From Lemons to Lemonade

So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

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You may remember reading this from my last post, “Only a portion of our school has been approved by the powers that be, so we will all be uncomfortable for a little while longer as we will be squished in.” Well, still only a portion of our new school is usable so the uncomfortability still exist with no clear end in sight. My classroom is still not ‘my’ or ‘mine and my students’ classroom as it is still being shared by all others subjects. This is a headache because I am OCD about certain aspects of my classroom and everyone else is not, so others don’t hold the same high cleanliness or organization expectations as me. And even though we all use the space, I am the homeroom teacher and the classroom environment lands on me. Sharing a classroom is annoying as hell.

The class sizes have increased this year as they work to fill the school and of course that means primary classes have more students than any other grades. P.E. and Music are my students only specials this year, versus last year when they had 4 specials including IT and Art, versus the year before when they also had library. So who do you think is responsible for these things now? My contact hours have increased drastically partly due to not filling these positions after the staff made a mad exodus at the end of last school year and the year before and partly because of people complaining about not having enough teaching time. Now I teach no less than 3 whole class periods a day and have 3 other duties including arrival, soft start, and dismissal. On the last day of the week, I have contact for 5 straight hours, which is way too much for me let along 6 year olds, on top of dismissal duty. This includes: arrival, soft start, 4 straight periods of teaching, lunch, finally a break then dismissal. This may seem like a typical teaching day in America, my past, but I’ll admit, I got spoiled here. In the past I only had to teach whole class 1 hour a day and 2 small groups for 2 additional hours with arrival and dismissal duty and the occasional lunch duty. Sadly, the grand ole days when the work was so easy and light are gone.

Prices here continue to rise. The prices of flights are ridiculous making it hard to travel reasonably or to have visitors. My sons want to come visit during the winter break but it’s just not affordable. I really wish the blockade would end. Qatar is making strides toward self-sufficiency but things have definitely changed and there’s been no news lately of any end in sight.

Two weeks ago I was not in a good space. My new motto: Ride the waves, don’t make them, was not going well. I was in a very negative mood and I didn’t like it. I wanted to throw in the towel but then I remembered I have goals to achieve and I can’t throw in the towel yet.

Lemonade

This was a very low point for me and I could not stay there. So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

I really like my students this year, so far. Some of them are really low, which means I will see so much progress. Only a few have shown me behavior problems and the behaviors are minor ones. The students seem eager to learn. The working environment is not the best so when I’m there, I don’t think of work, I focus on teaching and that’s something I love doing. So instead of saying, I’m going to work I say, I’m going to teach! This mindset shift makes the work day enjoyable.

At the end of those low two weeks, a friend of mine hosted a vision board party. I didn’t know much about what a vision board was until another friend filled me in and I did some research. I decided to go to this party and I was so glad I did. Oh, let me tell you what a vision board is in case you were like me and don’t know. Huffingtonpost.com defines a vision board as a sacred space that displays what you want and how you want to feel. Click here to read more about it. Here is a picture of mine…

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It isn’t finished but it is a work in process. I left space for me to continue to think and add more. I can’t tell you how empowering it felt to be around other women with goals and were making the first steps to putting their plans into place, women who were really thinking about being better and doing better and how fortunate I felt when so many women were looking for what I already have, a good husband and a house. The energy and the vibe in that room started my upward spiral.

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I have decided to make this year all about SELF-CARE! I joined a gym and have a personal trainer. I have surrounded myself with inspirational, uplifting and encouraging quotes. I have scheduled a full body massage once a month. My trip to Thailand to a wellness and detox retreat is paid in full and less than 4 weeks away. I smile because it makes others smile back, it’s easier than explaining what’s bothering me to people who may or may not have a genuine interest and because smiling feels good. I dry brush, exfoliate and surround myself with my favorite aromatherapies. I vent and then I let it go or I try to turn the negatives into positives. I’ve learned that I have some personal things to work on. For example: I tend to be judgmental of others but honestly, if they are happy, what business is it of mine. So, I’ve decided to work on Kennesha. I’m choosing to be happy because it’s a state of mind and because I am truly grateful for all I have.

If I didn’t have some goals laid out that I’m intent on achieving, I would leave this place and go where the wind blows next. For now, the wind stands still and so do I. But while I’m here, I plan on becoming a better person, setting goals, staying quiet about them, crushing the shit out of them and clapping for my damn self. And in the meantime, I choose to be happy because it’s good for my health.

I’d love to hear from you…

If you’ve taught overseas: Did you ever have a low point, and if so what was it and how did you overcome it?

For all my readers: What do you do for self-care?

My First Experience Traveling Solo- Copenhagen

Since I would be traveling alone back to Philly, I was looking for an in-between place to stop to break up that 12.5 hour straight flight.  This was my first time traveling alone internationally and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.  Is it safe?  What if I got lost?  Would it be fun?  What if…? What if…?  Then I remembered a quote:

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So I started thinking about the positives that would come out of this.  I could eat all the vegan food I wanted without compromise or hearing complaints.  I could go where and when I wanted.  If I felt like doing nothing, I could, because it was only me.  Finally, when was the last time I was alone?

It was when I stumbled across a picture of the little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen that I decided this would be my stopover.  The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie of all time.  My connection to the movie has a lot to do with my sheltered child hood and how I longed to be a part of ‘their world’.  I felt everything Ariel did when she sang that song, Part of Your World. 

My plan of what I would do there started by researching what the city is known for: World’s Oldest Amusement Park – Bakken, Cycling, Shopping Avenues and Beautiful Gardens.  That’s nice but I wanted to see my statue (of course), some pretty scenery (overdue from Qatar), Christiania (something different) and whatever else I stumbled across.  Oh, let me not forget, EAT!  Before I went, I purchased a Hop On Hop Off Pass and a Copenhagen Card.  With these two purchases, I could tour the city, have transportation to major areas and have free admissions to a variety of places.  I booked my hotel room at Wakeup Copenhagen, a budget hotel in central Copenhagen close to popular sights.   I made sure I had ‘The Happy Cow’ app downloaded (for vegan restaurants), as well as ‘google maps’, and ‘From Rome to Rio’ for getting around and ‘Unit Converter’ to check on my spending.  I was ready.

The Hop on Hop off bus Pass was the best choice for Copenhagen.  With it, I was able to basically travel all over and since they don’t have uber it was perfect.  I found Copenhagen to be a great city for solo travelers.   I felt very safe and there is a lot to see and do, even for vegans.

They have this thing called brunch for vegans. I enjoyed the brunch at each of these three vegan restaurants: 42º Raw, SimpleRaw and Souls.  Their apple ginger shots are amazing.

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There are several castles there.  I even took a 40 minute train ride to see Hamlet’s castle.  It’s the last castle in the pictures below and my favorite.  It was worth it to take the train ride in the rain alone.

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Amalienborg- The Queen’s residence

 

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The Guards

 

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Rosenberg Castle- Royal Museum

 

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Kronberg/Hamlet’s Castle

It’s a pretty city too and they are big on sustainability as evident in their green roofs and bikes.  There are more bikes in Copenhagen than cars.

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I put out a bat signal on Nomadness travel group to see if anyone was in Copenhagen and wanted to show me around.  A fellow group member named Michael was kind enough to meet up with me.  He even accompanied me to FreeTown Christiania before it was raided and pusher street got closed.  In fact, the police showed up while we were there.  It was a very interesting experience.  I recommend you stop by there if you’re ever in Copenhagen.

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Michael even took me to and shared the background on the ‘I Am Queen Mary‘ statue.

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And during my travels all around Copenhagen I managed to find these gems, which made this trip dear to my heart and one of my favorite trips ever.

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The famous Little Mermaid Statue
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The Little Mermaid’s sister- Voluptuous, just a few feet away
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Another mermaid that I discovered in front of The Black Diamond
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I stumbled across this lonely chap looking for his mermaid at the pier of Hamlet’s castle

There were a few things that I didn’t get to do like Tivoli Gardens and shopping due to a flight delay that threw a monkey wrench in my plans, caused me to stay an additional day in Copenhagen some place else and cost me unexpected money.  It also rained a lot but I didn’t mind that since I haven’t seen rain in almost a year.  Besides these, I really enjoyed Copenhagen and solo travel.

Highlights: Kronberg and Rosenburg castles, The Lock Bridge Nyhavn, ginger shots, Ride a bike around town, vegan eating, Freetown, The Queen Mary statue and background, canal tour, People waiting for the traffic lights even when there are no cars in sight, Karlsberg beer, Mermaids

Year 2 Rewind

**Written on May 25, 2018**

It’s hard to believe I just completed my second year of teaching abroad.   My original contract term is satisfied and outside of student loans I am completely without debt in the U.S.  I still owe Qatar some money so I’ll be there at least another year but I have accomplished a big goal of mine and it feels AMAZING! As I am typing away I am trying to distract myself from the turbulence of this plane ride.  The plane that will prayerfully take me to the first stop of my summer vacation.  (More on that later)

So how was year two?  Let’s take a look in the rear view:

This year was sort of low-key.  It was the first time hubby and I were empty nesters so we spent a lot of time indoors.  We worked out and even took an Arabic course together. His support is without words.  I can’t recall one meal that I cooked, one load that I washed, one room that I cleaned.   He never complained about my bitching and whining when I came home from work.  Me coming home with my stories was his favorite part of his day, at least he pretended it was anyway.  He has not been able to find work but that has not stopped him from searching and applying constantly.  I am hopeful that something will come through soon or we may have to re-evaluate our situation.

I only took one trip this school year but it was a big one.  Cape town was absolutely beautiful and fun.  You can click here to read all about my travels there.  I may not have taken many trips, but I did take multiple vacations.

Work relationships were difficult this year.  I started to write a whole paragraph on this but no.  The school year is over for me and I will not dwell on the past.  I need to start next year with a new plan.  If any of you guys reading have tips for coping with team members that you don’t particularly mesh with, I’m all ears… As far as my students go, they turned out to be an okay group of kids.  There were some doozies but I really enjoyed teaching them.   I found ways to teach what I believe in my heart they needed to learn along with the required curriculum and it worked out.  If I can’t teach my students so that we can see progress, what’s the point?  I’m enjoying teaching the PYP framework too.  It’s new for me but PYP along with some time to teach foundational skills is pretty damn good.  PYP exposes students to subjects and skills that will help them to develop background knowledge that they may otherwise be lacking.  I’m looking forward to our school becoming PYP Accredited so that I can add it to my CV.   Next year, we are also supposed to be moving to a brand new school building with top of the line amenities.   That gives me something to look forward to.

This year was filled with confidence boosters on a personal level.  I did photo shoots, interviews, was a subject of college assignments, and even modeled, all while bald.  Most of these events were to bring awareness to Alopecia.  I felt like I was doing my part to help other women with alopecia feel comfortable or to at least let them know that they are not alone.  My alopecia group grew to over 100 members.  In a small way, I am doing something to help the world.

Something else that I am proud of this year, is that I was able to eliminate my high cholesterol without medicine.  With the right diet and exercise, you really can be healthy.  (If you need tips on this let me know)  But unfortunately, I am vitamin D deficient now.   This came as a surprise to me being as though I live in the dessert.  But it makes sense because it is often so hot, that we stay indoors out of the sun and when we are outdoors, we are required to dress modestly and cover our shoulders and knees.  And the only way to truly fix this, is sun exposure and or Vitamin D supplements.  So now I have to take a pill a week for 8 weeks but the good thing is, it’s summer and I’m out of the desert.  Time to get some sun! (This is something to consider if you are thinking of moving to the Middle East)

So what about the next school year?  I will be in Qatar.  I am taking it year by year.   I am moving, again, to a new apartment, to be closer to the new school and to have more expendable money.  I have moved every year that I’ve been in Qatar.  That’s funny to me.  It’s kind of like my life, if something doesn’t fit my needs, I move on.   I have decided that starting now, I will try to be in the ‘NOW’!  I want to enjoy the moment, not always looking for tomorrow.  If I can find some joy in every moment, I believe I will be a better person.

Don’t forget to leave your suggestions in the comment section, on ways to cope with a team that you don’t mesh with.