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 of the subject. 

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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.

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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?

The Start of Year 3- Teaching Abroad

I’m back and this is how I greeted my honey!!

It was my first time flying 12.5 hours straight alone, but I arrived safely back in Qatar on August 1, giving myself enough time to readjust to the time change, and dry weather and to spend some much needed quality time with honey before I start back to work on August 12.  I also need time to adjust to my new accommodation.  Over the summer, Honey moved us again.  This time to a even smaller apartment near the beach, closer to school and a whole lot cheaper.

This is the start of year 3 of my journey of teaching overseas and year 8 in the classroom.  Last year was rough at work so I came up with a motto for this year: Don’t make waves, ride them!  My team and I agreed to start anew which is great and one member in particular even apologized for their behavior last year.  This is a great way to start the year.  Honestly though, I just want to teach and be left alone and that’s why I turned down the opportunity to be Grade Team Lead again.  Let the newbies do it.  Been there done that, I’m good.  With a new school year comes new teachers and new challenges.

This year we are starting at our brand new school and with that comes it’s own set of obstacles.  Administration set the tone for the school year telling us all to be flexible.  Since our school is still not completely ready to welcome students, their start date got pushed back a week so far.

This is what the staff meeting looked like after the announcement.  Of course, we teachers still must go but that’s fine.  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.  I think all of the adjustments that we will go through will make the school year go faster, I’m hoping.

I’m optimistic about this New School Year!

 

 

Footprints in the Sand

So my head is famous and now so is my face, a little bit. 

I love being in front of the camera.  That sounds really arrogant, right?  I know but it’s the truth.  No, I don’t think I’m the most beautiful person in the world, not even close but I’ve learned to love myself and that was a journey.   I also think the camera and I have a pretty good relationship.  I would love to be a model, but when I google types of models, I don’t fit into any of the categories.

I am not tall; I’m actually pretty short, 5’2 to be exact.  I’m not thin or plus sized; I’m somewhere in the middle with a pouch.  I’m not glamorous, fit, a child or mature.  But I do have pretty nice skin, a caramel complexion, a pretty smile, a nice shaped BALD head, I’m smart and I’m confident.  So I’ll probably never end up in Vogue or on someone’s catwalk but for some reason I always end up in front of a camera.

It could have started with my baby pictures.  I was a cute, chunky baby.  Or perhaps it was nude photos I had taken years ago.  Where are those anyway?  Or maybe it started with this….

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That was a picture taken at my graduation from Cabrini College for my Master’s degree 4 years ago.  I remember a photographer coming around and snagging pictures but the real shocker came when I received a phone call from a friend saying that they just saw me on the L-train.  I knew I hadn’t been on the L-train that day so I was confused.  Then they told me, my picture was on a billboard advertisement for Cabrini.  I contacted the school and had them send me a copy.  That picture was on their billboards and on pamphlets.  For months, people would call me saying that they saw my picture.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine passed on some information about a tv channel that was looking to interview some people of Qatar.  So of course I responded and a few days later the crew was at my flat conducting the interview.  The interviewer asked me questions about my life in Qatar and allowed me to speak about Alopecia and my blog.  The interview went well, but I beat myself up afterwards because there was so many other things I wanted to say.  Isn’t this always the case; you think of things you coulda woulda shoulda said afterwards?  But it was too late and well, what’s the point of crying over spilled milk.  He said he would contact me once all the editing was completed and the interview was posted.

Today on my 6th wedding anniversary I got the message.  The interview is posted.  Please check it out using this link.  QatarnaTV

Everything that was said was my exact words, but it comes off a little different than my intentions especially at the end, when I said “I don’t plan to return to the U.S. anytime soon.”  It is true that I don’t intend on moving back to live in the U.S.A any time soon, , but it’s not because I plan on living in Qatar forever either.  I plan on exploring other places.  And when the time is right to leave here, I’ll move someplace else.  I’ve learned so much from living abroad, I want more experiences like this.  I will always love my home country of the U.S.A and will always visit.

My friend Nazma, the Henna artist, did an interview for Society magazine November 2017 edition (The First Family Magazine in Qatar) a few days ago and she posted a copy of the article on facebook.  And who’s big head took up a whole page, MINE!  Here it is in all it’s glory.

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You can also read the article here. Society Magazine

So my head is famous and now so is my face, a little bit.  I have another interview coming up this week with Nazma on Al Jazeera. Wish me luck!

Honestly I would love to be the first internationally recognized alopecia model and travel the world as an activist and a bold, fierce model.  I would love to be the face of alopecia all over the world, to encourage other women to not let a lack of hair define them, but to recognize their natural beauty inside out.

Who knows, maybe one day, I will create a new type of model.  For now, I’m leaving my footprints in the middle eastern sand.

Arabic 101: Lesson 2

Ahlan Wa Sahlan- Welcome, Hello

If you ever want to know what it’s like to be an esl student, become one. ≈Me

I’ve never been a very empathetic person but this class is causing a change in me when it comes to my class of first graders.  Even though they understand a lot of English, they are still learning English as a second language and many of them are spoken to in Arabic at home.  I have to repeat directions several times in class and I’ve become more mindful of how fast I speak.  I’ve been told by multiple people that I speak rather fast.

Darryl and I have had 4 Arabic classes now and my confidence level has gone wayyy down.  This class is intense.  I am having a lot of difficulty with reading the letters and remembering what they mean.  However, I am catching on to bits of conversation pieces when the Arabic teachers at my school talk.  I assume it is a lot like this with some of my students.

Anyway this week we learned the Arabic numbers 0-10. Ten is just a combo of 1 and 0.

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Here is my favorite phrase that I’ve learned:  La Atif– it means I don’t know.  I use it quite often.

Other Phrases:

Ayna taskunu- Where you live?

Ana Askonu fi Bin Omran- I live in Bin Omran

Ahamaloo fi- I work in___

Come (not the right spelling but same sound)- how many, Becum- how much

A few Adjectives: Kabir- big; Jadil- new; Jamil- beautiful;

A few nouns: Baab- door; kitaab- book; cowlim- pen, wajib- homework, Bayt- house/home

Possessive- Kitaab- book, kitaaboka- your book for a boy, kitaaboki- your book for a girl, kitaabohu- his book, kitaaboha- her book, kitaabi- my book

Until next time- Iilaa aliiqaa [Ela licka]- See you

 

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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Answers to Questions for Teachers Preparing to Teach Overseas

As several people prepare for their journey to Qatar or elsewhere overseas, I’ve been receiving lots of questions lately. I have decided to use this time to answer some questions…

I’ve connected with several people via social media in regards to teaching overseas.  I’ve tried to be as helpful and as transparent as possible by offering suggestions.  As several people prepare for their journey to Qatar or elsewhere overseas, I’ve been receiving lots of questions lately.  And now since I have completed one full year and will be beginning my second year real soon, some of my previous suggestions may have changed.   I have decided to use this time to answer some questions that I’ve been asked and maybe others have the same questions.  Hopefully this helps.

From Lauren:

1. So now that you’ve finished a whole year, looking back-what teaching supplies would you recommend someone bring?  Did you have all the supplies you needed for centers? Would you still recommend a new hire to bring classroom decorations?

I can’t speak for all schools overseas, but I can speak about mine in particular.  There is an over-abundance of material there from centers to curriculum items.  Much of what we use in the states is there.  I generally like to decorate my classroom with a theme so I did purchase some decoration for that but I don’t recommend it and I won’t do that this year.  I say this because, the classroom is not yours alone.  Four other teachers came into the classroom to teach in the course of one day, so they needed space as well, wall space to hang things and space to store things.  The space belongs to the kids so it was a waste of money and time to get hung up on decoration.  However, I would recommend purchasing and or bringing specific things you can’t live without as a teacher.  I like order, even if I’m sharing a room, and I run a tight ship of independence, so there are certain things that I like that makes this easy.  Some examples are: seat sacks and grouping items (same color folders, books, table caddies).  I also purchased plastic sleeves for name tags and labeling bins.  Butcher paper and borders were provided.  I will also bring specific workbooks and teacher resources that I like to use, eg..Words their Way, Sight word work and Daily grammar spiral workbooks.

2. Is it easy to transfer money into your American bank accounts?

It is very easy to transfer money into your American bank account.  Once you get your bank account set up overseas, you can set up automatic transfers or individual transfers online.  The first transaction can take up to a week but after a few transfers, it only takes about 1-3 days.  The overseas bank or your home bank may charge a fee.  Find out what that fee is for your particular banks.

3. …would you say that it is best to bring king sized sheets? Any other household items?

You can buy most of what you want in Qatar.  You may have to hunt around and it will take time but you can find it.  IKEA is in Qatar and they sell the same things as in America but you know their sheets and stuff fit their products best.  I prefer to bring my sheets from America.  The king sheets fit the king mattresses there.  I am very particular about my sleep comfort and I like 100% cotton sheets and pretty comforters with some weight.  So I spent too much money on having them shipped via Aramex from Bed Bath and Beyond and had my husband bring some sheets with him when he visited.  This summer, I purchased more sheets to take with me.  This summer I also purchased melting waxes from Walmart and floating candles from Amazon, but before I left Qatar I did discover some melting waxes at one of the malls.  I also found floating candles but not the color I wanted.  Much of these items are cheaper in America.

4. Was it easy getting around before getting your drivers license?

My school provided transportation to and from work for the first two-three weeks.  They also provided transportation to the supermarket and malls at specific times as well as government offices to take care of important matters.  Uber is everywhere in Qatar and most people carpool as well.

From Nancy:

5. For work, bag or purse? Do you carry a laptop around? Lots of paper?

We were provided with a laptop and laptop bag.  It is heavy and bulky so I use a big Michael Kors handbag to carry everything I need for work.  You won’t be bringing a lot of work home so you won’t carry around a lot of paper.

From Leslie:

6. Does ____ have a policy against open toed shoes?

There is a dress policy in place.  They prefer you not wear casual flip flops but most people wear open toed Birkenstocks or other open toed sandals.

Other recommendations:

Take at least one piece of apparel that represents your culture, favorite sports team, and something for wacky days eg…favorite storybook character day, mismatched day (polka dots with stripes etc).   Bring some hometown knick knacks for kids, they love to get treats from the USA, eg… treasure box incentive trinkets, small birthday gifts, snacks. Although, I have found many spices in Qatar, some I’ve never heard of, many people recommend bringing your own spices.  Personally, I would recommend fine sea salt and ground black pepper, oh and don’t forget Vanilla Extract.  You cannot find real vanilla extract in Qatar, something to do with the alcohol content.   Bring your medicines because although you can get medicine in Qatar, it takes a while to get used to the names, you won’t find the brand ‘tylenol’ but you will find an equivalent.  Take specialized toiletries with you.  I use Secret clinical strength deoderant and I haven’t been able to find it there so I stock up in America and pack it, enough for a year.  I also use Aveeno cream because I have eczema (Aveeno is very expensive in Qatar), so I stock up on that and I buy Shea butter and essential oils and make my own body butter and body scrub to bring.   Bring wash clothes, or get them at Ikea.  I have found hand towels but not wash clothes anywhere else except Ikea.  Also bring kitchen rags, same issue.  Buy work clothes and shoes before going.  The shoes in Qatar are European sizes and don’t fit me well but if you don’t have an issue with this than forget I said anything.  Also Qatar has many malls but I prefer to shop at places I know, like New York and Company and Venus for work clothes.  You won’t find these stores there. Do bring a few cold weather items, eg… sweater, jacket, rain boots, sweats; yes it is hot in Qatar but it gets cold for about 2 months and if you plan to travel, keep your destinations weather in mind when packing clothes. You know those bags of white cheddar cheese popcorn and peanut chews that you gotta have, well bring those, you probably won’t find them in Qatar and if you spot them there, you may never see them again.  So in short, bring the snacks you love, until you learn to love the snacks that are there.

Don’t take big electronics, in fact outside of your Personal laptop, phone, and IPad, buy your electronics there.  I can’t begin to tell you about the whole blowing things out, that I went through in the beginning.

That’s all I can think about right now if you have any more questions feel free to leave a comment and I will try my best to answer.

My advice: Have an open mind, try new things, be flexible and by all means enjoy yourself.