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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

Has America Lost it’s Sense of Humor?

What stuck with me the most was, what one comedian said, America has lost it’s sense of humor.  Everything is so serious and it is, but if Qatar can do it, so can America. 

Imagine living in a foreign country in the middle of a diplomatic crisis, during a time when your country recently elected a very controversial President, while sitting through a comedy show.  Wait, that’s not all.  Now imagine that foreign country is in the Middle East, a level of censorship is maintained and speaking of certain things is considered taboo.  Confused, well this is the position I put myself in 4 days ago.  Was it the best idea I’ve had here in Qatar?  I’m still not sure, but hey, I’m here for the experience right.  I didn’t think of all of this prior to paying for the tickets but in the midst of so much chaos in the world, humor is always a good idea.

So as I sat through the Doha Comedy Festival at the QNCC and laughed along with hundreds of people, natives and expats, there were times when I felt very uncomfortable.  Maybe it was the comedian from India, who made mention of hand jobs and women being able to wear whatever they want.  Or perhaps it was the stage set up of buildings with smoke coming from behind them as one comedian mentioned, with Arabic comedians.  There was jokes of marijuana, cross-dressing, terrorism and racism. But most of the jokes centered around the blockade and President Donald Trump.

Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be that funny because of where I live.  My husband and I had a conversation before we went about our doubts that it would be funny.  We even planned our code phrase for a reason to leave early.  We thought because the country is Islamic, that there would be no profanity, or inappropriate jokes. Aren’t those the things that make comedy in the first place?  There was profanity and inappropriate jokes, totally unexpected and we laughed through the entire 4+ hour show.

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All of the comedians were funny and America, my native country, was the biggest blunt of jokes.  The sad part about it was, the jokes were true.  In the face of this blockade, Qatar held a comedy show, where many Qataris showed up and even the host/comedian was Qatari.  They laughed at the headlines that circulated in the media about the false reports of Qatar during the blockade.  What stuck with me the most was, what one comedian said, America has lost it’s sense of humor. Everything is so serious and it is, but if Qatar can do it, so can America.

With all of our differences, the audience all laughed together because…

“Laughter has no foreign accent.” — Paul Lowney

 

The Difference in Beginning Year 2 Teaching Overseas vs Year 1

When I first arrived in Doha in 2016 I had no idea what to expect except for what I had read online and conversations I had with a future colleague, Yanna and the (at that time) H.R. Representative Suleiman.  The first year was spent learning my way around and adapting to a new culture, eating-a lot, video calling, traveling, making new friends and of course working.  I was on an emotional rollercoaster.  The beginning of the second year for a teacher overseas is very different than the first.  It is easier.  Friendships and connections are already made, your housing is already established, you know your administration (granted it hasn’t changed, mine did not), you are more comfortable with the culture and all your paperwork is complete.  Thank God, that awful paperwork to get you established in a new county is done.  

So how did the beginning of year 2 go for me?

Work

I’m still teaching first grade.  I couldn’t leave first grade if I wanted to, not that I wanted to, because I was the only first grade teacher who remained in Qatar at my school.  Last year, I was the only new one; this year I’m the only old one minus the two Arabic teachers.  Since there are 3 new first grade teachers, a new math teacher and a new Islamic teacher, that’s a whole new team btw, administration made me grade team lead. That doesn’t mean more money, nope no raise, it does mean more work for me, but it also means another accomplishment to add to my resumé.  A new group of teachers meant saying good bye to many old faces.  I miss you Reem! IMG-20170817-WA0004

A new school year also means a new group of students, like a box of chocolate, you never know what your’e going to get.  What can I say about my new students so far, well, I loved my class last year.  Like teaching anywhere in the world, one year you love your class, the next year, well…we shall see how the year progresses.  I was just kinda asked, but not really, to take a student from another class that is not adjusting well and it’s only two weeks in.  My teacher readers out there know what I’m hinting at.  Pray for me, this may be a long year.

Acquaintances 

It is hard and extremely uncomfortable for grown-ups to make new friends.  Do I ask him/her out?  Does he/she drink?  Is he/she slimy?  Ugh, she is too flirtatious around other ladies men.  Does she/he have little kids?  Does he/she drink?  Is she messy?  Oh my god, she/he talks too much.  Blah, Blah, Blah, you get the picture.  I was fortunate to click with a few people last year and we are pretty much okay with our group.  I believe that I am a pretty social person but I never had a lot of close friends, so the need for them was never a high priority either but when you live overseas, you need friends.  All you got is each other.   With that being said, I love my group of friends here.  The majority of us are married, half have kids and the others don’t.   The newbies seem okay too.  I am also happy that Darryl gets along with the husbands of my friends.

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Speaking of acquaintances, when you are a famous blogger like I am… Joking!  However, I’ve been lucky enough to have helped a few people on their journey to teach overseas and I’ve even met and gone out with a few.  At our all teacher orientation this year, I was speaking with another teacher that happened to know me from a facebook group that I am a part of and she happened to work with a new teacher that I helped through my blog.  She said the teacher had been looking for me and she took me to her.  Low and behold, it was Badia.  Badia had been following my blog for some time and we were corresponding via email about teaching here.  She got the job and she was at the orientation.  When we saw each other, it was perfect.  Hugs, more hugs and OH MY GOD’S! We were even wearing the same colors.  Aren’t we beautiful! 20170817_100637

Then there’s Nancy.  Nancy and I interviewed for Abu Dhabi together before I came here. I forwarded her resumé to my supervisor and now she works at my school.  She and her husband joined us for brunch over the weekend.  20170901_122236

Leisure

I haven’t done much since I’ve been back.  It’s too hot to do any outdoor activities.  We’ve gone to a few gatherings and brunches.  I’m training for a 5K, with an app, running and walking indoors in our gym and swimming a lot.  I’m getting better at my vegan diet with Darryl cooking all of my meals.  20170904_124716I’m down to only one day of fish or seafood and soon I will be a complete vegan.  I guess we are a pretty boring couple but we are a couple that spent a year apart so we are spending a lot of time watching our favorite shows and catching up and bonding.

So the beginning of year 1 was about adjusting, stress and formalities.  The beginning of year 2 is more about acceptance.   Hey this is the middle east, welcome to year 2!