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.
Here is my favorite phrase that I’ve learned: La Atif– it means I don’t know. I use it quite often.
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
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.
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. Anyone 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. I’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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In all this was an amazing year. Despite all the hiccups and stress, I don’t regret anything.
A year ago, I was nervous about my new adventure. I had received my flight information and reality was beginning to set in. I was shopping and packing, preparing to fulfill a dream of mine. I was fearful but wanted to feel free. I quoted Nina Simone, “I’ll tell you what Freedom is to me. No fear.” But I’ve learned that real freedom is not the absence of fear but the ability to not be enslaved by that fear, and the courage to keep it from holding you back!
Well I didn’t. I conquered my fear and survived teaching abroad, in Qatar, as a black American. That sounds so stupid to me because I wouldn’t say survived or black or American, but these are some of the words people used when I first announced this as my plan. I would reword it to say: I fulfilled a dream, lived and worked abroad in Qatar and it was absolutely amazing! The experience was like no other and totally liberating. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d be lying if I said it was easy. It was hard and some days I asked myself, what was I thinking. It was filled with happy and sad moments. There were things that I loved and things that I hated just like in Philly. But I feel so accomplished and so much wiser than I was almost 1 year ago. A lot can happen in 1 year. Here are some of those things…
Visits- The happiest moments I had there were when my husband and sister came to visit. I felt like a giddy child every time and very sad once they left. I felt like a tour guide when they would come, showing them around my hood. They seemed so happy to see me and the boys.
Traveling- Who would have ever thought I was afraid of flying the way I traveled this year? I’ve been to places I never even heard of, before I left. Life outside the U.S. bubble is truly something to experience.
Conversations- Having conversations with people of different backgrounds than yourself is truly life changing.
Hardest things I had to deal with this year:
3: Moving to a new country is a big adjustment. I always thought I was a person that easily dealt with change. Guess what, dealing with change is not that easy. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it was hard. I really love living in Qatar, but it took me all year long to feel this way. There has been so much change this year. I’ve lived in two different accommodations, both with their own quirks but I had to accept that none of these quirks were earth shattering. CHANGES! I’ve never worked with so many people with so many different backgrounds, and so many different views. CHANGES! I’ve never gone to a supermarket and been so overwhelmed in my life. CHANGES! I’ve never been surrounded by so many strangers without anyone I know. CHANGES! I’ve never felt so lost in my life. CHANGES! Etc. Etc.
2: You will lose people along the way. Nothing I read, before I moved overseas, and I read a lot, informed me about this. And to be honest I don’t think, anything could have prepared me for that. I have lost ‘friends’, and family not thru death (thank God) but in life. I have learned the true meaning of ‘reason or season’. I know that people have lives and sometimes life gets in the way but it can get lonely living abroad. It is important for expats to feel missed and loved. Be prepared as much as possible to lose people and to gain people along the way. Know that you may have to take this journey alone. Your dreams are your dreams and yours alone, do not expect others to embrace it so easy. APPRECIATE THE ONES THAT STAY! Know that I appreciate you, you know who you are.
1: My youngest son said he wanted to go back to the U.S. to live with his dad: After all I had done to make the best life for my sons. Traveled hundreds of miles and spent thousands of dollars to give them something I never had and afforded them an opportunity of a lifetime. Took them to countries many children in the U.S.A never even heard of. I raised him with the help of his step-father and minimal help from his biological father, put him in several charter schools and then struggled with tuition in private school for years because he actually liked it after only attending 1 year of public school, which was awful. Then he lied and said he wanted to go back because the school here was too hard and his brother was bullying him only to finally fess up and admit that he only wanted to go back because he missed playing his video games with his friends online. Talk about a smack in the face. No matter what I do, in his eyes, I could never compete with his love for gaming. It was completely selfish and I was hurt, angry and sad. But I granted his wish. Why, for several reasons. One: sometimes as parents, we have to make hard decisions and choices that we may not like. Two: Kids need to learn lessons, not just be told, the best lessons are those learned through experience. Kids don’t believe that shit stink until it’s under their noses. Third: My son was miserable and he did not care to hide it and I refuse to allow anyone to steal my joy, even my own kids. I also believe that everyone deserves to be happy even if I don’t agree with their path to happiness. I’m sure his dad felt like he had won. Despite all my degrees and his lack of, despite all my money and his lack of, despite all the attention to school I gave my son, and his lack of, despite my desire for growth, and his lack of, despite all the opportunities my son had with me, and the lack of these with him, one of my sons, his boy, chose him. This broke my heart. I mean this was my baby, my 13 year old son, who was choosing to take a game over me and his brother, after everything I had done for him. To me this was the ultimate betrayal and I didn’t know how to deal with the betrayal of my own child. He is so much like his dad and it kills me that he would throw all of this away for what… I knew it wasn’t personal but it sure felt personal. And it still hurts as you can probably hear the tone in my words. I had lost friends, even some family members by taking this huge step but never in a million years, did I think I would lose my baby boy. It felt like someone broke up with me and never explained what I did wrong. On top of that, once he went back, we only spoke three times and those times were within the first month. It’s like out of sight out of mind. Am I wrong for not calling him? I mean he left me. He chose to go back. Does this make me a bad parent? I literally went through four stages of emotions after he left: Hurt, Sadness, Anger, and finally acceptance. Yes, I finally accepted that he chose to leave me to go back to America and live with his dad. It is what he thought he wanted. I accept my part in this whole thing. I took away the one thing he loved the most in life, games. But life is funny like this sometimes, no regrets. Now that I am temporarily back in America, he has not left my side, yet. I love my son. I will end this here.
Trips I’ve taken in order, You can read all about them in past posts by clicking them:
Back to the U.S.A
Things I loved:
All the people I’ve met- I have met some very smart people this past year and made some friends. It felt great being surrounded by like minded people with similar goals. The expat community is a tight knit group of people because we are all we got. People look out for each other.
My job- I love my job. This teaching year has been one of my favorites. It has indeed been the most un-stressful teaching year. It wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t stressful either. My students were good and the workload was light. When I was finished at work, I was finished working for a change. The amount of work days with no days off were a bit much but I would take that over teaching in Philly any day. In fact, after this year, I don’t know if I will ever teach primary school in Philly again.
My kids and parents- I had the sweetest group of students ever. I would have looped with them, were I not the only first grade teacher staying at my school. I was the newbie this year and everyone else that taught first grade had been there 3+ years, so they all moved on at the end of the school year. Next year, I will be the only veteran. I’m actually excited about that. Anyway, my parents were great too.
The weather- No Snow period
The food- OMG! Well you read all my blogs about my food experiences in Qatar, hopefully. I’ll leave it at that.
The safety- I’ve never felt so safe in my life. There were nights that we slept with the door unlocked. There were no news reports of guns or violence. Islam means Peace, did you know that?
Things I hated:
The weather- No Snow also meant no snow days. Hot everyday and cover down to your knees and your shoulders, need I say more.
Dressing- I am a closet nudist, so being covered, is not really my thang.
Being in the middle east during a diplomatic crisis- which is still going on with no indication of an end in sight. I hope they find peace and soon.
Things I’ve learned about life:
No matter where you are in this world, people are just people
There are shysters all over world, people trying to get over. People will try you, don’t underestimate them. Don’t think just because, you are in a safe country that someone won’t try to rob you, they may just be a little more slick about it. Watch your back and don’t let your guard down! On the contrary, be a good person, because I believe there are way more good people than not in this world.
Everyone is not your friend
Don’t allow everyone into your world. Watch and then choose a few. Everyone gossips. There will always be haters and people trying to drag you down and get you in trouble. There will always be people that feel threatened by you and try to steal your joy and shine, don’t let them. And if they are successful, because we all are imperfect, let it only be for a short while, and don’t stoop to their levels, things always have a way of working out. Stay focused on your purpose!
To experience is to truly know
If you have never lived in another country than you haven’t lived. If you haven’t traveled, you don’t know shit. That may sound strong but anyone who has traveled will say the same thing. You can never learn from a book what you will get from first hand experience.
Things I’ve learned about me:
Chill and be still
For the last 14 years of my life, I’ve been on a fast pace. If I wasn’t in school, I was at work. If I wasn’t at work, I was at home cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids or doing homework or work for work. I was tired all the time and always moving. It was difficult for me to just do nothing some days. As much as I craved this for years, I didn’t know how to to do it. I felt like I was cheating. But I have now learned that it’s not cheating, I was cheating myself for years. I believe that this year has added a few more years to my life because I have learned that it is okay to just chill and be still.
I’ve never been a very patient person. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the city. But there you don’t have a choice but to be patient, patient with people, patient in traffic, patient with paperwork. Losing your patience won’t make things happen any faster. I’ve learned how to stay calm in what could be stressful situations. I’ve also learned that things are usually escalated because of our own lack of patience and agitation. It goes along with learning to just chill and be still.
Along with being patient I’ve learned to be reflective of myself. When a situation turns sour, I think of ways I could have handled it differently and what part I played. I think of how to find silver linings amongst clouds. I’ve learned that I am an impulsive reactor. I react so quickly sometimes without thinking first, my blood goes up and I lash out. Acknowledging this fault of mine is the first step, I think, in changing it.
In all this was an amazing year. Despite all the hiccups and stress, I don’t regret anything. I am looking forward to year 2 in Qatar. For now, I am enjoying my summer back home, meeting up with old friends, chillin and being still, being half naked outside, enjoying a drink outside of a hotel, spending time with my husband, son and few family members, shopping for next year, eating at my favorite restaurants, watching HGTV, cleaning, creating some DIY projects and making appointments and plans.
I will end this post with advice for anyone considering taking this journey:
“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” Soledad O’Brien
I promise to not sugar coat what life is REALLY like for an Expat living in Qatar!
My son is sick with the flu and the medical state of this country pissed me off. My husband carries our medical insurance and pays the premiums. Every two weeks they directly leave his gross wages before he gets paid, like most working Americans. The coverage is Federal Blue Cross and you would think it would be the best because of that “F” word, Federal. Well I don’t understand how an office visit to have my son’s nose and mouth swabbed could cost me a $30 copay, just to be told what I already knew. Then a prescription for 10 pills cost me a $50 copay. And if you are like me, you’ve probably asked this insane question, “Then what the F%^& do we pay for every two weeks?” Don’t get me wrong, I know many Americans and people living in other countries, pay way more for way less, or can’t afford to pay for medical at all, or are in a part of the world where they don’t have access to good medical treatment, but this is AMERICA for God’s sake. My point in including this in my blog is, I hope that the medical coverage in Qatar is better than it is here in America. As soon as I find out, I will let you know. With that being said I have decided to make a pledge to my readers….
A Pledge to My Readers
I promise to always be honest
I promise to not sugar coat what life is REALLY like for an Expat living in Qatar
I promise that despite how anxious I am about moving abroad I will always keep it real
I promise to blog at least once a month
I promise to include the pictures I am allowed
I promise that if I don’t like it there I will admit it
I promise that if I love it there I will admit it
I promise to share the good and the bad
I promise that one of these promises I will probably have to break
I promise not to get over there and forget why I am there
I promise not to get over there and forget who I am
I promise to keep an open mind and remember that Qatar is not America
I promise not to forget that I am a visitor to their country
I promise to try it for at least a year (as long as we are safe)
I promise not to forget that I am an African American Woman
I promise to return home at some point to visit
I promise that I probably forgot something and will add it later
At least they give me some of the $$$$ back
Yesterday I received an email from my Teach Away Rep for Abu Dhabi. At this time ADEC would like to move forward with my application to the hiring department and an offer letter would be going out within the next few weeks. I quickly informed the other girls via the text chat group and within a few hours they all responded that they too had received the same email. It’s crazy because for a brief moment I felt sad. I felt sad because I really like the women from the NY interview and they would all be together and have each other but me, I would be alone in Qatar without any of them. I know it probably sounds petty but it felt good to be around like minded women and people that were sort of in a similar situation as me, feeling what I feel and anticipating what I’m anticipating. Still, I feel good about my decision to go with Qatar. It’s a better choice for me and my family.
There is so much to do to get ready. There is so much to do just to get all paperwork to QF.
I’m in the process of trying to enroll the boys in QF Doha. From what I’ve heard it’s a really good private school that is a part of QF, so the tuition would be free for the boys. They offer the IB curriculum, and many more wonderful opportunities. I completed the admission’s application and the fee was $500 Riyals which is about $137 U.S. dollars for each application. I had to try 4 different credit cards to pay the fee before one finally worked, due to international transactions. I had to attach a picture of the boys, medical records, immunization cards, last 3 end of year report cards, pict of passports as well as my passport. Some of the documents I did not have yet so I uploaded blank documents so that I could submit the applications. I spoke to my QF director to inform her of the completed applications and she told me that she already enrolled them in QF Sidra as a backup, which was great. I hear that Sidra is okay but Doha is the best.
I’ve sent my H.R. director, copies of the boys birth certificates, my marriage certificate, copies of my passport, Darryl’s passport (my husband), and the boys passport. All of this is necessary to begin the process of our visas. I must get 2 pre-employment Health examination forms completed by a doctor, as well as complete Blood Group Reports for each member of my family. This means all of us have to see a doctor and have lab work done. That means ($) copays and ($) fees for form completions. Did I mention I had to pay $137.00 for both school application fees?
I must send several documents to be authenticated: Transcript and degree, children’s birth certificates, marriage certificate, ($) Criminal Record check for Darryl and I, ($) FBI record check for Darryl and I. This means all documents must be ($) notarized, ($) stamped by the issuing state, ($) stamped by Wash D.C., $stamped by the Qatar embassy. I have decided to use ProEx to complete this process. I will ($) pay them, ($)mail them all the documents and they will take care of the whole authentication process.
I need a letter signed by my ex-husband and father to my children verifying that he does not object to me sponsoring my children in Qatar. Then this letter needs to be ($) translated in Arabic and notarized. I’ve found a company to take care of this too. But first I have to get ‘him’ to sign the paper.
The boy’s passport expire in a month so you know what that means. I have to ($) pay for new ones and because they are minors, there is no renewing, only $pay the whole application fee. My passport expires in two years, which means it will expire before my contract is up. You know what that means, I have to ($) renew mine. Oh we also need ($) passport pictures for the new passports.
On top of all of this, all of us need 12-16 passport style pictures to travel along with us to Qatar. They use these pictures for everything, visas, Driver’s license, liquor license etc… Passport pictures usually run about $8 for 2. That would cost me over $200 for all of us. So I went to Office Depot, ($) purchased some photo paper for $8.00 on sale. I put up a white chart paper on my wall and we all took head and shoulder shots on our phones. With a purchase of some ($) printer ink, we were good to go. We used the gov’t passport website to help us crop the pictures correctly and WAHLA!
At least they give me some of the $$$$ back for all this paperwork when I arrive in Doha, Qatar if I don’t go broke first!
No word yet from Qatar Foundations or AUS (Kuwait) but I am 25% through my TEFL course with the University of Toronto.
I have been reading this blog http://www.abudhabiyew.wordpress.com. The author is currently teaching in Al Ain and is from the UK. Her blog is very informative as it begins when she first applied as does mine. Like me, she didn’t put it out there until after she was offered a position.
I am noticing from reading other blogs that teachers don’t really talk much about what it’s like to teach over there. I wonder why… I will have to look for more blogs and stories online about this. I will be sure to discuss this if/once I am over there blogging.
I spoke to another teacher who taught in Abu Dhabi a few years ago. She and I became Facebook friends when I applied the first time. She got the job, I did not. She taught over there for a year and then came home because her mother was ill. Her two young sons accompanied her. I asked her for the true pros and cons. This is what she said: Pros- The money is great and you get to travel. Cons- You don’t know what you are going to get until you get there. She said make sure I ask for Kindergarten. (I did) She also recommended I not take me boys. (What?) She said, girls adjust better than boys. Another teacher took her sons and they did not do well at all, she said. I would prefer not to leave my boys behind because part of the reason I am doing this is so that my boys can experience life somewhere else. If I had to choose going over there with or without my boys I don’t know what I would do.
The decision is getting more difficult as I have given my oldest son the choice to go or not since he only has two years left at his high school and it is a great school. I prefer my boys be with. I don’t know if I could go without them. I can’t see myself not raising my own kids.