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!

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Where were you when 4 countries broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar?

Please pray for peace in the Middle East!

It started off as a regular work day.  My alarm went off at 6:00 am, 1 hour earlier than the rest of the school year, because it is Ramadan so school starts later and ends earlier. I pressed the snooze button once maybe twice.  By the time I got out of bed, it was around 6:20ish.  I washed, dressed, and ate breakfast with my son.  I met Jennifer downstairs. We’ve been carpooling since we moved into the same apartment complex.  “Four countries done split from Qatar”, she said.  I opened my phone and saw all the chatter in multiple Facebook groups for which I am a member.

On Monday, June 5, 2017-  CNBC headline “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar”.  Doha News “Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have broken off diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed land, sea and air access to the nation, according to official reports”.   Today is Thursday and since this happened, it seems to be all people are talking about.

I will not go into details on my feelings or the ‘background’ behind the whole thing, because over here, you have to be very careful of your words and what you post on social media.  Besides only the people involved know the real truths.  I have read a lot of news about the reasons that this has occurred.  I encourage you to read up on it as well (click here to read about it on CNBC).

As for life here in hot Qatar, it is business as usual.  Life goes on.  I get up, do my routine, and go to work.  I come home, cook, and talk to my husband on the phone.  Of course, I am worried.  I am worried about getting home stateside safely in a week.  I am worried if I will be able to return to Qatar where I’ve grown quite comfortable.  I like my lifestyle here, calm, peaceful, making good money, traveling, light work.  It’s not perfect but it’s home, for now.

Since Monday other countries have also cut off ties with Qatar, including Libya, Maldives and Mauritius.  I am happy I got to visit Bahrain, Egypt and Maldives before this happened.  KSA and Oman have not cut ties with Qatar as of now.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  For now, I’m safe!  Please pray for peace in the Middle East!

What to wear to Egypt in April

Imagine mounting a camel, legs spread apart on either side, riding through Giza Plateau in a little blue dress and walking through a crowded souk (Khan Al Khalili) with young women fully covered staring at you and whispering amongst themselves.

When you think of Middle Eastern countries you probably think of desert and heat, and you would be correct.  So when I decided to finally visit a country I’ve always wanted to go, I wondered what to wear.  Since I live in Qatar now, I figured like most middle eastern countries it had a majority Muslim population.  This is correct but what people may not know is that there are also many Christians that reside there.   You are not required to cover your head or your entire body in Egypt, but it is respectful to be modest.

I traveled mid April for Spring break, April 11-15.  The weather was hot during this time of the year but mostly not oppressive in Cairo.   Luxor, however, was very hot especially on the west side where the Valley of the Kings is located.

Here are my suggestions of what to pack to wear for 5 days in Egypt:

Long, thin, black, maxi skirt (versatile and stylish, great for the plane ride)

2-3 pairs of neutral, light colored linen or 100% cotton pants (cool and comfortable)

3 cami’s or tank tops, black, white, tan (cool, small and easy to pack)

2 scarf shawls that you can wrap around your upper body (thin, airy, modest)

1 pretty cotton dress (lightweight and stylish)

Rugged Open toe sandals (safe and comfortable for all the walking)

1 white cotton button down shirt (versatile and modest)

1 pair of comfy sneakers

optional- a few pretty scarves for style and headwrapping

Besides toiletries, a pair of pajamas and undergarments, swim suit, cash, and electronics, this is all I packed.  Everything fit in one Victoria’s secret duffle bag.  I was comfortable the whole trip.  The pants worked out best because there was a lot of flies bothering my son, but I didn’t feel them.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 11.58.42 AMI don’t like the way Birkenstocks look but they are of good quality and are very comfortable. Open toe sandals are better so that you can get the sand easily out of your shoes, and your feet won’t sweat with the heat.  Here is a pictures of the Birkenstocks I wore.

I took a pair of khaki colored linen pants and a pair of white and blue ombre linen pants and one pair of lyocell blue slacks.  I paired these with my tank tops and threw my shawl scarves on top, that I purchased at Bershka.

A white button down is a staple for traveling.  It can be worn with any bottoms, alone as a dress, as a cover-up or over a tank top like I wore mine.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 12.43.48 PMI saved my cotton dress for my tours in Cairo, which wasn’t the best idea.  Imagine mounting a camel, legs spread apart on either side, riding through Giza Plateau in a little blue dress and walking through a crowded souk (Khan Al Khalili) with young women fully covered staring at you and whispering amongst themselves.  I held my head high but inside I was saying, ugh, probably should have worn the pants today.  But it made for great pictures anyway.  I’m kissing the Sphinx in my dress.

 

The point is to travel light, especially if you’re going to travel between cities as I did. Pack cool material items that are ok to be worn wrinkled. Choose light or neutral colors and items that you can mix and match together.  Pack cover ups to respect the tradition of modesty.  Remember comfort over flashiness when packing for Egypt.

Side Note

Do they really move this slow in the Middle East?

“Good Morning Kennesha,
I have received a copy of your CV through Teach Away and understand that you already interviewed with our director, Dr. ___ in January. If you are still interested in an elementary teaching position in Kuwait starting August 2016  I would like to arrange a Skype interview with you as early as possible. I look forward to hearing from you.”

This is an email I received today.  It was unexpected to say the least but refreshing.  After all this time I am still being considered  for a position in Kuwait.  Too bad I already accepted  an offer from Qatar Foundation.  Not too bad for me. I mean I wanted Qatar more than the others–but why did they take so long.  Do they really move this slow in the Middle East?

Well criminal history reports, degree and transcipt have been sent to PROEX for the final authentication process for a measly $264.  I saved almost $200 by driving to Harrisburg and getting the first part done myself.  My girlfriend Michele drove with me; we enjoyed 4 hours of girl talk.  It cost $15 each to get the documents attested in Harrisburg and $18 both ways for tolls.  While I wait for these documents to come back, I have court next Tuesday for the custody hearing.  Once the courts send me the modified order, I have to get it notarized, translated in Arabic and authenticated.  The FBI clearances will be the last of the paperwork, also needs to be authenticated.  I’m getting closer.  Only 4 months to go.

Side note: This blog was meant to help others who are considering teaching in the middle east and as a way for me to track every step of the process.  It is also intended for others to follow my family’s journey and be inspired.  But there is someone else out there, someone extremely bitter, who has chosen to use my information from my blog for something else, for their personal gain and to use the information against my family. So to my husband’s ex-wife, Edna, I say, I see you, hi hater…I hope you are enjoying my blog.