Adventures in Costa Rica

The Coati jumped up and ripped the bag trying to get to the food and I caught it all on camera.

I spent my 45th birthday in Costa Rica and my husband came to help me celebrate. We booked a full day tour of adventure. If ever you’re in Costa Rica and looking for some fun, this post has ideas to consider.

We were picked up by our tour company pretty early in the morning and set out on explorations. One of the things I absolutely adore about Costa Rica is how you can find these large signs posted all over the country identifying where you are. They make for great pictures.

We received some history tidbits as we drove through different provinces too.

Monumento a Juan Santamaría– Juan Santamaria is one of the most popular figures in Latin America. In Costa Rica, he is recognized as a national hero for his role in maintaining the country’s independence.
Monument of Tomás Guardia- was President of Costa Rica on two occasions: from 1870 to 1876, and from 1877 to 1882. He enacted Costa Rica’s 1871 Constitution, which remained in force until 1948

Our first official stop was to the Tres Generaciones Coffee Plantation, where we had the most amazing cup of coffee. Of course, we had to buy some. The plantation is also vast and beautiful.

Coffee plants everywhere
Green for miles and miles.
Green Coffee Beans
Coffee beans are not ripe when they are green. They need to be bright red and glossy.

Hey did you know that Starbucks has a coffee farm in Costa Rica? And they offer tours.

After coffee and sweets, we continued our drive to the Cinchona Waterfalls. This waterfall reminded Darryl and I of the Wailua Falls on the Road to Hana in Maui. There is a bridge in the front of the Cinchona waterfall that you can take pictures from just like Wailua. I recommend walking to the middle of the bridge to get some interesting pictures of the waterfall and on the other side of the bridge to get some more. Be careful on this bridge because it’s small, vehicles take turns going in either direction and they don’t really pay pedestrians any attention. The waterfall is beautiful and cool. I could spend a day right here.

We stopped at the Soda y Mirador Cinchona. Here you can enjoy typical Costa Rican food with the Hummingbirds while admiring the waterfall in the distant. The snack provided here, by the tour company, wasn’t anything I could eat so I can’t comment on the quality of the food. But being so close to the tiny birds was nice. I was also able to get a behind the scenes view of cooking happening in the kitchen and pick up some snacks.

Up close and pesonal with hummingbirds
The kitchen- behind the scenes
It’s not Costa Rica if there’s no Gallo Pinto

The next part of our adventure was seeing some animals in the wild. Along the side of the road, we met up with a Coati. It’s a medium sized rodent that favors a raccoon. My husband had the fabulous idea to exit the van to get a closer look at the coati but he forgot he had a bag of food in his hand and the coati smelled it. The Coati jumped up and ripped the bag trying to get to the food and I caught it all on camera. Hahaha. Check it out…

A hungry Coati

Along with the coati, we were able to catch a glimpse of a sloth and some large iquanas in their natural habitat.

Close up of the sloth in the tree
The sloth was in this banana tree. I think the way bananas grow is so interesting.
Iguana minding his own business

We had a Casada lunch (typical Costa Rica meal) during our travels. And the true adventure happened in the trees at “go.adventure” at the Arenal Park. It is here where we were able to see the amazing Arenal Volcano and what a beautiful site it is.

Restaurant for Casada
Arenal Volcano- An active stratovolcano, built upon layers of ash, rock and lava – and at 5,437 feet (1,657 meters), it stands high above the rest of the countryside

We got our adrenaline pumping by flying through the forest. We conquered 8 zip lines in total. Some were long and fast, while others were short and sweet. We zipped past some gorillas and through trees. It was exhilarating and fun.

Nothing like flying through the trees
Darryl enjoyed it too

I even repelled down a wall for the first time and I think I found a new hobby.

This was awesome

Before heading to dinner and back home, we stopped at one of the hot spring resorts in La Fortuna for a couple of hours. I can’t recall the name of the one we visited, but they have warm and cool spring pools that you can enjoy. Some are secluded and hidden behind trees. You can order drinks from the bar and enjoy spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano. The resort is nice but I was expecting natural hot springs not pools. The resort would be a nice place for a stay but if you’re only there for the day, they offer changing rooms for your convenience. We enjoyed this resort until the rain finally caught up with us.

Afterwards we stopped at a large souvenir shop with many handmade and authentic Costa Rican items to purchase. It was dark by the time we got dinner. Dinner was at a Soda (restaurant with typical Costa Rican food). The food was okay, but we weren’t impressed by the other patrons, dogs. The restaurant workers had to keep chasing them away. (Side Note) There are a lot of stray dogs in Costa Rica. You don’t really encounter them so much in the central valley though.

It was close to midnight when we got dropped off and we were beat. But it was a wonderful way to spend my birthday.

How to have an Awesome Spa day at home

If you get a snore out of your mate, you’ve succeeded.

With being quarantined and all, one of the things I miss is going to the spa. Once a month I would go for a massage and roughly every two months, I would go for the full treatment of a facial, body scrub and massage, so I decided to plan a Spa day at home. The first idea was for Darryl and I to have it on the same day but then who would pamper who and who would relax.

Then, I decided to split our days. He would have his spa day first so that I could set the example of how it should look. He is really good at following directions and taking it to the next level.

Preparation:

There are a few things you may need to purchase but most things you probably have at home. Here’s what you’ll need: waffle robes, cozy pajamas for afterwards, comfy slippers, several towels, infused socks, pumice stone, candles, essential oils (ex: lemongrass, lavender, eucalyptus), downloaded zen playlist, lemons, fresh mint leaves, water, snacks (ex: stuffed dates, apricots, chocolate covered strawberries), tea (they always offer ginger tea at my spa and I love it), routine facial products (cleanser/scrub, toner, cream, serums, moisturizer), cucumbers, massage oil, massage stone, bath bomb, bubbles, and rose petals. Don’t forget a body brush.

I found some exfoliating foot socks which I had never tried before but they work really well. I also purchased a Neutrogena face mask from the grocery store. They were inexpensive and smelled wonderful. I found a Zen playlist on Spotify and used that instead of youtube because youtube has gotten ridiculous with the amount of ads and commercials they play. Commercials would have killed the mood. We used the mint leaves and lemons for infused water. I recommend the bath bombs from Lush. The grocery store sold me two roses and chopped off the stems for me to use the petals. When Darryl went to the store for my spa day, they had rose petals in a bag already and were cheaper than buying the actual roses. So ask the store if they have a bag of rose petals you can purchase. I made my own lip scrub from coconut oil, sugar and honey, my own body scrub using coconut oil, ground coffee, sugar and cinnamon and my own foot scrub using epson salt, coconut oil and peppermint oil.

Set up:

Clean a room and set the mood. We used our guest bedroom and bathroom and put everything personal away. Ambiance is not complete without the right lighting and candles do the trick. Prepare all the material ahead of time so that everything runs smoothly. Researching how to massage your mate is crucial. This is where Youtube and Pinterest help. Light the candles all around the rooms and place the rose petals everywhere including in the bath tub. Draw a warm bath. Use an oil burner for aromatherapy. Lemongrass will have the room smelling like a real spa. Make your treats ahead of time including the snacks, infused water, and tea. Set up all the products that you will be using. Boil some water in a large pot for a face steam. After the water is boiling, turn it off and add a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus and lavender. Heat up your massage oil and stone. Have a rolled up towel to place under your guest head or a travel pillow will also work. Have a chair for you to sit on or a pillow to kneel on depending on the height of the bed. Dress in soft, sexy material so that it feels good brushing up against your mate and you’re home so why not dress sexy. Set a time for your guest, adjust the room temperature. Turn on the music and when ready invite your guest in to the oasis.

The Experience:

As mentioned before, it is best to have the spa days on a different day so that each person has a day to actually relax and be pampered by the other. Darryl out-did me with the ambiance as he created a creature out of towels.

Begin with a dry brush to brush away dead skin and get the blood flowing. Have your mate lay on the bed and start dry brushing them from the feet up towards the heart, when you get to the neck and shoulders brush down towards the heart. Have him/her drink a glass of room temperature water.

After they’ve been thoroughly brushed, take them into the bathroom and sit them down. Cleanse and exfoliate their face and lips. Use a soft bristle tooth brush to scrub the lips. Then have them lean over the hot pot of water and oil with a towel draped over their head for a 5-10 minute face steam. Don’t have the candles too close to the steam pot, or you might burn the towel. (learn from my mistake)

Following the steam bath, have them get into the bath tub. Apply the face mask and cucumber and allow them time to relax and unwind. Check on them after 10 minutes and offer some water. Tell them to remove the cucumbers, mask and wash themselves and to inform you when they are ready for their scrub.

Now it is time for you to use your diy body scrub and scrub that body from head to toe, using your hands, a loofah or scrub gloves. Use the foot scrub and a pumice stone to scrub the feet. Have them rinse off with the shower head and wrap their body in a towel. Air drying is best.

Bring them back into the bedroom, offer water and snacks. Then have them lay down on their stomach on the bed. If they appear a little cold cover them with a weighted towel or blanket. Put the exfoliating socks on your mate if you have them. Then gently touch all over their body to get them ready. Begin the massage from the shoulders down, with warm oil, kneading over every body muscle. When you’re done, have them turn over and place a mask over their eyes or a warm cloth and massage all over on this side. Remove the socks and massage the feet too. End with a scalp and moisturizing face massage. Don’t forget the hands. A hand massage feels so, so good. When they are ready, they may dress themselves in the pj’s and/or robe and enjoy a hot glass of ginger tea. They should sleep really good tonight.

If you get a snore out of your mate, you’ve succeeded. It will be a day you both will cherish and you might even add SPA DAY at HOME into a yearly or even monthly routine.

30 days in Quarantine

*Disclaimer- this post is long but what else do you have to do

The beginning of quarantine started on Tuesday, March 10. It was the first day that students were told to stay home but we teachers still had to go to the school for work to prepare for what would come next, distance learning. It was also on this day that we were highly encouraged not to travel for spring break (due to the risk of illness and getting stuck outside of the country) and to apply for a Hamad card (a social security initiative for heavily subsidized healthcare in government-run medical institutions including pharmacies, basically welfare) because apparently our regular medical does not cover illnesses associated with pandemics. On Wednesday, I spent the day obtaining my Hamad card. Usually getting things like this done in Qatar takes time and patience. In my experience depending on where you go to get your Hamad card, requirements will be a tad bit different. However here is the list of things you will need: a passport picture blue background, 100 QAR on a credit card, copies of RP, proof of address (this will vary)- utility bill, or attested copy of lease with Kahrama letter (you can get this from your leasing office). You must go to the Primary Health Care Center nearest to where you live. You are given your card on the spot. If you need to renew your card this can be done online. — information retrieved from https://www.qatarday.com/blog/health/why-should-you-get-a-health-card-in-qatar/29120.

Thursday was our last day in the physical school. With the daily constant rise in cases of people infected with Covid-19, the quarantine rules have gotten pretty strict. Everything is closed now with the exception of the supermarkets, pharmacies and take out and we are encouraged to stay in doors. Social distancing is enforced here with threats of prosecution. I’m thinking we will be quarantined for at least 30 days.

Day 1- Spring break has just officially ended and we are still in quarantine. And although, technically it is not day one, it is the first official day of distance working. I want to keep busy or at least productive. Last week was spring break so I wasn’t as focused on being productive. But now since I have been blessed with all this extra free time, I don’t want to look back when this is over and feel like I wasted it and gained 10 pounds in the process.

Today Darryl and I started a 30 day workout consisting of daily push ups, squats, sit ups and lunges that increase in quantity per day. In addition we rotate abs, tabata, upper body, legs and yoga workouts daily. Today was abs. I read 20+ pages of my Abundance Now- by Lisa Nichols book. The plan is to finish the book by Tuesday, so I can start my new book on How to Publish a Children’s book. I worked on setting up my budget app- My Wallet and we took a virtual tour to the Grand Canyon and Hawaii’s national Volcano park. I’ve discovered that virtual tours can be useful when planning trips. You can document exact points of interest like the best locations for panoramic views and the best hiking trails for the scenery you’re most interested in seeing. Darryl cooked an asian spread consisting of sushi, udon noodles and fried rice with vegetables. Next is…

Day 2- I didn’t sleep very well last night. I think the extent that I have been following this Coronavirus is beginning to give me anxiety. The constant obsessing over it has began to weigh on me. For the past 2 days, I have been feeling some discomfort in my throat, like my uvula is swollen and is sitting too far in my throat. I’ve read that one of the symptoms of the virus is throat discomfort and soreness. However, I don’t have a cough or fever and I haven’t been around anyone who has traveled or who is sick. Last Monday, a group of us (11), had a small social gathering at a friends house but none of us had recently traveled. Outside of that, we saw our 2 close friends twice and they are fine. I’ve only been out of the house for an hour walk with Jenn and I wore a face mask the entire time and went with Darryl to the supermarket once with a face mask on. I made sure to avoid touching my face and wash and sanitize my hands. Other than this, I have been in the house and away from people. I hope it’s nothing, but I think I’m freaking myself out. In the meantime, I’ve heard drinking hot liquids helps and I’ve been taking Vitamin C, Echinacea and Golden Seal daily. I wonder if anyone else is experiencing these anxieties.

After spending some time on the phone speaking with my sisters about my feelings, I’m feeling better. Some people may be ashamed for how they feel or embarrassed but let me tell you, expressing your feelings to someone who cares about you and won’t judge does wonders. And I’m pretty sure others are feeling the same.

After picking myself back up, I was able to take a good nap. At 12, it was exercise time again. Today consisted of my regular workout and Tabata. I cooked Bok Choy for the first time and made some black beans in an adobe sauce. I made my first foot scrub today consisting of epson salt, coconut oil, Vit E and peppermint oil. The rest of the day included reading, more de-cluttering, making phone calls and getting clarity on my insurance policies as well as mortgage and student loan interest rates. Keeping busy.

Day 3-Last night I took 2 tylenol Pm and slept like a baby. I finished my book and finished de-cluttering. I made my first lip scrub, did my regular workout and upper body strength training.

Days 4 was spent much like the others, workouts, future trip planning and creating budget plans.

Day 5 started with a work related conference call and additional planning of lessons because distance learning will continue longer than originally anticipated. Of course we worked out and then I tackled my inbox, thousands of emails reduced to less than 200 in all 3 of my accounts. It took me over 2 hours to clean my emails. They need to invent a better way to clean up mailboxes or I just need to get better with clutter.

This was how many messages I had in just 1 of my email accounts

I began my new book “The Business of Writing for Children” to prepare for my next venture of getting a children’s book written and published. Darryl and I took a virtual trip to the catacombs and the Louvre in Paris since Zamir and I didn’t get to go into either site when we visited Paris 3 years ago.

Day 6- organizing pictures and working out.

Day 7- Today was scary, I had to go to the clinic. I was experiencing pressure in my neck area and stinging pain in my chest. I got an EKG which was in the normal range. No temperature, no swelling or redness of the throat, nothing in the lungs, diagnosis: early onset viral infection possibly connected to allergies. I received some meds and was told to return in 3 weeks for a repeat EKG and follow up. Oh boy, what’s happening to me.

Day 8- I felt a little better today, but stayed in bed anyway. I’m 2 days behind on my exercise and I’m not happy about that. I ordered some herbs from Swanson and toiletries from Amazon since it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting back to the U.S. anytime soon to refill. I completed some distance learning assignments for my students that receive learning support from me and spent the rest of the day reading, watching t.v., playing some brain trainer games, and relaxing. I really wish this Pandemic would go away. The U.S. is getting hit hard right now and in my opinion the government is not doing enough to protect its people. Money is their first priority and that’s a shame. I’m worried about my family back home. I’m worried about my own health. I feel stressed.

I took a nice, long, hot bath that melted my stress away and helped me have a peaceful night of rest.

Day 9- started with a business conference call about virtual admission testing for next school year and how to set these up. Not wanting to fall further behind on my 30 day work out plan, I jumped back in today. I adjusted my finances around and made up a budget plan for a future trip to Jordan. I’ve decided to stay in my apartment complex next year, so for the first time in 4 years, I won’t be moving to a different complex. However I will be downsizing to a smaller apartment. Darryl and I played our new Guitar Hero game that we ordered. I compared term, universal and whole life insurance policies and made a decision about which would be best for me. The day concluded with creating a draft Will.

Day 10- was a lazy day, spent mostly in front of Amazon Prime but also included working out and reading.

Day 11- I had to prepare more work today for another week of distance learning as well as attend another conference call about virtual admissions testing. I finished my book on The Business of Writing Children’s books and am ready to start my first manuscript. My friends and I played a game of Virtual Trivia tonight. It was fun to kick back, drink and enjoy other peoples company. Shout out to my girl Alyssa for putting it together.

Day 12- Today was the first day I have been out in weeks with the exception of the doctor’s visit. I just felt the need to leave these four corners if only for a little while. Darryl and I took a 3 mile walk around the outskirts of our apartments. It was warm out and welcoming.

Days 13-15- I spend some time talking to my mom and sister over the phone. My sister has lost her job amid this pandemic and the world is a very scary place right now. A few facebook friends of mine back in America have the virus and are recovering. We always crave more time to do whatever and then we get it, it’s difficult to do whatever because the time is spent worrying. For some reason, I can’t find it in me to begin my manuscript. I haven’t worked out in a few days but I’m resting though and resting is good right?

Day 16- Darryl woke up with a fever today. I’m worried. We haven’t traveled or been around anyone who has the virus but he has been to the grocery stores. Is it possible he has caught it somehow, no, I can’t think this way. He doesn’t have any other symptoms. He spoke to a doctor and they prescribed him a decongestant, the same one I just finished, Cirrus. Prayerfully, it’s just sinuses and not corona. I think our bodies are reacting toward stress. This is why I have limited myself to the amount of reading and accessing info on the virus. It was beginning to take its toll on my health and I think it is the same with him now.

I have a few virtual meetings to for work and I am grateful to still have my job .

Day 17&18- Keeping busy helps me stay positive. Darryl is beginning to feel better. We started the Star Wars trilogy in chronological order. He loves Star Wars. I think it is okay but watching it in order is helping me to better understand the story. We are also trying to learn some line dances, starting with Old Town Road. We got my sister in on it as well.

Youtube is like my new best friend. I’ve been researching some face care routines but honestly, my facial skin is one of my pride and joys. I very rarely have break outs unless my body is fighting a virus or something and my skin is always clear and smooth. I may add in a treatment once a week and sunscreen into my daily regiment. But that is about it. I’ve also looked into calligraphy and how to make home-made candles.

We started working out again and yesterday I even attended a religious meeting online. I went to the supermarket in Darryl’s place because I really don’t want him outside right now. I haven’t shopped alone in a long time. Actually being outside gave me a sense of normalcy again even it if was anything but normal with getting my temperature taken before entering the store, wearing gloves and mask and standing outside to keep social distance. I picked up a delivery from Aramex including my life size Jenga. The cost of delivery was 3 times the price of the game, which was already expensive, and it is heavy but if I have to be home, minds well have some fun.

I applied to refinance my house back home today; hopefully I will hear good news within a few days. I know I will be approved because my credit is stellar right now. I really just want to lower my interest rate before I start paying it off. I’ve also found some podcast to start listening to. One that I find particularly interesting is called, Stuff They Don’t Want you to Know. I listen to it on Spotify. I started brushing up on my Arabic too using the Duolingo app. I should have never stopped my Arabic classes. I suck now.

Day 19-26- I told you this post was long but keep reading.

I’ve actually been busy with work lately. I completed some admission testing for next school year and that has been taking up much of my mornings, followed by working out. Other than that, I’ve just been relaxing and enjoying this time at home. I have good days and blah days but I’m learning to simply appreciate this time. I love hearing the birds sing in the morning, which I didn’t pay much attention to before. I love not being on a schedule or routine. Some days are productive and some aren’t and I don’t feel bad about those unproductive days either. I don’t have to be productive right now, I just need to survive and appreciate each day I have here on this Earth.

Day 28 I think. It has almost been 30 days and my days and nights are starting to run into each other. I’m enjoying the fact that outside of the occasional virtual meeting, posting of assignments and testing, my days are pretty much unscheduled and a free for all. I pretty much do as I feel. I try to do some form of exercise every day if I feel up to it but if I don’t feel like getting out of bed, I don’t. Yesterday, Darryl and I did our 30 day workout routine, a yoga session and our line dancing. I don’t have a set in stone routine and I’m fine with that; this may be the first time in my adult life that I don’t.

Ramada is a week away and we have just been informed that we won’t be packing up our rooms for the first time in my teaching career. This is unheard of for teachers. There are only 5 weeks left in this school year. This has been thee shortest and whackiest school year ever.

One of the big things I have learned from this quarantine is that money should be spent on making your house as homely and comfortable as possible. I wish I had my own outdoor space right now and a private pool would be nice but I am thankful for the complex that I am in since I can take a nice long walk without treading thru sand and dirt. I am blessed to live with a compatible partner who doesn’t get on my nerves and who I love and who loves me dearly.

As of today, I won’t be taking any trips anytime soon. So for now, I will continue to enjoy this new way of living, filled with rest, relaxation, practice and make-up tutorials on youtube and IG, learning Arabic on Duolingo, keeping my brain fresh with Peak Brain Games, online classes, t.v. watching, working out, self care, etc… The funny thing is, if quarantine ends within the next month, I will still have 3 months of summer vacation left.

Day 29- Today I completed an online photography class through Nikon. It was very informative. A 45 minute class took me almost 3 hours between experimenting with my camera and taking notes. Here I am practicing with the exposure, taking pictures with various IOS, shutter and aperture.

Today was a friends birthday so I set up a Zoom call with a few friends so we could sing happy birthday to him and enjoy a shot together. It was my first time attending a virtual birthday party and there was zero clean up. My type of party.

Tomorrow marks the 30th day of quarantine and the Covid-19 cases in Qatar continue to rise. I hope the country has reached its peak and an end is in sight.

Day 30 Today is day 30 of quarantine and social distancing and the last day for this long ass post. I think today is day 30, maybe more. All sense of date and time has disappeared for me. Either way, I am quite proud of how I have handled these last 30 days and of course there is room for improvement.

Darryl and I completed 18 days of our 30 day challenge which equals 60% and accomplished an accumulated number of 162 push ups, 1285 squats, 705 sit ups, and 422 lunges per leg.

However this percent does not include the days I walked 3+ miles or other work out routines we did. We will complete the 30 day workout plan and then switch to a new one on May 1, since I see no end to this quarantine within the next 30 days. The plan is to increase our percentage to 80% for May.

Approximately 90% of our days were spent doing something productive. I learned a new line dance, new makeup techniques, and skin care routines, learned how to use my Canan Rebel, finished two books, worked, decluttered, budgeted, took some virtual trips, organized photos and emails, wrote a will, practiced Arabic, spent more than I wanted to and even cooked a little. But I didn’t write my book. So now this goal gets pushed to May.

More importantly than all of these things is, I spoke to my loved ones back home more than I have in my last 3.5 years abroad with weekly scheduled regular and facetime calls. My husband and I spent a lot of quality time together. I obeyed the social distancing laws and stayed healthy and safe. Outside of a few tough days, I tried my best to remain positive emotionally and mentally.

Here’s to Survival, Love and God!

How have you all been holding up and occupying your time?

Things I wish my Parents had Taught me About Planning for the Future

So now I’m 40 and it doesn’t make sense to blame my life on my parents, but it does make sense to re-invent myself and teach my children what I wish my parents had taught me. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my future and my past.   I’m Forty-Years old, gosh, typing that makes it feel too real.   When you are young, you don’t think about when you’ll be 40.   But now that I am, there are some things that I wished my parents would have told me that maybe could have put me in a different situation.   Maybe I would have listened, possibly not.   When you are young, you think you know everything and most young people live for the day.   That mentality has its pros and cons.

My father, God rest his soul, was a drunk for as long as I can remember.   He and my mother separated when I was still a toddler.   I visited him often and on occasion he gave me money as a young teenager.   At the age of 17, I went to live with him, where I was allowed to do whatever I wanted and he didn’t know anything about parenting.   My mother, was a preschool teacher.   She was a single mother for years but I had a couple of step-fathers too.   She worked two jobs for a long time.   I was much younger than my siblings so I spent a lot of time alone.   When I was 12, she decided to return to her religion and I had to too.   It was a very strict religion, no more holiday celebrations, or friends who weren’t in the same religion.   For a while I was happy, until the later years of high school when the rebel came out and I wanted no parts.   I resented her for taking away the holidays and my childhood friends.   Everything was about the religion with her and college was even discouraged for fear of bad influence and no real need to plan for a future in this current life because there wouldn’t be one.

I’m sure my parents did their best, my childhood wasn’t bad.   I’m grateful to have made it to this age, because I did some really reckless things in my youth and I am not blaming anyone but I really wish my parents had taught me…

The importance of maintaining good credit- Credit saves you money.  The better your credit the less you have to spend up front and in the end.  In the past, I’ve had two repossessions and plenty of small bills that made it to my credit.  Thankfully, they happened early on.  I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding my credit and my credit is pretty good now.

If you get a good job, stick with it and build a retirement fund.  If you get the job while young, stay and retire from it.  You’ll be able to do the job you want without worrying about the pay because you will have money coming in from the job you worked for years.  And you will be one of the youngest people you know, not working so hard at 40.- I’ve been working since I was a teenager.  [My mom did insist on my independence, for that I owe her a great deal of credit.]  I’ve had some good jobs too but I never stayed long, always looking for something else.  Til’ this day, I still have difficulty remaining at any job for more than 4 years.  My mom worked as a teacher until she retired, why didn’t she teach me to do the same? I even worked for the state of PA as a case worker for four years.  The retirement plan was great and I could have retired from there in my early 40’s with a good pension, but no-one told me that.   Instead I left the job to go to college full time, which brings me to my next thought….

Go to college right after high school and get a degree, it gives you options- Had I gone to college right out of high school, perhaps I would not have job-hopped so many times.  I had a full ride scholarship to college but no-one encouraged this, so I got me an apartment instead and a job.  [I got great grades in school.  I was very smart.  My mother stayed on me about those grades too]  I went to college later, after a husband and two kids and with those degrees came so many better opportunities.  At least I went but I could have saved myself a lot of heart ache and pain, had someone, anyone, told me to go early.

Invest, build a portfolio- This is something I’m just educating myself about.  I wish I had invested early, built a portfolio and gave myself future stability.

Marry someone you can grow and build with- Recently I read about a couple that did not marry for love, but for growth instead.  This got me to thinking… this is very smart.  Love fades, but growth keeps moving until you choose to stop it.  I’ve been in relationships where one person is trying to grow and the other is simply content where they are- (Me and my ex-husband)- notice I said ex.  It doesn’t work.  Eventually you grow to resent that person or the two of you grow apart.  It doesn’t feel good.

Budget- So many people live above their means.  Before I moved into my first apartment at age 17, my mom held the money that I saved and my father doubled my total.  It was enough to pay the deposit on my apartment and buy some furniture but I was almost evicted within the first year because no-one taught me to budget.  I still struggle with budgeting but I’ve learned the value of paying my bills on time because the longer I let them go unpaid the more money I have to pay in the long run.  And once you get behind it can be almost impossible to catch up.  Now I save first, pay bills next, purchase what I need, and then decide to save more or enjoy the rest.  Very soon I hope to add invest in there somewhere.

Leave your home and travel- I’ve only ever lived in Philadelphia until I moved to Qatar to teach at age 39.  What a deprived life.  I’ve learned so much since moving abroad about life.   I only remember traveling on the East Coast as a child, and never on a plane.  As an adult, I was scared to death of flying and avoided it until I had no other choice but to fly for job training to take care of my sons while they were young.  I can’t help but to think, if I had been exposed to traveling as a child, that fear would not have engulfed me.  I’m still afraid of flying but I no longer allow that fear to keep me from seeing the world.  And to ensure my sons don’t carry that fear, I’ve taken them on many travels and moved them across the world.  Traveling is the best education anyone can receive, trust me.

Live for today but plan for tomorrow, because before you know it, you’ll be 40

So now I’m 40 and it doesn’t make sense to blame my life on my parents, but it does make sense to re-invent myself and teach my children what I wish my parents had taught me. 

 

What do you wish you had learned earlier in life?

 

Your Perceptions Could be Wrong

With only a few days left of winter break, I decided to call one of my new coworkers and invite her to lunch.  It is amazing to me how ignorant we show ourselves to be before we get to know people.  Let me first give you some background: I think that many Indian women are beautiful, have long dark hair, brown coffee skin, and of medium build.  There are many natives from India here in Qatar but the ones I’ve noticed, bobble their heads when speaking, have a recognizable body odor, and are mostly low income.  This was my impression until I met Omaimah.  Omaimah is from the northern part of India and when I first met her, Indian did not come to mind.  When she told me she was from India and I responded with, “Really, I would have never suspected”, she said, “Why, is it because I don’t bobble my head?”  I was so embarrassed, as I should have been.  Which leaves me to question: How often do we judge people or a group of  people before we get to know them?

20171214_104341-1.jpg

This is Omaimah, fair skinned, big eyes, long dark hair (got that right), smells nice, does not bobble her head, is pretty well off and a teacher from India.  She’s beautiful and thoughtful and she has taught me, and she doesn’t even know it, not to judge a group of people before I get to know at least one of them.  Everyone from one country do not all fit in the same box.  I want to apologize to the universe and say thank you Omaimah.

Has something similar ever happened to you?

Read my next post to find out how lunch went, with a real Indian, at a real Indian restaurant…

That’s When I Knew I was in First Class

Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  

Over the summer, along with checking Cuba off of my “I Will DO IT” list, I was able to check off Flying First Class, x2.  The first experience was with American Airlines.  Darryl had already booked our flights home from Miami so I figured I’d see how much it would cost to upgrade.  The upgrade costs us less than $300, so why not.  Before we boarded, we went to the admirals club.  American Airlines had sent me two free passes to the admirals club in the past and I hadn’t used them until now.  Admirals Club is a membership program and lounge operated by American Airlines.  In the lounge, there was free food, drinks for purchase, free wifi, showers, television and comfortable seating.

20170805_114947

Of course, First Class boards first and we were seated in the second row.  The television screens were bigger than in economy class and we were served drinks right away.  We had the constant attention of attendants and received free snacks and a tasteful meal. There was more leg room and the seats were comfortable.

I may have been acting a little bougie, because I kept wondering when they were going to close the curtain.  And when they did- that’s when I knew I was in first class.  You know that E*Trade Commercial, yeah I was the women with the champagne…

There were lots of kids on our flight, but I didn’t hear any.  You don’t know how good it felt, to be the first ones off the plane either.  No waiting, no pushing, just strolling. Like A Boss!

Well something like that anyway.

I sent the following IM to my girlfriends:

“Yo, I just upgraded to first class American Airlines. I’m chillen in the Admirals club waiting for my 4:30 flight with free food and Wi-Fi and showers.  Why not, it’s my birthday month.”

This was my girlfriend Jennifer’s response:

“Let me know when you are riding first class on the way to Doha! That’s when you’re fancy.”

So, what did I do when I got to JFK airport when my summer had concluded and it was time to head back to Doha?  I asked how much it was to upgrade my Qatar Airways tickets to Doha, and that was on some other level!  Now let me clarify something: I am by no means rich, but I have learned how to work the system a little and get cheap flights.  I found a super cheap, one way flight back to Doha from JFK so I was willing to splurge a little if the price to upgrade would put me around the same price of a regular ticket. Sometimes you just have to live a little and at that very moment at that first-class counter a quote I refer to often came to mind…

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 5.54.53 PM

So I bought ‘the shoes’, well the tickets.  I was some what salty because we didn’t get to try out the Qatar Airways lounge.  After fighting through New York traffic and walking that big airport it was almost time to board.  Qatar Airways is already top shelf, so I could not wait to ‘eat the cake’, especially after the ticket handler said that I wouldn’t be able to get my pre-ordered vegan meal.  She said because that was for economy.  She said my meals would be better.  I was willing to have my pre-ordered meal but she said not in first class; they could not bring me economy meals.

We boarded first, of course, and found our seats or reclining beds.  Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  Don’t mind if I do.  She handed me a toiletry purse and directed me to the bathroom.  This bathroom was better than some homes.  After I changed into my pjs, she took my clothes and hung them up in a closet and then made up my bed.  Did you hear me?  She made up my bed.

20170809_211939

20170809_221752

My husband asked if we could order a drink but was told that they can only offer champagne until after the take off.  Don’t mind if I do.  We were given menus to choose what we wanted to eat and were told me could order how much and how often we’d like. Did you hear what I said? Order how much and how often we’d like.  It was like having our very own butler, because the attendants attended to our every need.

Seven hours into the flight, Darryl woke me up and reminded me that I had slept half our first-class experience away.  It was the best sleep I had ever had on a flight.

So we watched some movies on our big screen monitor together and ate and drank for the duration of the flight.  First class makes a long flight enjoyable and if I could fly this way everywhere I would spend the money and do it.

20170809_230041

20170809_231536

20170810_084511

The only thing I didn’t like about both of my first class experiences was the big console in between the seats.  Darryl and I couldn’t cuddle.  In economy you can lift the armrest and lay in each other’s arms but the big consoles between us made this impossible. Should that deter you from flying first-class?  HELL NO!  It is an experience worth having at least once, if you can afford it.

The Spice of Doha

If you’re looking for a variety of choices of tasty foods to eat on a Friday afternoon, the Spice Market is an excellent choice.

The first Friday brunch I ever attended in Doha was at the Spice Market.  I had only been once for the brunch because it is one of the more pricier ones, but it was memorable. After a not so impressive brunch at what used to be my favorite place, Zengo (more on that later), Jennifer, JD, my husband, Nancy, her husband and I decided to go back to Spice Market to see if it was the same as we remembered, and it did not disappoint.

The Spice Market is located in the W Doha Hotel in the Diplomatic area of Doha.  The flower arrangement that greets you upon entering the hotel is beautiful and the bold blue bulbs that dangle from the ceiling are the perfect backdrops for pictures.

lobby

blue bulbs

We were welcomed to the restaurant by tray choices of drink specials, non alcoholic and White Lady, Classic Margarita, Ginger Margarita or champagne.  Don’t mind if I do!

drink specials.jpg

Besides seafood, I don’t partake in any animal products but there was a variety of different foods for everyone.  There are plenty of food stations including sushi, seafood and salad and cooking stations including Thai, Indian and more.  The sushi station is my favorite.  My husband said the beef was tender and cooked to perfection. Everyone in my party enjoyed the dessert.  I just ate some fruit, since I don’t eat dairy and most desserts contain dairy.  There were no complaints about the food.

AO6A6725

AO6A6700

AO6A6682

AO6A6691

AO6A6697

20170901_123723

AO6A6743

And when it comes to service, the Spice Market’s service is top shelf.   Lae Lae and Promise were our servers.  Our glasses were never empty.  They never complained about being asked to take our pictures.  We never had to wait for clean plates.  They kept a smile on their faces.  They were excellent.  The Assistant Director of Beverage and Food, Piercorrado Papotto, came over and introduced himself as well as the restaurant supervisor, Esradh.

AO6A6767

If you’re looking for a variety of choices of tasty foods to eat on a Friday afternoon, the Spice Market is an excellent choice.

Tips:

Go hungry and early and stay the whole time

Pace yourself so you can enjoy as much as possible

Purchase the My Book Qatar on your mobile device for 160 Riyals and enjoy a Buy 1 Get 1 free meal and save

Make reservations in advance especially if you’re going with a large group

20170901_123233

Afterwards we took the lift to the 29th floor of the W and admired some artwork by Ahmed Almaadheed.  He created the Tamim The Glorious photo.  We signed our names on the We Stand with Qatar murals and book and then took in the sights of Qatar from above. Admittance to this gallery is free and worthwhile.

20170901_164311

FB_IMG_1504295881020

AO6A6879

AO6A6811

 

 

Why I missed Qatar after only a few weeks in America!

***** Disclosure: This post was written while I was visiting home over the summer and it never posted probably because I was debating whether to post it or not but…******

I was so anxious to return home, see my husband, shop, sleep in my own home that I’ve lived in for 14 years, eat food from my favorite restaurants, see some of my family and of course throw something, anything, almost nothing on and go outside, but after a few weeks I was ready to go back.

For one thing I was/am spending way too much money.  One of my favorite things to do in life is shop and let me tell you having the ability to buy things you want will cause you to buy things you don’t need.  Why? Because you can.  I enjoy shopping in America more. One of my other favorite things to do is eat. I’ve cooked maybe 3 times since I’ve been home and hubby has cooked a few more times than that.  I’ve been eating what I want from where I want whenever I want. I need to go food shopping and cook my meals, it’s healthier and cheaper but my sleeping habits are so off that blah blah.

I am lazy, there I said it! I can feel the pounds attaching themselves to me and holding on for dear life. I sleep, eat, shop and watch tv.  The other day I thought Maury was telling me that I am not the father!  I am not being very active. The gym in my new apartment compound in Qatar haunts me in my dreams.  It’s beckoning me.  I need to get back into a routine.

I am so tired of the violence and black white thing here.  What is it with America and racism, one of my fellow coworkers asked me. I didn’t know how to explain it because it’s like non existence in Qatar.  We are all people, we eat the same, work the same, shit the same, ultimately have the same goals ‘to be happy’ so Why, why does it matter what shade of color I am?  Everyday when I turn on the television there are reports of violence and senseless killings most as a result of using a gun.  It’s sad and depressing.

The service in Qatar at regular places is 5 stars. The service in America is 3 at best. Yes, Qatar has made me   Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 5.37.38 PMI can hear y’all singing the song.

When I came back here, I don’t know why I was expecting anything to have changed.  My neighbors are still fighting outside, then lovey dovey the next day.  Everybody’s still doing the exact same thing they were doing before I left. The people that walked out of my life are still out of my life.  Life goes on right…

Don’t get me wrong, I have/am enjoying my VISIT here and I know once I go back to Qatar, I will miss it here so much for many reasons but for now I’m missing the life I’ve made in Qatar.

The Truth about Expat Life- Petals and Thorns

Dealing with change is hard especially when you are used to things going a certain way.   Sometimes people say they can deal with change, that is until change happens.  Then they are all kinds of flustered.

At first glance, you may think my life in Qatar is Roses.  And you’d be right!  I’m going to new places and paying off debt.  I’m obtaining new experiences and meeting new friends. I’m eating, a lot and smiling.  I’m making good money and don’t have to stress about paying bills.  I love my job and my life. My resumé is growing and the blank pages of my passport is shrinking.  I feel completely safe and there is no snow.  Did you hear me, NO SNOW?

But on roses are these pointy, sharp edges called thorns.  Nothing and nowhere is perfect but I tell you, living here as an American Expat Teacher definitely has it’s petals and thorns.

Work

I actually really love my job here.  I teach first grade and I had a really good class last year.  I don’t know if that is because it was a good group of kids or because my classroom management is the bomb.  It’s probably a mixture of the two.  We will see what this year holds out and then I will revisit this thought.  I have a really light workload.  I never stay after hours or go in early to complete work.  When I take work home it is never out of necessity; it is a choice.  But there is always something happening at work.  There is always something new to prepare for that I wish I had been told earlier so that I could get a jump start on.  I receive so many emails in one day that before I finish reading one, here comes another. My classroom does not belong to me even though I am the homeroom teacher and am responsible for the room.  My students only attend one special a day, so all other teaches come into my, excuse me, the classroom to teach the students.  I have OCD about some things, like a neat, clean and organized classroom but this cannot happen when you share it with others who don’t feel the same.  I could drive myself crazy but instead I have learned to let it go.  We have helpers that clean our rooms, and some people have gotten so dependent on them, that they forget how important it is to teach children to clean up behind themselves.  So work has its share of stressors, just different kinds of stress than the kind you experience in the U.S.

My work day is 6:45-3:00pm.  Yes, 6:45 am.  My alarm is set to 5:00am every week day, that’s Sunday-Thursday.  Yes, Sunday.  Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 5.24.51 PMAnyone who knows me, knows I am not a morning person and I am still not used to the time.  I hit snooze at least 3 times and bribe myself to get out of bed.  Students start coming into the classroom at 6:45 and dismiss at 2:00pm. From 2:00-3:00, I’m engaged in dismissal duty, meetings and prepping.  I’m asleep before 10 everyday.  If not, I’m a walking zombie and need a red bull to give me wings to fly or a caramel macchiato with soy milk and a double shot of espresso from Starbucks to even function.  That is until Ramadan when the work day is reduced to 8-1.

Many teachers complain about behaviors of students and this is why I will only teach the younger kids.  I learned my lesson my last year of teaching in Philadelphia when I wanted to play super teacher and take over a failing, troubled 5th grade class.  I did it, but that was the last year I taught in a Philadelphia school; I should have just stayed in my K-2 bubble.  By the end of the year, I gained valuable experience but I will never do that again.  Just so you know, kids are kids everywhere you go.

But for every benefit there is a cost.

Work-Life-Balance

Are there things to do here? Yes.  Do I have time to do them? Yes, because I am not overwhelmed by work.   When I come home from work, I am not totally exhausted.  On the weekend, I am not playing work catch up so I have plenty of time to be involved in other things.  I am in a new country so there is tons to do, even in the desert.

Thing is, you have to work harder at work-life-balance here than you would at home. When you are surrounded by people you don’t know, you either have to make new friends or be a loner.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  You have to be willing to try new things and take on new adventures or you can wind up with ‘no’ life and become depressed if you are not careful.

 

The People

Qatar is a melting pot of cultures.  With so many people from different walks of life, come different perspectives, even on personal hygiene.  I don’t know if I will ever get used to the various smells and take on manners.  But there is so much you can learn from people who’ve grown up some place different than you.  You have to be willing to learn and ask questions and accept differences.  I am a teacher but I am also a life-long learner.

Fun

There are things to do here for fun but most times you have to create your own fun or pay for it.  It’s often too hot much of the year, so you have to wait for the cooler months to enjoy outdoor fun.  So we enjoy visiting our friends, having adult game night or just staying in and watching tv.  I used to go to the movies a lot in the states but the movies here are censored so I don’t frequent them.  Eating out is expensive and it’s hard for vegans to eat out without compromising, besides I enjoy my husband’s cooking the most so we mostly eat at home. Recently my husband and I purchased pool sticks so we play pool at our complex or swim or work out.  When it cools down a bit, we will take road trips around Qatar, go to the beaches, camp out, run on the Corniche, spend time in the Souk and become more creative.

Missing out

Weddings, parties, birthdays, births, you will miss out on all of them when you leave everyone behind to live overseas.  You also realize that people can live without you. lol. Home goes on without you and you start to wonder, what is home.  People who cried that they will miss you, stop calling and people that said they would visit, won’t.  And when you go back home to visit, things will be the same but things will also be different.

Change

Dealing with change is hard especially when you are used to things going a certain way.   Sometimes people say they can deal with change, that is until change happens.  Then they are all kinds of flustered.  I guess we should specify what kind of change we can deal with and what level.  And a lot of times, you are not sure how much change you can deal with until it is actually upon you.  Change is harder than you think, especially when you have no control over it.  Moving overseas in itself is a huge change, then there’s culture change, job expectation change, circle of people change, all kinds of change. There is also good and bad change.

I needed this change.  I would not have been satisfied without it.

This expat life ain’t for everyone you have learn to work around the thorns to enjoy the petals!

Teach Away

When I first applied to teach overseas several years ago I went through Teach Away, an international teacher recruitment agency based out of Canada, and even though I didn’t get a position the first time, there was never any doubt that I would try again.  The representatives at Teach Away were always professional.  So, when I decided to seek employment overseas again, I went back to Teach Away’s website.  They guided me every step of the way from the original email, through the application process, to the interview and with any questions I had after I secured a position.  I didn’t pay any fees to Teach Away.  I had to pay all of the cost associated with my paperwork, and cost incurred from traveling for my interviews but no company fees.  I’ve spoken to many other teachers and they went through companies that they had to pay a membership fee to.  I’ve never used them so I can’t speak on them.  But, I have nothing but great things to say about Teach Away and my experience working with them.  I even obtained my TEFL certification with their help through the University of Toronto TEFL online course.
When I received the following email over the summer, I was both surprised and honored!

Hi Kennesha, 

I’m the content marketing intern here at Teach Away and I just wanted to reach out to you to give you a quick heads-up on a recent blog post we published on the Teach Away website featuring your blog! 
I love how your blog follows your personal journey teaching in Doha, I thought that your blog would be a great addition to our list of teacher blogs to get you excited about teaching abroad! I loved looking through all your stories, and the fact that you are a Teach Away alumni is even better!  
Once again, I just wanted to contact you to let you know about this post, and to say thank you for being such a great representative for Teach Away during your journey abroad!’
When I decide to leave my current teaching position in Qatar, and pursue another overseas teaching position, I will be using Teach Away!
%d bloggers like this: