Archives for September 2009

So it finally happened.

I let Abu Dhabi get to me.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to live in Abu Dhabi. Whenever someone starts a sentence with, “But you would think…” we have to interrupt and remind each other to stop thinking. Thinking logically (at least as a Westerner would) only makes your head spin.


I’ll spare you the details of the motivating forces propelling my mini breakdown (which lasted all of 5 minutes, I can proudly say). In a nutshell: 1. My banking has not gone smoothly 2. My employer still has my passport 3. I have not had my medical/security check 4. We had to check out of our 5 star hotel early this morning without notice of where we were headed next 5. I didn’t sleep much all night before the actual first day of school (like, when students actually decided to arrive).


Unfortunately, not much on that list has been resolved. Fortunately, I’m not homeless. Unfortunately, we were downgraded to 4 star accommodations. Fortunately, the bugs I saw in the sink have not yet traveled to my bed. Let’s hope it stays that way.

xo, jill

Loose lips sink ships.

But I’m not exactly sure about airplanes.

It has been forever since I’ve deposited a little update here for two reasons: 1. Lack of affordable and reliable internet (I really hope this changes soon!) and 2. Information and situations are constantly changing.

As it stands, I am teaching grade 2 at a very small primary school on an Air Force base outside of Abu Dhabi. Our day starts with an approximate 45 minute drive off-island, a quick trip into the base security check, a pass through a gate complete with armed guard, then just a bit down the dusty road to school. (In case you’re wondering… it’s an Emirati base, not a foreign power.)

The school is KG-3rd grade with only about 120 students, most of them kinders. Very small. Despite the small number of students, there are plenty of teachers. Primary schools in UAE follow a system closer to our secondary schools with a specialized teacher in each subject. It’s unusual for a teacher to teach more than one subject. I feel very fortunate at my school. Other Western teachers were in the uncomfortable position to witness the local teachers being fired to make room for the new teachers. As far as I can tell, and honestly I don’t know the half of what is going on, no teachers have been let go where I am.

Wednesday, the 23rd was the first day of school. This year has been a bit crazy so far despite being only two days in. First, school was delayed a month until after the holy month of Ramadan. Then the first day of school landed the day after Eid, which is a 3 day festival following Ramadan. For us it would be similar to beginning school on the 26th of December on a Thursday. Everyone wants to extend the holiday. As a result, out of 20 students in my class, 6 arrived. Attendance was so low that The National ran a story to highlight the deficiency.


For me, it turned out to be a blessing to have only 6 students. As you can see… my classroom wasn’t quite ready. Due to Ramadan and Eid and the cleaners just plain not showing up… my room still needed to be painted, cleaned, and put together. Thankfully, another teacher let me use her space for my three periods. Have I mentioned that I only teach 2 hours a day (40 minutes per subject)? (Knock on some serious wood because that could change).

Despite the light teaching load, it is by no means an easy job. Teaching students with very limited English skills literacy, math, and science concepts is quite daunting. I actually laughed when I read the grade 2 standards. I think we’ll be tackling the alphabet before we dive into discussing “the ways in which a visual text contributes to the meaning of a written text.”

xo, jill

More to come, my dears

Alive and well… just with limited access to internet. Hold tight!

xo, jill

"Well, It Ain’t No Motel 6!"

As far as moments go, the moment of take off has always felt especially personal to me. Whenever I fly I like to take that little moment and spend it in just exactly the same way. I lean my head back, fold my hands, and close my eyes waiting for the precise second when the wheels of the plane part from the ground, accompanied by the thought, “Here we go!” It’s a moment I especially enjoy although it may not appear that way. One particular flight when I was 16, the woman next to me interpreted my posture to mean that I was nervous or frightened. She very kindly took my hand and whispered reassuring thoughts to soothe me. I thought her gesture was so sweet I couldn’t bring myself to explain, “No, I actually really enjoy flying!”

Because my eyes are closed, I rarely see how others spend this moment. However, on my flight from New York to Abu Dhabi I was able to hear the man next to me. He very quietly whispered a prayer from the Qu’ran.

Here’s a quick recap of my journey:

Left for the Portland airport at 4:45am PST after spending the previous night packing and repacking my luggage to meet the baggage weight requirements.

Checked in with Delta where my luggage was not weighed.

Bound for New York at 6:35am lamenting sitting behind the only person who did not put their seat in the upright position for takeoff. (Major pet peeve and always seems to happen!)

Twenty minutes later leaned too far forward in my seat ripping one of the straps on my dress.

Land at JFK 3:00pm EST very thankful that my luggage was checked all the way through to Abu Dhabi.

Spent the almost 8 hour layover eating, reading, and wandering the airport searching for a sewing kit to mend my dress (no luck).

Bound for Abu Dhabi at 10:50pm EST smitten with the cute flight attendants’ uniforms.

Spent the nearly 13 hours watching a few favorite tv shows (Arrested Development, The IT Crowd, and The Office) and movies (High Fidelty, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Night at the Museum) , eating the abundance of food offered, and marveling at the flight attendants’ costume change (Seriously! They changed outfits 30 minutes into the flight).

Landed in Abu Dhabi around 7:30pm local time where we luckily were able to bypass the medical checkpoint (which looked really intimidating with masked attendants and big machines) to have our passports stamped and our retinas scanned.

A bus dropped us off at a very luxurious 5 star hotel that will be my temporary residence. Exploring the hotel a bit before bed with some gentlemen I met, we discovered that our rooms cost approximately $1,089 per night! Not bad.

InterContinental Hotel
InterContinental Hotel
InterContinental Hotel

xo, jill

She’s got a ticket to ride.


Twenty-seven days later than anticipated, I received my itinerary to fly to Abu Dhabi.

At 6:35am on Saturday my plane takes off for JFK. Thirteen hours after leaving JFK, I will deboard the plane in Abu Dhabi, arriving at 8:00pm Sunday night.

These last few days of waiting proved especially difficult considering that both my car insurance and cell phone were scheduled to expire on the first. Needless to say, I’ve felt quiet and somewhat stationary.

I’m ready to travel.

SIP: Day 58

xo, jill
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