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.

Freedom

“I’ll tell you what Freedom is to me. No fear.”

Last week I was feeling really apprehensive about going to Qatar.  There were several bombings that were occurring overseas.  There was one in Turkey, Bangladesh, Baghdad and Saudi Arabia.  This was during Ramadan and one of the bombings in Saudi Arabia happened in front of a Mosque.  These left me very confused.  Isn’t this one of the most sacred holidays for Muslims?

But…within the last two days my apprehension turned from going to Qatar to living here in the U.S.A because just yesterday the 508th Black Male was killed by a Police Officer. Aren’t they supposed to serve and protect?  I am so confused.  I am more afraid to stay here, raising two black boys and loving a black man.  I am afraid for their lives and mine.

The other day I watched a documentary on Netflix about Ms. Nina Simone.  One of her quotes stuck with me.  She said, “I’ll tell you what Freedom is to me. No fear.” Will I ever feel freedom?

I embrace this move and I pray for Everyone including Muslims, Police Officers and Terrorist.  I pray for Freedom.

Just in Case

Here are some things I have done to kind of prepare for this major move…

“I don’t really see anything packed”

That’s what a guest said when she came into my house.  From others points of view, it may not look like I’ve done much to get ready for my move that is less than 60 days away but I’ve been quite busy.

Here are some things I have done to kind of prepare for this major move.

  • Completed an application for Global Entry-https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply
  • Registered with the U.S. Embassy-https://step.state.gov/step/
  • Applied for an International driver’s permit-http://www.dmv.org/international-driver-permits.php

img_0349

  • Started purchasing necessities in excess to last almost a year: Secret Clinical Strength Deoderant (It has been mentioned in one of my Facebook groups that you can’t find this over there and with that heat, I will need it) Aveeno moisturizing cream (I have eczema and this works well), eye drops, herbs, allergy medicines, cold medicines, favorite perfumes, etc…
  • Sold my truck
  • Sold my day care furniture
  • Microblading (that’s a conversation for another day but it’s sort of eyebrow tatoos)
  • Set up dates to have lunch/dinner with certain people
  • Purchased a new unlocked Iphone (major for me as I am a androidian, is that even a word)
  • Cleaned my kids closets and dressers and sent their clothes that they won’t be wearing to ThredUP (hoping to get some money back)

So I may not be packed but I’ve been quite busy.

P.S. The first three bullets mentioned above were done just in case.  I highly recommend you do them too, if you plan on traveling abroad for any reasons.

 

 

 

 

Authentication

So that’s how you get documents authenticated.

Since one of the reasons I started this blog was to assist others on a similar journey, let’s discuss the process of authentication.  This seems to be one of the most frustrating and drawn out parts of teaching abroad. So let me try to make it as understandable as possible.

Although I am preparing to work in Qatar, it seems a lot of the authentication process overlaps across the Middle East.

Your most recent college degree needs to be authenticated.  You can use a copy, attach your transcript to it and notarize together.  For Qatar, you also have to obtain a letter from the school on letterhead stating that the majority of your classes were taken in person instead of online.  I attached this letter too.  Then this needs to be attested at the state level, federal level and Embassy of the country you will be working.  Get this done right away. Oddly, I did not have to get my teaching certification attested but I did have to present it.

You will need to obtain your State criminal history clearance.  In PA, you can request this online at

https://epatch.state.pa.us/Home.jsp

but if you want it to come to you already notarized you can print the form, complete it, and mail it in with a $13.00 money order, like I did.  It comes back pretty quickly too.  Once you receive it notarized or get it notarized, then you will need to get it attested at the state level, federal level and Embassy of the country you will be working.

You will also need FBI clearances.  Some people use a Channeler to get it done quicker; there is a list on the website.  I would recommend to just go thru the FBI directly this way you know it’s correct and will be accepted.

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks

The processing time directly through the FBI is long, approximately 12-14 weeks but once you get it, it doesn’t need to be notarized (at least mine did not) or attested by the state since it is not from the state.  However, it will need to be authenticated at the federal level and at the Embassy of the country you will be working.  Start this process right away

If you are married, your husband will also need state and FBI clearances authenticated. If you have children from a previous relationship, you may need additional information to sponsor them.  For ADEC, you need a letter from the father stating that he is okay with you sponsoring them.  For Qatar, a letter from my ex-husband did not suffice since we had a custody order.  If you are in a similar situation, pay close attention to this part because this part was the most exasperating.  You must get your custody order modified in court.  For me this meant paying a fee, requesting a court date, talking to my ex-husband, waiting for the court date, going to court and getting a copy of the order signed by a judge.  Then you have to get the Clerk of Common Pleas to certify, stamp and sign it.  For Philadelphia, this was a separate court than family court and a separate fee, and I had to physically go to City Hall to get help on this matter.  Once that is done, you have to get it attested at the state level, then federal and finally the Embassy of the country you will be working.

To obtain an Apostille or Certification at the state level in PA, it needs to be done through the PA Department of State, Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation in Harrisburg.  There is a $15.00 per document fee.  You can mail it to Harrisburg or walk in and have it taken care of right away.  They are pretty efficient. Here is what the first attestation looks like:

img_0282

The U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications accepts requests via mail in, walk in and appointments.  They are located in Washington, D.C.  The fee is $8.00 per document.  Appointments are only for emergencies and walk ins can leave documents and pick them back up completed approximately 3 days later. Here is what it looks like at this level:

IMG_0422

The last factor in the authentication process is at the Embassy of the country you will be working. Qatar has three Embassies in the USA, one in NY, Washington and Texas.  Which embassy you will need to send your documents for authentication depends on where your documents originated. For instance, my degree, state criminal clearance and custody modification order would go to the Qatar Embassy in NY but my federal clearances would got to the one in Washington.

I completed my state Apostilles on my own, since Harrisburg is a short 2 hour drive away and they completed them on the spot, except for that one time I mailed my custody modification but it wasn’t right so they sent it right back.  Once it was corrected I took it up there myself.  For the U.S. Dept. of State and Qatar Embassy authentications, I used a company to take care of it for me.  This way I didn’t have to drive all over the east coast.  Many people opt to DIY to save money but not me.  I would have spent money on gas, tolls, food, probably hotel stay.  I also avoided a lot of added stress by paying the company to do this for me.  The company I used was PROEX.

http://www.goproex.com/

Cindy is very helpful.  It wasn’t cheap but necessary.  Both times I sent documents to PROEX, I sent three each and it cost me roughly $300 both times.

So that’s how you get documents authenticated. The weird thing about authentications is, it doesn’t prove that the document is really from a certain place or is even legit.  It seems to just confirm the notary before.  I hope this post helps.

 

Qatar Roller Coaster

So let me tell you a little about this Qatar Roller Coaster but please keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different and not everyone takes the same Roller Coaster to QATAR.

If I had hair, I’d be bald, but I already am and therefore have none to pull out and none to lose. If I was light skinned, my face would be red, but I’m brown skinned, so therefore you can’t see my meter go up. LOL. I have to laugh to keep from crying, because this whole process is frustrating and a lot of people in my shoes would have probably given up by now.  But not me, although sometimes for a brief moment of insanity I want to.  But then all of this would have been for nothing, and a HUGE waste of time.  [Side note: I hate wasting time! It is a pet peeve of mine.]

So let me tell you a little about this Qatar Roller Coaster but please keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different and not everyone takes the same Roller Coaster to QATAR.  If your situation is similar to mine, (married, divorced, school age kids by first husband, remarried) then please learn from my mistakes.

  • I drove to Harrisburg to get my modified custody order authenticated and they turned me down.  The paperwork did not have the proper certification or signature.
  • Called PROEX to continue with the authentication of the Degree and state criminal checks so the custody order wouldn’t hold up those items or the beginning process of my visa. [Thank God I did, keep reading]
  • Received my authenticated paperwork back from PROEX! YAY

20160531_224328.jpg

  • Went to family court after numerous phone calls to confirm I was doing this right.  Paid $41.58 to have the court certify and sign the custody order.
  • Mailed the form to Harrisburg
  • Harrisburg couldn’t authenticate my custody order. WHY? Because the certification that I paid for, was incorrect.  [SCREAM] Hopefully the information I got today over the phone is correct or hopefully I understand it correctly.  So here is the scoop: My modified custody order needs to be taken to the Court of Common Pleas, City Hall, not Family Court.  It is there where I must get it certified, and signed by the Director of the office of the Judicial Records for another whopping $41.58. [Laugh to keep from crying] Guess what, I have to wait for Harrisburg to mail the order back to me first, then take it down there, then mail it back to Harrisburg.  Blessing: I didn’t drive all the way to Harrisburg this time, I mailed it.  I only wasted the price of 2 stamps this time and avoided a meltdown at the state office.
  • FBI still doesn’t have me in the system (OMG U.S. CAN BE JUST AS SLOW AS THE MIDDLE EAST) but they are opening mail postmarked from March 14, 2016 as of today, which is when mine was postmarked.  So fingers crossed ours gets opened this week. P.S. call them every week to see if they have hit your date.
  • I received an email from the H.R. rep saying my family flights to Doha were secured for August 19th and our housing has been requested.
  • I emailed him back and requested that date be moved up to Aug 15 or 16. Because I am supposed to start work on Aug 21.  If I leave on the 19th, I will probably still be jet-lagged and I need time to settle in.
  • Hey at least our flights are booked.
  • Everyone has their luggage. TJMax has great luggage. Keep checking your favorite TJ Max store, as they get new shipments of luggage weekly.  That is where I purchased the boys luggage.  I got mine from Boscovs.  My sister and brother swear by Boscovs and now I am a believer.  I couldn’t believe I found the luggage I wanted there.
  • I also purchased packing cubes, a luggage scale and a lavender eye mask from Amazon. I don’t want to have messy luggage, go over the luggage capacity or be awake for a 12-14 hour flight.
  • Only 2 weeks left at work! YAY!
  • One of my girlfriends have agreed to take Zoey, the dog! YAY! She will be picked up in July.  I hope she likes her new home.  There’s 6 kids there and another Shih Tzu.
  • Booked a flight to North Carolina for me and the boys for the end of this month.  We are going to visit, Toketha. She is another teacher that is going to Qatar that I met via Facebook.  Her son is around the same age as Zamir, so we thought it would be a good idea that they meet.  They have already connected via the Book.
  • The bright side of the paperwork is that the custody papers should be back from the authentication process from the state and the FBI clearance should all arrive around the same time.  Then I can send them off together to PROEX to have the process completed.  That will be the end of the paperwork, HOPEFULLY!
  • My translated custody order is in the mail.
  • I’m 50% through with my TEFL online course.

So as you can see, there is a lot of behind the scene things that are occurring.  Sometimes I look at others situations and get discouraged because many of the other teachers are already done with all their paperwork.  Some weren’t even required to get documents translated.  Some saved money by completing the whole authentication process on their own.  But hey this is my situation, my life, our journey.  And I’m on it for the long ride.

Sometimes you have to go with your Gut

Qatar was the last place I applied to, the last place I interviewed for but the first to give me an offer.

I started this whole process over three years and I was turned down by ADEC and AUSK.  I took the last three years and worked on me.  I obtained more experience as a classroom teacher, returned to school and earned my Masters Degree and Reading Specialist Certification, resigned from my job, taught college course, coached teachers and grew personally and professionally.  Then I started this process over and made sure nothing stood in my way.  I feel vindicated.  There are no goals unattainable if you really want it.

This is a big life change and it is scary but what’s even scarier is not taking this chance. Qatar feels right.  What really won me over (beside the benefits), was the communication and openness of the people at Qatar Foundation.  I have prayed and prayed and I am going in Eyes Wide Open.  Qatar was the last place I applied to, the last place I interviewed for but the first to give me an offer.  So I signed my contract and sent it off because sometimes you have to go with your gut.

Afterwards I called my mom and told her the news.  She took it better than I thought.  Since then I have put it out there to the world via Facebook and finally invited people to take this journey with me and my family and follow my blog.

Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar

By Friday I still hadn’t heard from ADEC or AUSK and a decision had to be made.

It was 9:15 am, 2 days ago when I received my offer from Dawn of QF.  The benefit package was very lucrative. Without giving up a dollar amount here is a list of benefits offered by QF:

  • monthly salary
  • no taxes
  • free furnished accommodation
  • paid utilities
  • medical and life insurance for myself and my dependents
  • 20% towards the purchase of a vehicle
  • monthly transportation allowance
  • shipping allowance
  • relocation allowance
  • paid tuition to a QF private school or an allowance toward another private school for my dependents
  • visa sponsorship for myself and my family
  • yearly flights home for myself and my family
However, there were two problems.
1) I was only given 2 days to sign
2) I wanted to compare the benefits of Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait and I had not yet received offers from either ADEC or AUSK.
I called my Teach Away reps to find out the status of my other applications.  Apparently, I was still being considered for both companies and awaiting offer letters.
Later that evening, I SKYPED with Dawn.  She was open and willing to offer answers to all my questions.  I would be teaching Kindergarten, which I indicated as my grade of preference, unless she hired a teacher who could only teach Kindergarten, then I would be bumped to first grade. Either is fine with me.  I would be responsible for the subjects English Language Arts and Science.
My family and I put together a comparison chart for the three countries and taped it to the wall.  We were going to use it to display the benefits to help with the decision making.
For the most part, I had some idea of the benefits ADEC and AUSK offered.  ADEC did not pay utilities, transportation fees or schooling for the boys.  The salary was a little more but once you factor in the transportation allowance and paid utilities it actually is a whole lot less. That doesn’t even include tuition for my kids and private schooling is expensive.  Expat children cannot attend public school in Abu Dhabi.  Another consideration was that I would not know where I would be placed until I got there and the contract would be for 3 years.  The benefits package offered by AUSK is a lot more comparable to QF.  AUSK has a beautiful facility, but the pay is less. Kuwait also lies very close to Iraq and Iran.
By Friday I still hadn’t heard from ADEC or AUSK and a decision had to be made.  Should I wait for the other offers and possibly lose out on a great opportunity or take a chance and go with a country that I never considered previously?

 

Panic

I love sunsets and sunrises. On this day I was blessed to be able to see both. Of course, everyday that we wake up and go to sleep, they exist, but how often do we actually watch both.

My sisters and I left Atlanta around 4:30am on Tuesday 2.9.16.  We were trying to beat the snow storm that was headed to Philly.  During the long ride home, I received a phone call from my TeachAway rep.  She told me that the QF was interested in a follow up interview with me and asked if I would be available the next day.  “Of course! But wait, where do I need to go for this one?”  Fortunately it would be a SKYPE interview from the comforts of my own home. “Thank God!” As much as I love to travel, I was craving my own bed and to see my husband, kids and Zoey the dog.

By the time I reached home, it was dark, snowing and cold.  A Qatar number came up on my caller ID.  I was nervous about answering.  But I did.  It was Dawn, the Director of Al Wakra.  She told me that she was very interested in me and wanted me to interview with her Principal and Vice Principal since if I was offered the job and I accepted I would be working closely with them.  I was happy that things were moving in a positive direction.  Then she told me that if all went well, I’d have an offer letter the next day. “WHAT!”

Now I was panicking…I hadn’t heard from Abu Dhabi or Kuwait yet.

FINDING MY WAY

I can see the New York New Years ball from the view in my hotel room. It’s so lit up in Times Square that it looks like day time even though it’s after 8pm here. It’s Tuesday already in Abu Dhabi. It’s quiet here. It’s just me alone in this classy Marriott Marquis room.

image

My morning began with me checking my bags for this trip. In the afternoon, I purchased some allergy pills since my prescription was out of refills, and took out some money. I ran through my directions once more before my wonderful husband took me to the Megabus stop down 30th street.

The bus ride was good. I sat upstairs in the front as if I was driving. No one sat next to me, which was great. It was a quick ride.

I got on the wrong train to town. I realized it when the numbers began decreasing instead of increasing. At the advice of a young lady, I got off at 14th street and crossed over to the other side of the track. I took the train up to 42nd street and got off. I began walking the wrong way, realized it when the numbers were decreasing again and turned around. Finally made it to 47th and Broadway but couldn’t find the Marriott. I found the Doubletree but that’s not my home for 2 more days. I knew the doubletree was close so one of the workers pointed me to the Marriott, across the street, no sign on Broadway. You have to walk on the side street to see the entrance. Check in was easy peasy.

I had a dinner reservation for 7 at Obao, that’s Thai,but I was too hungry to wait. So I started walking, the wrong way, realized when… Well you get the picture. Turned around and found my way. Dinner was good. If you ever go, try the ribs wrapped around sugar cane. Mouthwatering!

20160201_181022.jpg

I’ve looked over my interview questions and answers enough. I’m ready. Tomorrow’s the big day. Navy blue suit, purchased at Macy’s, pressed and ready. My mind is right. Whatever God wills, will be.

 

 

 

Make me Love NY

 

My interview in New York is less than 1 week away. I finally received the venue information for the ADEC interview.  It will be at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.  It is an expensive hotel but my room is booked for 2 nights, Monday and Tuesday.  Since the interview is Tuesday 2/2 and there is no set time, except for between 9-4:00, I want to make sure I am right there.  I’ve never stayed at the Marquis so I am treating myself.  My sister’s birthday is Feb 3, the day after my interview, so I have invited her up to stay a night or two so we can take on New York.  She will stay Tuesday-Thursday. See, I hate New York.  I am sorry if I offend anyone but I just do.  My niece who used to attend college at PACE is coming with my sister.  They are going to try to change me into a lover of New York.  I am open to try but I doubt it.  New York does have a lot to see and enjoy but it’s just not my cup of tea.

On Wednesday, I will check out of the Marquis and into the Doubletree down the street, for my Kuwait interview.  I will stay there Wednesday and Thursday.  My interview will be sometime between 9-1:00, on Friday 2/5  My husband will come up on Thursday after my sister and niece leave, so we can spend sometime together and we will check out on Friday and head home.

Saturday morning, my two sisters and I will start our road trip to Atlanta and head back home on Tuesday. My Qatar interview will be on Monday 2/8.

A teacher from New York will be interviewing in New York for ADEC and in Atlanta for Qatar on the same days as I.  She also has a blog.  Somehow our blogs met each other and we follow each other and the rest is history. Here is the link to her blog nycteacherabroad.wordpress.com. Two different people who’ve never met, on the same journey at the same time.  How funny is that? Hopefully she and I can meet up in New York and then again in the Middle East.

%d bloggers like this: