this time we took the young girls, their daughters.  The youngest was turning 21. We had a ball.  We stayed in Montego Bay at the Grand Palladium resort.  Although the resort was very pretty aesthetically, I probably won’t stay there again.  It was a little far from everything, and over rated.  I prefer to stay closer to the action and to the locals. Here are some of the highlights: snorkeling in the middle of the ocean, climbed Dunns River Falls, bobsledding, Mystic Mountain look-out, partied, ate.  Here are a few pictures.

Yesterday I got good news from my H.R. rep that put my worries to rest.  Everybody’s visa has been approved, including my husband.  Now we are packing.  39 is going to be a great year and a year filled with firsts.  I can’t wait. ONE WEEK TO GO! Stay tuned…

Philadelphia to Doha, Qatar

It will take about 12 hours and we will arrive the next day.

This picture highlights the trip I will take in less than 3 weeks (picture courtesy of Google flights).   I received my flight itinerary and we are actually booked to leave on August 17, not August 19 as originally told. We are taking a straight flight from PHL to Hamad International Airport, Doha.  It will take about 12 hours and we will arrive the next day.  It is a very long flight.

I also received a copy of my visa.  My kids and husbands’ visa has not been approved yet. My husband’s visa may be rejected.  If that happens they will resubmit the paperwork and try again and again.  Worst case scenario, he won’t get it before we leave and will have to go on a visitor’s visa.  After 20-30 days he will have to leave the country and re-enter.  If it’s not approved by the end of year 1, we will not get a flight allowance for him to come back home.  But they will keep trying until it’s approved.  Apparently, they are very hesitant to approve a man’s visa whom is being sponsored by his woman. LOL!  I’m getting very excited.  I’m done shopping and just have to pack, but before that, I’m going to Jamaica with my sisters and nieces next weekend. (picture courtesy of Google flights)

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New Friends

You never know when you might need someone.

Last week my boys and I hopped on a plane to Raleigh, N.C.  I rented a car and drove to Fayetteville where we met up with Tokitha and Cameron.  Tokitha will be relocating to Qatar too.  We met through a FB group and kind of clicked.  She was kind enough to allow us to stay with them during this short trip. I thought it would be good for the boys to meet so that they would have someone there that they knew.  Since Tokitha and I could relate to each other with this whole move thing, I also thought it would be a good idea for us to meet as well.  It was a nice little getaway.  While there we also stopped at another friends’ house, Vernice.  She and I were at the Qatar interviews together and she also lives in Fayetteville.  She will be teaching in Abu Dhabi.  I hope that meeting new friends will help to make the transition easier.  If you are attempting to relocate, I highly recommend befriending others that are in the same boat.

You never know when you might need someone.  I am looking forward to making new friends.